Yesterday afternoon, I went down to the local creek with my daughters to engage in Tashlich, the ritual that embodies the casting off of our sins during the high holidays. I showed my daughters how to crumble up tiny pieces of bread and to place them in their pockets and the crevices of their clothes. I told them that every crumb represented something in their life that they wanted to change in the coming year. We stood by the creek and cast away our sins into the water, off of our clothes, and out of our pockets, and started our year with a clean slate.
One of the criteria that is necessary to fulfill the ritual of Tashlich is for the body of water to be moving. The creek by our house is modest and on any given day, it might not be so evident that the creek has enough water to meet the minimum requirements of a “moving body of water.” We found a spot where we could clearly watch the water move and determined that it was “kosher” to do Tashlich. After we were finished, I let my daughters run around the patch of grass beside the creek and I stood by the bank. My eyes became transfixed by the image of the water flowing over the rocks on the bed of the creek. It was so gentle and natural. I found myself completely mesmerized by the calmness of the creek.
This Rosh Hashanah was so different from every other year. The ability to sit at home and engage in prayers by myself while contemplating the past year and the changes I am hoping for this coming year was a surprising gift that I encountered this weekend. I was able to reflect on the ways in which this year has been an uphill climb. There have been so many obstacles in our way as we have tried to fulfill our basic obligations and our core responsibilities. Simple tasks require so much creativity and resilience. Things we once did in a carefree manner, have become complicated and involved.
As I was staring at the water flowing over the rocks, I thought about the following questions: What has been so hard for me personally this year? What do I want to cast away? What would make my life better and what makes a good life in general?
I believe that a good life is characterized by calmness, by a sense of meaning that transcends the “every day,” by empathy for others, and loving the stranger.
As I was walking home, I realized that the “normal” I am seeking, might not come this year. Perhaps what I need to do, is to seek calmness in the chaos of the life we live in. In looking around at our world, I am inspired most by our students and our youngest children who have embodied that calmness throughout this time. I’ve watched our kindergarten students effortlessly line up six feet apart, and wash their hands thoroughly and navigate the “new classroom rules” in a way we never expected as educators. There is a calm that they embody even in this new reality.
This year, I want to cast away the resistance I experience when I encounter change. I want the waters of change to flow over me effortlessly as they do for our children. In most years, I cast my sins off into the water. This year more than anything, I want to bring the calmness of the water into my life and all of our lives.