This is a 1982 photograph depicting people beside a pond in Israel performing the Tashlich ceremony, which consists of prayers and the symbolic throwing of one’s sins into a body of water. Small groups of men and women are standing at the edge of the pond; many of them are reading from a prayer book. The people are of a variety of ages and are dressed in festive clothing. The men in the photograph are wearing either hats or kippot. The pond, which has many plants growing in it, is situated next to residential buildings which can be seen in the background. The precise time or location of the photograph is not indicated, but it was presumably taken on the first day of Rosh Hashanah in a residential area.
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Tashlich – Tashlich is a ceremony in which one symbolically tosses one’s sins into a body of water, which takes place on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. The source of the custom can be found in Micah 7:19, “He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities. You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” The ceremony consists of reciting prayers asking for God’s mercy. Some people have the tradition of throwing pieces of bread, as representations of their sins, into the water; others forbid this practice, seeing it as superstitious. If the first day of Rosh Hashanah falls on Shabbat, Ashkenazi Jews perform Tashlich on the second day. Tashlich can be performed until Hoshana Raba at the end of the festival of Sukkot. The custom of Tashlich was developed around the thirteenth century and has been debated by rabbis ever since. Objections include the fear that people will simply throw bread into the water as a way of ridding themselves of sins without actually doing teshuva (atonement), which requires people to be introspective about their past behavior and commit to changing in the future.
Rosh Hashanah – Rosh Hashanah is the celebration of the Jewish New Year which takes place on the first two days of the Hebrew month of Tishrei. It is celebrated by blowing the shofar, lighting candles, eating festive meals, and attending services at the synagogue. Rosh Hashanah is the first of the High Holy days which end 10 days later with Yom Kippur. The ten-day period is called the Ten Days of Repentance, because it is believed that during this period a person’s deeds are judged and the future year is decided. It is a both a festive holiday and a solemn time of introspection which includes prayer, asking forgiveness from others, and giving tzedakah (charity). The prayers on Rosh Hashanah include asking God for a peaceful, prosperous, and healthy year. Rosh Hashanah also celebrates the creation of the world. People greet each other on Rosh Hashanah by saying: “Shana Tova (Happy New Year).” Food customs for Rosh Hashanah vary among the different communities but often include round challahs (instead of the customary long loaf), apples and honey, and pomegranates. Many people send Shana Tova cards to their friends and family.