A few years ago, a guest lecturer from New York visited the Berlin synagogue at Fraenkelufer and showed our congregation a new way of practicing an old Rosh ha-Shanah custom, that of tashlikh.
Usually Jews gather for the New Year holiday at the bank of a river and scatter breadcrumbs in the water as a symbolic way of shedding their misdeeds of the last year. The American professor did not strew breadcrumbs in the canal across from the synagogue however; rather, she placed a little homemade paper boat into the water, in which she’d tucked a letter to God. In the letter, she begged for forgiveness for her offences and affirmed her resolutions. The letter also contained thanks for the good experiences of the last year and her wishes for the coming one.
This new twist to an old custom was well received at the synagogue on Fraenkelufer. Since then, a number of congregation members gather on the bank of the canal shortly before the first service of the evening and send their brightly-colored tashlikh boats out to sea. And the custom has developed even further: last year some threw petals onto the water from flowers they had collected and dried, to follow the boats. This gesture fit well with the theme of forgiveness, since a bouquet of flowers is often given as a token of apology. Thus, in a way, one sends off last year’s apology flowers, and returns home with the empty vase – ready for a new blossoming.
Unintentionally, though unsurprisingly, this ritual is particularly popular with women and girls, such as the daughter of a friend of mine shown with her tashlikh boat in the photograph.
The traditional tashlikh prayer is spoken on the afternoon of the first day of Rosh ha-Shanah. It is recommended that the letters in the boats remain anonymous, since they could land in the hands of curious residents of Kreuzberg. The true recipient will know who wrote them!
Shlomit Tripp (2012), New Customs for the New Year. Tashlikh Boats instead of Breadcrumbs on the Water.
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Holidays: Old Rituals, New Customs (16)
Old Rituals, New Customs
Museum employees talk about traditions on Jewish holidays.
New Customs for the New Year
Shlomit Tripp about tashlikh boats and petals on the water
Kol Nidre and the “Civil Improvement of the Jews”
Haim Mahlev on controversies throughout the ages
Apples in Honey and Gefilte Fish
Museum employees share their personal experiences of the High Holidays
Avner Ofrath on Yom Kippur in Israel
Naomi Lubrich on candy as a tricky matter for synagogues on Simhat Torah
Menurkeys for Thanksgivukkah?
Food for thought and recipes by Signe Rossbach
“8 Facts” about Hanukkah
David Studniberg on the Jewish Feast of Dedication
“If I were a rich mouse ...”
Michal Friedlander on Mickey, Minnie and their Hanukkah message
In the Sleeping Car with Ten Hand-puppets and a Travel Hanukkah Candelabrum
Shlomit Tripp on her Hanukkah with the bubales family
Tu bi-Shevat Traditions in Israel
Avner Ofrath on trees, fruit, and a breath of New Age
“Clever Esther”— Not Suitable for Children?!
Shlomit Tripp reports about her child-oriented retelling of the Esther story
Across Mannheim in the Matzo-Mobile
David Studniberg about the great feeling to support others during the corona crisis
The Big Clean-Up
Dana Akrish on Passover in Jerusalem
A Kind of Family Gathering
Bitter Herbs and Their Relatives in the Diaspora Garden
The Long Night of Tikkun
Mirjam Wenzel and Avner Ofrath about what we can learn from loving women
Quite “best practice”
Tom Chai Sosnik celebrated his coming out as transgender in spring 2015 with remarkable aplomb – in a ceremony performed by Rabbi Tsipi Gabai at a Jewish school in California, supported by his family.