Top 5: Places to perform tashlich

From Jerusalem to Jaffa, check out some of best places to cast away your sins between Rosh Hashana and Succot.

By CHAYA KAPLAN-LESTER
October 1, 2011 05:54
People take part in the Tashlich ritual on beach

Tashlich on beach 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

 
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Rosh Hashana is upon us and with it that medieval-mystical ritual of tashlich, when Jews set out, armed with bread crumbs, to symbolically cast our sins into forgiving waters. Each crumb of bread represents a cast-away sin. And though some over the centuries have protested against this type of magical thinking, the custom has persisted and stands as a beloved rite of our people.

While it is suggested to do tashlich on the first day of Rosh Hashana, one can perform the ritual through to the end of Succot. As a friend of mine said, “Why do tashlich in a city gutter on Rosh Hashana when you can wait a few days and turn it into a trip to the beach?”

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So, in this list of the Top 5 places to do tashlich, I have included a few more adventuresome options….and decidedly left out the gutters.

1. Jerusalem's City of David – the Shiloah Spring

The City of David stands as one of Israel's most impressive and moving tourist attractions. This is the site of the original city of Jerusalem from the time of King David (2,000 years ago). Given that it is right at the exit of the Western Wall, I would recommend a visit to the Kotel to start off your journey.

As you exit Dung Gate, cross the street and you will find yourself at the bustling Visitors Center of Ir David. If you have never done this tour it is an absolute must. It is truly a tour-de-force through the history of ancient Israel...and it ends at the famous Shiloah Spring. This spring served as the main water source for the mikvehs used by pilgrims on their way to make offerings at the Temple. What's more it is the locale of the water-drawing ritual, Simchat Beit HaShoeva, historically performed during Sukkot.



You can either book the full-on three-hour tour through the archeological site, or go on a private visit to the Shiloah Spring. If you have done the tour or are in a hurry, just skip down to the bottom of the hill for your own private tashlich experience. Please note you must call and make reservations before hand to do this.

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This tashlich site could not carry a stronger spiritual punch. As you throw in your crumbs, realize that you are cleansing yourself of your sins in the archetypal waters of Jewish ritual cleansing – the water source for the Temple itself. Marvel over the fact that you are able to put those waters to ritual use once again.

Visit: www.cityofdavid.org.il – Or call toll free in Israel: 6033.

2. Jaffa Port

I have to preface my choice here with a recognition of the fact that I am mixing a poignant ritual of teshuva/repentance with the decidedly lighter fare of sight-seeing and cuisine. So, if you would rather not hold that paradox, then read no further. But if you have no qualms about the intermingling of art, antiques and ardent prayer, then this might be the tashlich destination for you. It's no wonder that Jaffa's name means 'beauty'.

Take a walk through Jaffa's Old City with its bouquets of art galleries all set against the bright aqua backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea. Then weave your way through the vibrant sites, sounds and great shopping of the open air flea market. In the heart of the market is the incomparable “Dr.Shakshuka”, a Kosher restaurant with stellar fish-dishes and a ton of personality.

And then, after all of that shopping and feasting, repent for your indulgences! Go out to the dock by the port, stand there surrounded by nothing but the sound of wind and waves, and throw away your sins.

3. Bat Ayin's Springs

On the other side of the spectrum from Jaffa is Bat Ayin, a rustic village in Gush Etzion, half-way between Jerusalem and Hebron. The town teeters at the edge of the Judean Hills and offers stunning views all the way to the Mediterranean.

Bat Ayin is known for its several natural springs (ma'ayanot). The spring that has the easiest access is the one in Bat Ayin proper. Enter Bat Ayin by car, foot, or bus and ask the guard at the gate to direct you to the maayan. It's about a 15 minute walk along a scenic, albeit rocky, road that twists around the mountain. Be careful to announce yourself as you approach the stone building that houses the maayan, for there could very well be someone putting it to use as a mikveh for their own ritual immersions.

Also, there are two other maayanot in the area. Each one with its own natural beauty and charm, and each one with its own level of challenge to get to. If you're interested in a more strenuous hike to one of these, ask any of the locals for directions. Whichever spring you visit, you are in for an inspiring encounter with the elements and the natural spirit of the Land. And lest you think that Bat Ayin just offers a rugged spiritual adventure...pay a visit to Gavna, a dairy restaurant perched on the mountain and enjoy some surprisingly exceptional cuisine.

4. The Jerusalem Rose Garden

This is the more classy “urban tashlich” option. Enjoy the sculptures and the small array of tent protestors along the way. Stroll pensive among the flowers on the winding paths of the rose garden. Climb to the top of the hill where you'll find a Japanese rock garden, replete with river. Sit yourself on the rocks to ponder your past year and throw your crumbs to the fish. This is also the ideal place to take your children - and a frisbee. They'll love the river, the sprawling fields of grass, the life-size checker-board, and nearby landing pad for the Knesset's helicopters.

5. The Jerusalem Bird Observatory

For a quieter, more pensive alternative, check out the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, just a bit down the hill from the Rose Garden towards Gan Sacher. This charming alcove of brush and branches has its very own pond.

Swampy though it may be, the space is secluded and serene. It offers a more meditative environment for you to do some real introspection. Don't be surprised if some birds, turtles and maybe even a rabbit join in on the ritual. Plus its right next to the Supreme Court, which adds a certain sense of symbolism to the visit. Where our earthly Supreme Court reminds us of the Supremest of Courts, the mere symbolism is bound to add some umph to your prayers.

Chaya Kaplan-Lester is a long-time Jewish educator, writer and psychotherapist. She lives in Jerusalem and writes a regular blog at JPost.com.

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