Yussie Yablonsky, aged fifty-six, sat on the bench by the parking lot of his synagogue, Bais Chaim. He studied the congregation as they headed toward the front doors. The men looked prosperous and proud in their dark suits, the women were radiant in their new dresses, and the children looked like dress-up dolls even when they were misbehaving.It's short story about one Yom Kippur. RTWT.
Yussie looked down at what he was wearing. His green jacket was worn through at the right elbow, his red striped shirt was missing two buttons, and his blue pants had a cuff that had come undone. He could feel the damp grass through the holes in the soles of his shoes.
On Shabbat Shuvah we enter into high gear preparing for Yom Kippur, which is just a few days away. As we have learned from Rav Tzaddok Hakohen, the Shabbat before any holiday contains that holiday's essence, and in this case that is most certainly true. On Shabbat Shuvah, we can already feel the awe and joy of Yom Kippur, its holiness and beauty. Now is the time to plunge into all of the mikvaot: those of water, Am Yisrael, and ultimately that of Hashem Himself. Wash carefully; remove all particles that stand in the way. Nullify yourself to the purifying powers that surround you. Then you will be ready for a Yom Kippur that provides you not only with atonement, but with purity as well.
Tashlich originated during the Middle Ages and was inspired by a verse uttered by the prophet Micah:
God will take us back in love;
God will cover up our iniquites,
You [God] will hurl all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)
As the custom evolved it became tradition to go to a river and symbolically cast your sins into the water on the first day of Rosh HaShanah.
How to Observe Tashlich
Tashlich is traditionally performed on the first day of Rosh HaShanah, but if this day falls on Shabbat then tashlich isn't observed until the second day of Rosh HaShanah. If it is not performed on the first day of Rosh HaShanah it can be done anytime up until the last day of Sukkot, which is thought to be the last day of the New Year's "judgment" period.
In order to perform tashlich take pieces of bread or another food and go to a flowing body of water such as a river, stream, sea or ocean. Lakes or ponds that have fish are also a good place, both because the animals will eat the food and because fish are immune to the evil eye. Some traditions say that fish are also significant because they can be trapped in nets just as we can be trapped in sin.
Recite the following blessing from Micah 7:18-20 and then toss the bits of bread into the water:
Who is like You, God, who removes iniquity and overlooks transgression of the remainder of His inheritance. He does not remain angry forever because He desires kindness. He will return and He will be merciful to us, and He will conquer our iniquities, and He will cast off our sins into the depths of the seas. Give truth to Jacob, kindness to Abraham, like that you swore to our ancestors from long ago.