Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bread In The River

So, apparently there's a Jewish custom called tashlich (or tashlikh, because everything in Judaism has at least two spellings) that rubs me the right way. I'm not Jewish, but I'm also not gay and I still go to the parade every year, so don't turn your nose up at me for appropriating customs that aren't mine. Canada: melting pot or tossed salad? Cultural mosaic or full of mooses? Really, why not all of them? We live in mysterious times, with the only thing holding us back from 24/7 exposure to every culture all the time is the fact that commuting to Scarborough is sort of a drag.

So, right, back to my fake Jewosity. Tashlich is when, according to Wikipedia, "the previous year's sins are symbolically 'cast off' by reciting a section from Micah that makes allusions to the symbolic casting off of sins, into a large, natural body of flowing water (such as a river, lake, sea or ocean)." Traditionally done the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah (aka New Years Eve for Jews, which falls in September for those of us following a Gregorian calendar), the version I know about has the person casting off his or her sins also throwing bread into the water.

I love this. First of all, I love traditions. My all-time favourite tradition is my family's three-generations-long habit of of seeing a movie and eating Chinese food on New Year's Day. I love that my grandparents did this, my parents do this, I do this. My family moved a lot when I was growing up; by the time I started high school, I had lived in five different cities in two countries and three different provinces. It was nice to have continuity from year to year.

In the Christian ideology, your sins have been taken care of by Jesus - he ripped your ticket for you. Your stupid sinning soul has been rectified and washed clean by JC, which rocks if you're good at Christianity. It's less effective if you, like me, suffer from curiosity about what would possess a person to do that kind of thing - I'm sure if Jesus met me, he would be all, "I died for everyone's sins, except hers," which would be a huge bummer. Additionally, I have a guilty conscience about just about everything I've ever done. From the big ticket items like becoming involved with other women's boyfriends, to the less damning things like frittering away my Thursdays watching America's Funniest Home Videos, I have often felt crappy about my choices.

Naturally, I love the idea of casting off your shittiness and giving yourself a clean slate for the year. Not so much that the tradition allows you to ignore your sins - I don't think that's the point, really. But the idea that they no longer have to weigh you down as you work to right them? I think that's important. A little levity in the soul region can make all the difference in approaching your particular failings. Long-overdue apologies become easier. Confessions bubble up in the throat. Delayed conversations become more pressing. Without the guilt of the sin weighing on our minds, we can address why we transgressed in the first place.

I've often felt like autumn is a New Years kind of time, anyway. The leaves change, the kids head back to school, and we start to hunker down for the winter. It's a renewal - spring is an awakening, a bursting-forth of new and exciting things - but fall underscores the things we do and the people we are. If we can recommit to being ourselves, but better - cleaner - then why shouldn't we? Okay, fine dispense with the bread and the Biblical recitations, if you must. But clean out your soul.

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