I’m Sorry: The Importance Of Tashlich

All of us need to apologize from time to time. I love that Judaism has a compelling and tangible ritual of personal accountability, each year during Rosh Hashannah. Our family has observed the tashlich ceremony with groups and on our own, by a pond near the gravesides of beloved relatives, on a beach with many frolicking dogs, and at a public boat launch near our home. In the tashlich ritual, each individual takes small pieces of bread (or birdseed, if one is environmentally aware) and casts them into a body of water, while enunciating their sins from the past year. This ritual of confession launches our 10 days of repentance leading up to Yom Kippur. It’s time for me to take responsibility for what I could have done to make 5781/2020-21 better.

I’m sorry.

I cut off the phone call before you were finished, but I had another meeting that just started on Zoom. I’m sorry.

I fear I committed a microaggression when I failed to remember your name after you installed a new bathtub in my home. I’m so sorry.

I’m sorry that I am a distracted driver. I have a million things on my mind. Like, what we are having for dinner? And is it time to become a vegan? And climate change. And whether my adult children are wearing masks in public spaces.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that we let our yard go to seed again this summer. We started off so well this spring planting the new perennials, the daisies, the cosmos, the bee-friendly wildflower mix, and the hostas. And we really tried to stay on top of the thistle patch in the corner by the street. I am sure we raised your expectations with our enthusiasm. But those volunteer mulberry bushes just defeated us again this year. There is a 1 percent chance that Joel and I will get to the yard work anymore this fall. Thanks for your understanding. 

I just found this spade in our garage. It has your name on it. I hope you haven’t missed it. Four years? Well, I am embarrassed. That is awful.

I’m sorry.

I did not call you back. I’m sorry. Honestly, where does the day go? I am working from home. Why did I think I would have more control of my time?

I’m sorry, were you going to set the date for our consult or was I supposed to do that? Blame my ongoing pandemic brain fog. When are we supposed to recover from that anyway? Could you text me a note so I don’t forget again?

I interrupted you again. I’m sorry. I love hearing myself talk. And Zoom is just impossible to navigate in terms of body language. I promise to raise my hand in the future.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I got on your nerves about so many little things, like the dishes left in the sink, and when were you going to put down the mulch, and why are you staring at your phone and not listening to me. I was really venting about My Fear: of illness, of change, of life never truly being normal again.

I’m sorry that all we talk about over dinner is work and finances and remodeling. More like roommates than lovers.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that I left you outside and forgot to bring you in when you barked. I promise to take you for a nice walk later.

I’m sorry that I overwatered you. I see you are dripping all over the patio table. That’s my bad.

I’m sorry that we use your precious resources and your trees and your fresh air and admire your starry skies, and I constantly forget to say thank you for another perfect day, for feeding us, for sustaining us, and for bringing us in peace to this moment.

I’m sorry. I failed to pack enough bread. How was I supposed to know we had so much to atone for this year?

I’m sorry.

Heidi Schneider is a member of Adath Jeshurun and chairs the Masorti Foundation for Conservative Judaism in Israel. Her writing on Jewish themes has been published in Poetica, Sleet Literary Magazine, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper. Her essay “Immersion” is included in the anthology Choosing Judaism: 36 Stories, edited by Bradley Caro Cook and Diana Phillips. She is working on a memoir about the challenges of becoming Jewish and becoming a mother.