You will again have compassion on us;
you will tread our sins underfoot
and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. — Micah 7:19
Today marks the first day of Rosh Hashanah and the beginning of the High Holy Days – the holiest time of the year for the Jewish people. Since no work can be done during the observance of Rosh Hashanah, these devotions were prepared in advance for you. To learn more about the Jewish perspective on atonement and its connection to atonement in the Christian faith, download our complimentary Bible study.
Remember your school days when the final exam was over, the dismissal bell rang, and you experienced that glorious rush of freedom? In that moment, you were released from the tyranny of schedules and deadlines, from the demands of teachers. The promise of summer stretched endlessly before you.
For most of us, those days are but a distant memory. Now, the to-do lists, work assignments, and daily demands of life never seem to diminish. As soon as one task is completed, another takes its place. Add to this the burden of our mistakes, the guilt caused by errors in judgment—our sins, if you will—and life can quickly become onerous. We long for the seemingly easier, less complicated times of our youth.
But imagine, if you will, an opportunity to cast those burdens away and enjoy that sense of freedom again. In a sense, that is what Jews symbolically experience when we perform the Tashlikh ceremony on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Through this action, we are, in essence, casting off our sins into the water and beginning life anew. It is symbolic of the freedom from sin we can enjoy when we repent and trust in God’s miracle of forgiveness.
In the words of the prophet Micah recited in the Tashlikh liturgy, “Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of sea” — Micah 7:19.
This practice became widely accepted during the 15th century and was thought to be derived from the biblical account of the scapegoat. During the Day of Atonement the high priest took two goats, which represented the two ways God was dealing with the people’s sins: 1) He forgave their sin through the sacrifice of the first goat; and 2) God removed their guilt through the second goat, the scapegoat, by sending it out into the wilderness. (See Leviticus 16:1–22.)
What burdens are you carrying today? Take a moment to write them down on a piece of paper. Now “cast them” before God, trusting that He will not only forgive you, but He will also remove your sins from you. Take comfort in these words from the psalmist: “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).