Tashlich-Part 2-The reasons for the custom

  1. The meaning of Tashlich:[1]

The Poskim searched and offered various explanations behind the seemingly odd custom of Tashlich. Amongst the Poskim we the following reasons and explanations offered: 

  1. To resemble Akeidas Yitzchak.
  2. The Coronation of Hashem as King
  3. To throw the Kelipos into the supernal waters.
  4. The seeing of fish by the river also has significance [although it is secondary to the main purpose of Tashlich as is evident from the wording in Shlah p. 214 “and consequently one also sees fish”]

A. Commemoration of Akeidas Yitzchak:[2]

The Midrash[3] states that when Avraham Avinu traveled to perform Akeidas Yitzchak the Satan created a river to prevent him from performing the Mitzvah. When the water reached his neck Avraham cried “Hoshia Hashem Ki Bau Mayim Ad Nafesh.” [Thus, we visit a river on Rosh Hashanah in order to remind God of Akeidas Yitzchak and have it stand in our merit for the day of judgment. This follows the same reason behind other laws and customs which are fulfilled on Rosh Hashanah and were initiated for the sake of reminding God of Akeidas Yitzchak, such as 1) the preference for using a rams horn for the Shofar blowing[4], and 2) the reading of the portion of Akeidas Yitzchak on the second day of Rosh Hashanah[5], and 3) the covering of the Shofrom during the blessing before the blowing.[6]]

B. The Coronation of Hashem as King:[7]

An alternative reason for saying Tashlich is because it is customary to anoint Kings near a river. Hence, since on Rosh Hashanah we desire to crown Hashem as our King we go to a river to arouse this coronation.

C. Throwing away sins into the river:

The verse[8] states “Vesashlich Bemetzulos Yam Kol Chatasam/And he throws into the depths of the sea all of his sins.” Likewise, in the Siddur Arizal[9] it states that one should go to a well to recite Tashlich in order to discard one’s sins. This can misleadingly be interpreted to mean that by saying Tashlich we rid ourselves of our sins, and is a simple and easy alternative to real Teshuvah. However, in truth, according to the Arizal[10], the saying of Tashlich near a river represents not the throwing of sins into the river [as sins can only be cleansed through true repentance] but rather the throwing of all of one’s Kelipos that were created through sin into the supernal seas, in order to drown them and destroy their damaging capabilities [even after Teshuvah is performed]. The public however confuses this and says that the sins are thrown into the river.[11] It is for this reason that Admur in his own Siddur, which was written according to the teachings of the Arizal, completely omits the above reason, and rather brings an alternative reason for Tashlich, in order to negate the above misconception.[12]

D. The meaning of the water and fish:[13]

Water represents Chesed while fish represent the level of “Eina Pikcha”. [This means as follows: The level of Eina Pikcha in the supernal worlds represents mercy, as it refers to that Hashem is constantly guiding us with merciful eyes. Fish do not have eyelids and hence keep their eyes open on a constant basis. This represents the arousal of mercy of the level of Eina Pikcha that is found above.[14]]


[1] See Kitzur SHU”A 129:21 where all the reasons are brought

[2] Drashos Mahril R”H; Darkei Moshe 583:2; Shlah 214b; Biur Hagr”a 583:11; Kaf Hachaim 583:29

[3] Tanchuma Vayeira 22; Yalkut Shimoni Vayeira 99

[4] See Admur 586:2; Michaber 586:1; Admur 584:9; Michaber 584:4

[5] Admur 601:1; Michaber 601:1

[6] Hagaon Radal brought in Alef Hamagen 585:7; Minchas Elazar 4:36

[7] Kitzur SHU”A 129:21

[8] Micha 7:19

[9] Quoted in Shaar Hakolel 43:15

[10] Shaar Hakavanos 90b; Peri Eitz Chaim 26:5; Kaf Hachaim 583:30

[11] Shaar Hakolel 43:15

[12] Shaar Hakolel ibid

[13] Siddur Admur; Siddur Reb Asher taken from Chemdas Yamim 45

[14] Shlah Hakadosh 214b

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