Sunday, September 12, 2010


I’m not sure if this is going to be about why I didn’t toss my sins into the flowing water, or how aging caught up with me. Maybe half-and-half, so stay tuned.

The Jewish ritual of Tashlik, which I’ve blogged on before, was a real wash-out as far as I was concerned. In the execution of this ritual, Jews bring pieces of bread, representing their sins for the past year, to a gathering near running water. After a short ceremony, during which time Jews are to mull over their failings and vow to make amends, they toss the crumbs of bread into the water, signifying the casting off one’s “sins.” The bag of bread crumbs at the top is what I was going to use in this symbolic rite in the Pacific ocean near Santa Monica.

No, I am not Jewish, but since I had heard so much about this ritual in the last few years, I really wanted to see what it was about. Jerry, who is Jewish but rather unobservant of most of the rituals, intended to be simply a “looky-loo,” informing me that he wouldn’t take bread crumbs because he didn’t have any sins. Although I offered to share my sins with him, or better yet tell him what his were, he declined.

To conclude this last half of the first part of the story, I will just say that due to events not under my control, I ate the bread myself. The fish didn’t get a bite, nor did the ubiquitous gulls. The PA system that was used by the staff to coordinate this ritual was not working well so I did not hear why it was that we were not going to be able to toss our bread crumbs into the water. Perhaps the city didn’t allow it; if this was so, I had no idea if this was the first time the city objected, or if each year in the past the ritual also was simply improvised and/or altered to accommodate this rule. However, since it actually seemed to me like one big beach party, with wine and cheese being substituted for hot dogs and SomeMores, I probably was the only one who was disappointed. We were told to “pretend” we were casting our sins into the sea. That’s when I ate my bread crumbs! (Washed down with white wine, of course.) Such a disappointment!

The second half of the story is that unremembered by me from my many years of romping on the beaches in Southern California was the distance from the parked car to the surf line. The asphalt-topped parking lot is long and narrow along the highway. Once you step off the asphalt onto the sand, you have miles of dry sand to trudge across before you get to where you are going. Long Beach has lots of sand but Santa Monica has an ungodly amount that must be navigated to get to the water. We – Kerry, Brian, Olivia, Justine, Jerry and me – were carrying all the accoutrements for our participatory afternoon, which included blankets, towels, shoes, bags, boxes, ice chests, wooden trays for goodies, jackets in case it got cold, and who knows what else.

The walk was simply awful. The young ones skimmed across. Kerry and Brian, hitting middle-age, did admirably well, considering they were carrying the bulk of the stuff. Jerry, who once scampered like a mountain goat up a huge hillside full of upturned stone tombs in Termessos, Turkey, leaving me puffing and panting at the bottom, pulled off a similar stunt on this sand. He’s 80 years old, for crying out loud. How could he do that, I wondered. While I have always known I don’t have a great deal of endurance, this long walk across the sand nearly did me in. The only way I survived was to know that reversing directions on the same route is always much shorter than crossing it the first time. If I could just make it to the water, I knew I could get back to the car.

In spite of the awful trek across the Gobi-like sand and the disappointment of having to eat my sins, I had a glorious day. I’d tackle it again in a heart beat with the kids, at a different beach, of course. This was on Thursday, the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah.

The next morning I got out of bed and almost fell on the floor. Oh, the soles of my feet felt like they had been sandpapered until they were as shiny as silk. My ankles felt as if they might either lock up or fall apart, I could not tell which. The calf of each leg felt as if I’d done entirely too many reps of something, the same thing that my thighs rebelled at. I could not tell if the pain around my knees was on top of, under or around the kneecaps. To date I have not been aware of anything in my hips that might need replacing but I now know where the replacements will be -- exactly where the hip bones hurt. And then to add insult to injury, the loss of gluteus maximus muscle from the aging process was obvious when I sat down on two “bum” bones that were terribly tender from sitting on the hard sand. (I had forgotten how hard sand is.)

That was Friday morning. I walked around like an old lady on Friday, all day. Getting up off the couch was hard. Sitting down on a chair was hard. The only thing that really felt good was lying on the couch reading, or napping. Darn! Darn! Darn! Not fun getting old, guys!

Yesterday was much better and today I’m back to normal, thank goodness.

In reflecting on the whole episode I’ve decided that I should sit on a beach more. It was wonderful to do. I’ve always liked late afternoon beaches anyway. I think Jer and I will add some beach sitting (in chairs and at a better beach) to our “things to do that aren’t difficult to accomplish” list. I even know the beach where we’ll go; it’s one Jer and I frequented when we were young and dating. We might even have a frozen banana like we used to. I also think that we will try another Tashlik service next year, probably one locally that uses a stream rather than an ocean, and with a congregation that may be less inclined to see the ritual as a kickoff to an afternoon of wine and cheese. (Not that the wine and cheese wasn’t very welcome!)

So there you have it: a litany of complaints. And I think probably that attitude will have to be #1 in the list of sins next year to be represented by a breadcrumb. Get ready, fish!


Olga said...

"Although I offered to share my sins with him, or better yet tell him what his were, he declined"
HA, ha...isn't that just like a man.
A very enjoyable read.

Stacey said...

Olga...I think that was my favorite part of the story. In fact I was going to "cut and paste" that quote too, but you did for me. :o)

At our small church, we had a guest speaker that was a Mesanic Jew who was teaching us about Rosh Hashanah. Since we didn't have any flowing water because we were inside, he brought in a large bucket of water so we could go through the exercise. Instead of throwing in bread though, we threw in rocks. As we each went up to put in our rocks, you could hear the "thunk" of the rock hitting the bottom of the bucket. It was actually kind of cool because for me it reminded me of our "heavy" our sins can feel and then how much "lighter" we are once we give them up.