Tashlich by a Fish Tank

Ask the Rov: If there is no river or lake within walking distance, can I recite tashlich by a fish tank?

By Rabbi Chaim Hillel Raskin – Rov of Anash in Petach Tikvah

There is an early minhag, recorded by the Maharil, to recite tashlich, “throwing away our sins,” on the first day of Rosh Hashana at a river. This serves as a remembrance for the merit of the Akeida when Avrohom Avinu went up to his neck into the river that Satan put as an obstacle for him, and a fulfillment of the metaphorical posuk, “You shall cast into the depths of the sea all their sins.”[1] Also, we are crowning Hashem as King, and kings are customarily anointed by a river. Moreover, water signifies Hashem’s kindness.[2]

In his Shulchan Aruch, the Alter Rebbe highlights the need for live fish as a sign that ayin hara should have no power over us and that we should be fruitful and multiply like fish. Based on the Arizal, he adds that it is preferable to be outside the city, similar to the “sea’s depths” away from civilization.[3]

In his siddur, however, the Alter Rebbe mentions a spring and not the requirement of fish, similar to the Arizal, who didn’t mention this requirement either. Though the Alter Rebbe does mention the symbolism of fish whose eyes remain constantly open.[4]

If there is no river or lake within walking distance, the list of options for tashlich in order of halachic preference is: (1) Body of water with fish outside of city limits; (2) body of water with fish within city limits; (3) spring, well, or body of water without fish;[5] (4) fish tank; (5) open faucet.[6]

If doing tashlich on Rosh Hashana near an open faucet, it is preferable to recite tashlich a second time at a body of water during Aseres Yemei Teshuvah,[7] preferably on the day known as “Yud-Gimmel Midos”[8] (the closest Thursday or Monday directly before Yom Kippur). Similarly, if one could not do tashlich on Rosh Hashana, they should do it during Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, particularly on that day.

Is there an inyan to see the fish when saying tashlich? While the Rebbe relates that the Frierdiker Rebbe would make a point of seeing the fish, it is clearly not a halachic requirement.[9] One should also bear in mind that we are disposing of our sins not in the physical water but in its spiritual counterpart, the “yam ha’elyon.”[10]

See Sources (open PDF)

From The Weekly Farbrengen by Merkaz Anash

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