Breadcrumbs in hand, Lou and Lily Barlow recently gathered at the shore of Lake Hefner with more on their agenda than feeding ducks.
The father and daughter, along with other members of Emanuel Synagogue and Temple B'nai Israel, participated in an ancient Jewish ritual known as Tashlich.
The Tashlich service at Lake Hefner brought Oklahoma City's two Jewish faith congregations together for an afternoon of tradition, youth games and a cookout.
Tashlich means “casting off” in Hebrew. As part of the Tashlich ceremony, individuals symbolically toss their sins into a pool of water, traditionally an open body of water like a pond, river or lake. In New York City, many Jews perform the ritual from the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.
“You think of a few things you don't want to do anymore, and you can get rid of it,” said Lou Barlow, a member of Emanuel Synagogue. “You can symbolically get rid of it.”
The ritual traditionally is held the afternoon of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, or sometime during the Jewish High Holy Days. The High Holy Days are the days between Rosh Hashana, which was Sept. 4, and Yom Kippur, the most holy day of the Jewish calendar, on Sept. 13.
At the Sept. 11 Tashlich ceremony in Oklahoma City, youths from the two Jewish congregations, along with their parents and other adults, tossed breadcrumbs in the lake, symbolically throwing away their sins and mistakes from the previous year.
Helene Harpman, a longtime member of Emanuel Synagogue, held a bag full of breadcrumbs and joked as people stood on the lakeshore.
“It's ‘bring your own breadcrumbs' — ‘bring your own sins' — today,” she said.
‘God will take us back'
The Tashlich ceremony is based on a verse from the book of Micah, “God will take us back in love; God will cover up our iniquities. The Lord will hurl all our sins into the depths of the sea.” It also is based on another reference to water found in Isaiah: “In all the Holy Land, nothing evil or vile shall be done; for the land shall be filled with devotion to the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
The Lake Hefner event included Abby Jacobson, rabbi of Emanuel Synagogue, and Vered Harris, rabbi of Temple B'nai Israel.
Janiece Gratch and Myrna Page, co-directors of the combined synagogue and temple Sunday school, led older children who gathered at the Stars and Stripes Park pavilion through a series of exercises designed to help them understand the meaning of the Tashlich service before they gathered at the shore for the ritual.
On the other side of the pavilion, Jacobson played a game with younger children with a similar idea in mind.
Under the supervision of Gratch and Page, the youths chose pieces of paper with habits and flaws written on them, such as talking on the phone while eating, hitting, not sharing, yelling and lying. The young people threw the pieces of paper in a make-believe lake “so they would understand when it's time to do the real thing,” Gratch said.
“They were to write down things they hoped to be forgiven for,” she said.