Shabbat Rosh Hashana 5765
Ask the Rabbi
Question: When is one supposed to do Tashlich when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat?
Answer: First a little background on the origin of Tashlich, which will also have pertinence to the answer to your question.
The first known mention of the minhag is by the Maharil (early 15th century l’minyanam, Ashkenaz), towards the beginning of his discussion of Rosh Hashana. The rationale for the timing of the practice is based on the midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Vayeira 99). Avrahamand Yitzchak were walking on the way to akeidat Yitzchak and were impeded by the Satan who formed a river. They continued into the water up to their mouths and turned to Hashem in request to allow them to complete their mitzva. Since that day was Rosh Hashana, we use the body of water, which conjures up memory of the merit of the forefathers, as an appropriate place to ask that our sins be “thrown into the depths of the sea.” Others see a river as a sign of blessing because of how it flows or as the historic place for the coronation of kings (see Yechave Da’at I, 56). In any case, this minhag, which apparently has its origin in Ashkenaz, has spread throughout the Jewish world (in part, due to the Ari z”l), and the minhag of Israel is considered like Torah.
There is nothing innate to the process of Tashlich that makes it halachically inappropriate on Shabbat (consensus of poskim). There is a difference of opinion as to whether it is proper from theperspective of Kabala, and we do not have what to add on that point. In fact, it can be clearly inferred from the Maharil that the practice was to do Tashlich on Shabbat as well. Yet, over the last few hundred years minhagim have developed to restrict it on Shabbat.
The main issue appears to be the possibility of being mechallel Shabbat by carrying to the riverside (Pri Megadim, Eshel Avraham 583:5; Mishna Berura 583:5). The question already arose in the Maharil. He objected to the minhag of some to throw bread to the fish during Tashlich. While his main concern is in regard to the laws of feeding animals on Yom Tov (beyond our present scope), he also objects to carrying the bread without an eiruv. This can be a problem on Yom Tov (see Maharil and Pri Megadim, ibid.) but is an even bigger problem on Shabbat. Ofcourse, when the river is outside the eiruv, one cannot carry anything there on Shabbat, but that does not necessarily mean that one cannot go the riverside without carrying.
Tracing the sources historically(see Yabia Omer IV, OC 47), the following theory seems likely. In the time of the Maharil, only the few p’sukim of “Mi kel kamocha …” were said, and it was probably not necessary for people to carry siddurim with them. So Tashlich went on without a hitch on Shabbat. But as additional tefillot were added to Tashlich, people started bringing siddurim with them. Thus, chillul Shabbat in places without an eiruv (or if it didn’t extend to the river) became a real problem, and minhagim developed to stop Tashlich on Shabbat. According to this minhag, during years when Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbat, we do Tashlich on the second day of Rosh Hashana. Carrying the siddur is permitted, as it is done for the needs of Yom Tov. R. Ovadia Yosef (ibid.) rules as practical considerations seem to dictate. Communities that use an eiruv that reaches the body of water should do Tashlich on the first day, even on Shabbat. Places without such an eiruv should wait. The more common minhag is to always delay.
As teenagers, some of our rabbeim reactedto the questionable atmosphere in some places at Tashlich by claiming we picked up more aveirot than we got rid of there. We can apply similar reasoning to this matter. It is legitimate for a rav to decide to go either way on this point. However, if the community minhag is to push off Tashlich or it is to go as a group on Shabbat, one should conform to the minhag and avoid machloket on a public matter on this holy day.
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Hemdat Yamim is dedicated to the memory of R’ Meir ben Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld o.b.m. and Eliezer Ben Avraham Mordechai Jacobson