wall didactic text:
Tashlich (Hebrew: תשליך “cast off”)
Performance for photo, 2009 (Camera: Benjamin Coopersmith; Video: Rhyne Piggott)
This performance for photo by artist Tobaron Waxman is a personal adaptation of the Jewish ritual of Tashlich. In preparation Waxman fasted and recited psalms and meditative texts specific to transformation, for 3 days. Then removing their clothes, they immersed in the stream, and shaved their head and beard. In doing so, Waxman left the beard, and the biological record contained in it to be taken away by the current.
Tashlich means “casting off,” the ritual named in the 14th century in reference to “cast into the depths of the sea all their errors.” (Micah 7:18-20). Variations of tashlich have been practiced from Northern Europe to North Africa to Central Asia since the first century as a ritual commemoration of the near sacrifice of Isaac. On the first afternoon of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), practicing Jews do soul-searching about individual and collective accountability for human harms. At a living water source people gather to pray, then toss breadcrumbs or shake out their pockets — a symbolic enactment of “casting off” of transgressions to be carried away by flowing water. The crumbs represent both humility and the human’s cyclic place in the ecosystem. This ritual carries a heartfelt plea for forgiveness, requesting the opportunity to do better in the New Year.
The ritual of Tashlich may lead to consideration of which transgressions we would like to “cast off.” But as Waxman indicates, “I’m also immersed in it — there is no such place as ‘away’.”
“Riffing on the Jewish New Year ritual of Tashlich, which is a choreography of potentiality in which the human being addresses failure. After a period of fasting and hitbodedut (recitation of psalms and meditative text in seclusion), I immersed in the stream and cut off the biological record of my years in the religious world, the first time I had cut my beard since before I became religious, approximately 7 years growth 2002-2009. I was leaving the religious world and felt it was appropriate to let go of everything held inside this signage and bio record of the beard, not unlike emptying one’s pockets into the water at Tashlich. But I’m also immersed in it, because in reality there is no such place as ‘away'”.