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Rosh HaShanah: Sowing Bread in the Sea: A Psalm for Tashlich

Sowing Bread in the Sea: A Psalm for Tashlich

Aug. 10, 2010

A Psalm written by Ted Merwin to be used with Tashlich for a Just City

by Ted Merwin

[This piece of liturgy was written for Jews For Racial & Economic Justice in New York City. Its themes will be resonant for residents of so many of our cities and towns. It may be used in your congregation's High Holiday services or Tashlich ceremony, or in other gatherings for worship or protest. You may want to use this psalm as part of the service Tashlich for a Just City.]


Oh God, who is like You?

We come to you heavy laden

Groaning with the weight of our sins

And the sins of our community and elected officials

Will You take us back in love?

Will we turn our hearts and deeds to You?


As You have brought forth bread from the Earth,

So we cast it into the sea

Renewing the cycle of life

Closing a circle which ripples into infinite circles

Like the many nested communities which make up our city,

Communities which strive to live together in peace

Ever-renewed themselves by the coming of immigrants

Ever struggling to feed and house and clothe themselves

Ever waiting for bread


God, we shed our sins and the sins of our city

As an animal slips from its skin which has withered and decayed

As a plant drops leaves and leaves fruit

As a molecule trades its membrane for a new coat of cells


If you keep account of sins, O Creator,

Who will survive?

As the trees turn over their leaves,

And the canopy of green turns to crimson and gold,

Then shudders and shatters and subsides

Let us repaint the colors of our lives

In a city too often painted starkly Black and White

In which the contrasts between rich and poor are

Etched so deeply that Your

Wrath is ever kindled anew


By Your word the heavens were made,

By the breath of Your mouth, all their host

Have been true to the spirit of Your creation

You heap up the ocean waters like a mound,

And hoard the deep in vaults, but

Most of it we cannot see

Most of the time we are blind to the wonders of Your world

Just as we are blind far too often to the oppressions with which

We have tarnished Your creation

For poverty and inequality and violence are our own inventions

With which we bludgeon, intimidate and abandon each other


As the season turns, as we choose elected officials, begin a school year

Let us be reminded that everything in life

Renews itself

All evil, all that is deadening and rot can be cast away

We know tomorrow we may eat

Of the fish who consume this bread

We put our trust in You, Creator of All

That You will ever keep watch upon us,

Saving us from death

Preserving us from fear

Sustaining us in the spiritual and moral famine

Which threatens to engulf and overwhelm us all


We cast this bread as a token of our faith in You

As a pledge to ourselves to take care of each other better,

To attend to the needs of all in our communities, to the good of the city as a whole

To attune ourselves to the spirit of Your creation


We let loose and let free

The little pieces of ourselves

That have dishonored us

The little pieces of ourselves

That have betrayed our neighbors and blighted our common good

The little pieces of ourselves

That have helped erect and not dismantle injustice in our name

In order to more perfectly love

You, ourselves and each other


Ted Merwin is a doctoral student in American Jewish theater at Hunter College. He is a longtime member of Jews for Racial & Economic Justice including its Strategic Action Committee, helped spearhead JFREJ's anti-sweatshop campaign, and has led JFREJ anti-racism trainings for students in the New York City area.