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Sowing Bread in the Sea: A Psalm for Tashlich

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.