In the middle of bustling downtown Boston Tuesday afternoon, members of the Vilna Shul gathered on the second day of the Jewish New Year to symbolically cast off their sins through the ritual of Tashlich.
After a quick Rosh Hashana service on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the group of 10 moved to Rowes Wharf to toss bread into the water to wash away their sins and start the new year with a clean slate.
“There’s a verse in prophet Micah where he quoted God as saying, ‘I will cast your sins into the depth of the sea and they shall be drowned,’ ” Rabbi Ben Lanckton said. “Not only are they gone, but they’re obliterated, drowned . . . The whole theory of this time of year is about a fresh start.”
During the first day of Rosh Hashana, Jews typically take off work and participate in a long service, said Lynne Schultz, director of public programs and community outreach at Vilna Shul. The second day is reserved more for individual reflection and Tashlich, she said.
Vilna Shul is Boston’s only Jewish cultural association. It is based in a synagogue in Beacon Hill that was built in 1919, Schultz said.
During the ceremony at Rowes Wharf, its members were interrupted by hungry seagulls and a water taxi, but they didn’t let those stop them from conducting the ritual. The interruptions are to be expected in a beautiful but urban environment like Boston, Deborah Melkin said.
Melkin has been involved with Vilna Shul since 2006. She said she sometimes gets self-conscious conducting the ceremony downtown, with people on their lunch breaks walking past, but she said she is proud to continue the tradition. This was the first year Vilna Shul’s Tashlich ceremony was held at Rowes Wharf; usually, it is held on the Charles River in Beacon Hill.
“We’re spoiled we get to do it here,” she said.