This week, in preparation for Yom Kippur, the grade 5 students at the Yeshiva of Central Queens headed to Flushing Meadow Park to participate in the Tashlich ceremony, and grades 1-5 students symbolically performed Kaparos.
The tradition of Tashlich came about based on a verse from Michah the prophet stating, “He will take us back in love; He will cover up our iniquities. You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” The tradition usually takes place on the first day of Rosh HaShanah but could be performed through Hoshana Rabah. The custom is to symbolically cast one’s sins into running water containing fish, to represent both the water that parted to allow Avraham through when the Satan tried to stop him from completing what Hashem had asked of him, as well as water being symbolic of the creation of the world and of all of life.
Rabbi Rohr, the elementary school Judaic studies AP, shared a story with the students about a villager who went to the big city to learn how they put out fires and misunderstood that it was not the alarms and sirens that put out the fires, but rather the alarms alerted the people to action. He compared this to the shofar on Rosh HaShanah and how its sounds alert us and wakes us up, but each of us must actually perform the actions of t’shuvah. After learning the meaning of Tashlich and hearing the story, the students said the Tashlich prayer by the water and cast off their sins.
Shalom Peled, grade 5, spoke about the story. “Rabbi Rohr shared a story connected with Tashlich before we said it. It was about how you cannot just do something and not know what you are doing. In order to do t’shuvah, you need to understand what you did wrong.” After learning the meaning of Tashlich and hearing the story, the students said the Tashlich prayer by the water and cast off their sins.
During Friday Oneg, students in grades 1-5 listened to an explanation of why we do Kaparos. Rabbi Mark Landsman said that the chicken that we are saying Kaparos with will be shechted and killed, and we are thinking that this really should be happening to us because of all the bad deeds we’ve done, and Hashem is giving us mercy for our t’shuvah. Students each brought in money that they used to perform Kaparos. Viviana Olsen, grade 4, learned that “all the money that we use instead of chickens is going to people who really need it, and that we are giving this money instead of us. Because, really, we know this should be happening to us instead of the chickens, because of all the aveiros we have done.”