‘The important message of a Jewish ritual’

The past few days have been significant for the Jewish population in Britain.

First there was the installation of a new Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, followed swiftly by the celebration of the Jewish New Year.

There are rituals involved in every religion, which an outsider can at first often fail to understand, but which can be seen as full of meaning, when an explanation is given.

Ritual connected with the Jewish New Year is a case in point.

Each Jewish New Year, the orthodox Jew participates in a ‘Tashlich Service’, named after the Hebrew word ‘You shall cast’.

He will go to a stream or river and symbolically empty his sins from his pockets into the water, while reciting verses from the prophecy of Micah. The verses read ,’Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance. You do not stay angry for ever but delight to show mercy.

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all out iniquities into the depths of the sea’(Micah 7: 18-20).

The ceremony symbolises the fact that God can and will take our sins, wash them down the streams of running water and bury them deep in the depths of the ocean. God not only forgives sins, he forgets them. Incidentally, I wonder if those who mutter on about the angry God of the Old Testament have ever read those verses from the prophet?

In France, there is a book somewhat comparable to the English Doomsday Book, listing ancient property rights and taxes.

On the page relating to the village of Domremy, there is a bold stroke across the page, with the words, ‘Taxes remitted for the Maid’s sake’. Domremy was the home village of Joan of Arc, the iconic French liberator. Likewise, Christians rejoice that sins have been forgiven for Christ’s sake. ‘In him(Christ) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins’ (Ephesians 1;7).

And since the repentant sinner has received that forgiveness, he should not become morbid about sins which God has forgiven and forgotten. They have been buried in the depths of the sea, and at the waters edge is a sign, ‘No fishing’.