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How can I repent if I can't get over what I did?

by Rabbi Shlomie Chein

  

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Question:

I am writing to you about my problem with past behaviors. For quite some time now I have come to terms with the fact that I have really always known my ways were bad, yet stumbled in their evil anyway. Currently, I try very hard to distance myself from those activities, but the memories haunt me. I constantly feel terrible about what I did. I feel like I must revisit those acts (either in my mind, or in reality), in order to distance myself from them again. I feel like a Yo Yo, extending myself so that I may recoil properly; only to discover that I extended myself yet again etc. I am always reading books on how to do Teshuvah for those horrible things, but the more I read the more confused I get. Can I ever be forgiven? Will I ever be able to move onward?

Sincerly,

Max645

Answer:

There is an expression in the Talmud "immersing with a rodent in your hand". A rodent makes one impure, immersing is meant to make someone pure, but if he is immersing with the rodent still in his hand he obviously can't become pure.

The first step to purity is letting go of the rodent.

Some times it is a physical rodent, and some times it is an emotional, mental or spiritual one. 

Depression, or obsession with past sins, is one of the worst types of rodents. 

I would therefore advise that the first step towards Teshuvah, purity, from sins of the past, is letting go of the rodent: stop living with the constant guilt (and the depression that it brings).

G-d is abundant in His forgiveness. You regret what you did. You don't want to do it again. Now have trust in G-d that He forgives you.

Focus on what you need to do today. Prepare for what you need to do tomorrow. You are doing so much good, don't let the Evil Inclination constantly throw your mind back to the things you have already regretted and corrected.

Every moment that your mind is occupied thinking about it, you are not thinking about things you can do today or tomorrow. You already gave up this sin; it is no longer part of your life. Rather than spending so much time studying about this, study something that is relevant to your current behavior. Learn how to fix a current negative trait, or learn how to improve current positive traits. Every good trait can always be better.

If you travel through life facing backwards you will only bump into more problems. However, if you move forward with you head straight, the past too soon fades into a smooth terrain.

Once you have developed the above attitude you can dedicate a FEW moments of every day, or every week, when you choose to think about and regret sins of the past. That way you are in control of your past, and your past is not continuously controlling you.

The classic Tikun for sins of the past is fasting. Today those fasts can be redeemed with charity. So if you really want to obsess, obsess with charity. Give a lot of charity (as much as you can), and have faith in G-d.

All the best,

Rabbi S. Chein


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Holidays » Yom Kippur » Repentance
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Teshuvah
Repentance. Or, more literally, "return" to G-d. Teshuvah involves regretting the past and making a firm resolution not to repeat the offense.
Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.