Commit to a New Beginning
"I feel burdened by my past conduct. It's hard for me to believe that Hashem will forgive me."
If we have not properly guarded our eyes in the past, we can change our behavior and Hashem will help us to improve our ways.
In fact, Hashem sent us an uplifting and encouraging message through the prophet Yechezkel: "Throw off all of your aveirot and make a new heart and a new spirit for yourselves." (Based on Yechezkel 18:30)
Rabbenu Yonah offers this illuminating encouragement:
If a person has acted improperly and wants to take shelter beneath the "Wings of the Shechinah"... I will show him the way to proceed. On the day that you lift your heart to return to Hashem, throw off all of your aveirot as if they never were. Consider yourself as a newborn child, having neither merit nor culpability. Today is the beginning of your actions. Today you will reflect on all of your ways... This outlook will facilitate your complete return to Hashem because you will be unburdened from the weight of all of your aveirot. Do not be hindered by thoughts that hold you back from returning to Hashem. You might feel, "How can I have the nerve to return to Hashem, after I acted so inappropriately so many times? How can I come before Hashem? I feel embarrassed, like a thief who was caught in the act of stealing. ... How can I observe His mitzvot?" Do not allow these negative thoughts to enter your heart! These feelings of despair are the influence of the yetzer hara. Rather, know that the arms of our Merciful Creator are always open to welcome those that return to Him. (Yesod HaTeshuvah)
Hashem releases us from the psychological barriers to repentance by urging us to throw off our misdeeds. In this way, He grants each one of us the opportunity to change our ways, regardless of our past conduct. He lets us renew ourselves and gives us a fresh start.
Today: Throw off the burden of your aveirot and start over. Hashem gives everyone another chance!
I've been thinking about what Dave said. He was so certain that Hashem would help me, and at the time, I believed him. But today, I almost lost my nerve and nearly abandoned my goal of winning the battle of the eyes. Not that I haven't been momentarily successful. The elevator in my office building is usually pretty crowded and, especially in the summer, this close proximity is a real challenge to a well-meaning Jew. Today, I stepped into the elevator and concentrated on keeping my eyes in check. It worked, and as I stepped out of the elevator, I felt pretty good about it!
But then another side of me - the cynical side - seemed to take over. "Sure you did it this time," an inner voice chided me, "but what about last week? You may as well give up now. You're fooling yourself."
I fought back. "Dave assured me that Hashem forgives the past. Old failures don't count," I told myself. To convince myself further, I pulled a paper out of my pocket on which I had written Rabbenu Yonah's powerful message about eliminating self-defeating guilt. Rereading it, I felt like Rabbenu Yonah had read my mind.
I needed to hear it again - to know without a doubt that Hashem is so loving and understanding that He will help me overcome fear, guilt, even past failures. Dave told me that Hashem will convert those failures into merits, because in battling them, I connect to a deep reservoir of kedushah.
Imagine that! It takes real love - love beyond human comprehension - for Hashem to forgive and help anyone who wants to improve. But He does. The Prophets and Sages have been telling us so for centuries.
I'm glad I decided to carry around that quote from Rabbenu Yonah. Today's near setback actually led to bolstering my resolve. I'm not giving up!
These e-mails are excerpts taken from the book "Windows of the Soul"
by Rabbi Zvi Miller of the Salant Foundation.