Before and After
In our tefillah, we say, “Remove Satan (the yetzer hara) from before us and after us.” The Talmud says that “A person’s yetzer hara (evil inclination) renews itself each day and seeks to destroy one” (Kedushin 30a). The yetzer hara has only one goal: to crush and destroy a person. It will resort to any technique to do so. It may begin by enticing a person to engage in self-destructive behavior. If it succeeds in doing so, it will then say, “Look how degenerate you are. Look at the terrible things you have done.” That is why we ask Hashem’s help to remove the yetzer hara from before us, not to tempt us to sin, and after us, not to depress us because we yielded to his wile.
In the season of teshuvah we must remember the words of Rambam, that whereas a person who sins is despised by Hashem, once he changes his ways and does sincere teshuvah, he is dear and beloved to Hashem. The yetzer hara attacks this vigorously and wants a person’s past to haunt him the rest of his life. We should be happy that we have the mitzvah of teshuvah and not allow the yetzer hara to crush and depress us.
It is a mistake to be preoccupied by the past. When King David said, “My sin is before me always” (Psalm 51:8), he did not mean that he ruminated on his sin. The Rebbe of Kotzk said, “A sin is like mud. Whichever way you handle it, you will get soiled.” With teshuvah, the sin is erased “like a fog.” When a fog clears, no trace of it remains. What King David meant was, “Inasmuch as I sinned, I must remember that I have this vulnerability, and I must keep my guard up.”
Mitzvos should be performed with simcha, and the mitzvah of teshuvah is no exception.
May Hashem inscribe you for a healthy and joyous year.