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The יסוד ושרש העבודה teaches that the main Yetzer Hara is to get one to despair
after the sin. In fact, the word עבירה is rooted in עבר, past, since after one sins the evil inclination gets one to
think of his past sins causing him to despair.
In this light we can graspהרהורי עבירה קשו מעבירה, thoughts of
sin are worse than the sin itself, as thinking about one’s sin can bring him to
We need to live with the dictum אל תהי רשע
בפני עצמך, do not
judge yourself to be a wicked person.
In this light we can explain Rashi
who says in regard to the פרה אדומה that the
Satan and the nations of the world will say what is the reason for this Mitzva.
So this is a חוק, statute
that you shouldn’t question. A deeper meaning is that the Satan and the nations
of the world want us to think about the עגל—as the פרה אדומה is an
atonement for that—since we descended from the high level we were on at Har
Sinai. This could then cause us to despair. So, אין רשות להרהר אחריה, we shouldn’t think about it, rather continue on and improve.
For this reason, we request in Maarivוהסר שטן מלפנינו ומאחרינו, remove the Satan from before us and behind us. מלפנינו refers to not being enticed to sin. ומאחרינו refers to not having despair after we sin by thinking how low
R’ Shlomo Wolbe
writes to one who failed to protect himself from the known sin: My dear friend!
Cease your searching for what the Sefarim say about that sin. The sources that
you have already found and copied for yourself, dispose of them properly. The
Yetzer Hara that brings one to this particular sin is so cunning that any
thoughts about the subject can stimulate one to fall again. This includes even
thoughts of remorse and Teshuva. The only solution is, therefore, is to take
the opposite path...To forget about the sin. That is, to give it no thought—even
after stumbling. You must stop thinking about the whole subject of this sin! How?
By completely investing yourself and learning, with an attempt to be Mechadesh
Torah, to develop original thoughts in learning, and specifically learning with
Simcha.... This matter involves a great battle. Often you will be victorious.
It is possible, however, that at times you will be defeated by the Yetzer Hara.
If that, unfortunately, happens, don't think about it and pay it no attention!
Banish any thought about what happened and particularly beware of feelings of
helplessness! This is the primary goal of the Yetzer Hara—to knock a person
down and make him feel hopeless. Don't allow him that victory! Continue to
learn, and with joy, as if nothing happened!...The only solution to deal with
this issue is to be involved in learning and to become accustomed to thinking
in learning; in the street, after you go to bed, etc., as much as possible, but
also to socialize and interact with friends...In addition, forget what you've
seen in Sefarim about the punishments and difficulty of doing teshuva resulting
from this sin. Just look at the Siddur HaGra.
What you find there should direct you in this area. I am aware that these
instructions are completely different than what you have seen, but this way has
the approval of the Chazon Ish. However, it is difficult to become accustomed
to not paying any attention and to not giving thought. Thoughts of remorse,
anguish, and hopelessness constantly arise. For this reason, I request that you
reread this letter occasionally. Hashem should help you ascend to the heights of
Torah and Yiras Shamayim until you completely forget about this sin. And with
Hashem's help you'll establish a house of Torah and father children in holiness
and purity. There is no reason whatsoever to be concerned that what you have
done in the past will have any effect on your ability to do this. Only
strengthen yourself in learning Torah with Chidush.
We need to fulfill אזמרה לאלו-ה בעודי, sing to
Hashem with what we have now. That is, we need to serve Hashem the best we can
even with our faults and sins. The Divrei Chaim explainedאש תמיד תוקד
על המזבח לא תכבה,
a permanent fire shall remain aflame…it shall not be extinguished, that there should
always be a fire in your heart (אש תמיד תוקד) for Avodas Hashem (על המזבח). Even if you sin, this fire shouldn’t be extinguished—לא תכבה.
The Pasuk states ותתפשהו בבגדו...החוצה, the wife of Potifar grabbed the garment of Yosef…he left his
garment in her hand, fled and went outside.
The Tiferes Uziel, a student of the Magid of Mezerich interprets בבגדו as in בגידה, betrayal,
traitor meaning to say the evil inclination said to Yosef look at your past
sins and how you have betrayed Hashem.
So you may as well give in to this temptation. This is implicit in the wording
there as it says וחטאתי לאלה-ים, have
sinned against Hashem—past tense, and
not ואחטא, I will sin, future tense,
as this is how the Yetzer Hara tried to trap Yosef.
What was Yosef’s reaction? ויעזב בגדו—he let go
of that feeling and was therefore saved from sin.
Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’
Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from
R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for
various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a
suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is
passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.
It has been pointed out that עבירה
sounds similar to the English word over, as the Yetzer Hara gets one to think
of his past sins thinking that it is all over, so give up.
One shouldn’t live in the past and as it says באשר הוא שם, in
accordance with the deeds that he does at the present is he judged (Breishis
21:17 with Rashi).
39:9. The Gemara says שובו בנים שובבים חוץ מאחר, return wayward sons except for Acher (Chagiga 15a). This can
also be understood that to do Teshuva, we must keep אחר out, meaning don’t let
that voice inside you saying ‘how can you do Teshuva after all the sins you
committed’ prevent you from doing Teshuva.