Is there a strategy or saying / quotation (chasidish, chazal, etc.) that addresses what to do if there are some aveiros that one is not ready to give up on but wants to feel good about doing the other mitzvos? Sometimes these aveiros become big in my mind and I can't concentrate on doing the other things. I guess it feels like "all or nothing" and I feel like it would be better to not be frum at all. How to fight this?

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    I wish you great success in working through these issues and growing in your Jewish expression. The way you're formulating some of your challenges as specific requests for information here is potentially very useful, since it gives you a chance to get advice from many perspectives and also creates a resource for other people who search the Internet with similar questions. I recommend that you complement this practice with a relationship with a rabbi/rebbe/mentor who can learn more about your particular personality and needs and provide more targeted advice. But keep up the great questions!
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 15:54
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    Great question!!
    – RCW
    Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 22:22
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    One of the ultimate life-questions!
    – Yahu
    Commented Jan 4, 2011 at 1:06

6 Answers 6


Here's one I know of.

In the last mishnah of Yoma, R' Akiva says that "just as a mikvah purifies the impure, so does Hashem purify Israel." The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l points out that the phrase "the impure" seems to be unnecessary; of course, those are the ones who'd be using a mikvah in the first place.

And he explains: in halachah, a person can be tamei (impure) in various ways (for example, he might have come into contact with a corpse, and also with a dead animal's carcass, and also by being a metzora, etc.). Only some of these are purifiable via the mikvah; others require other procedures. Nevertheless, the mikvah is indeed effective in purifying this person from certain kinds of impurity.

In the same way, then, he explains, R' Akiva means to say that Hashem is willing to act as a mikvah in this sense. Even if a person is not yet ready to do teshuvah for all of his or her misdeeds, Hashem will accept that person's teshuvah for what he or she is ready for, and forgive those - so that now they can start psyching themselves up to do teshuvah for the next thing, and onward.

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    The Lubavitcher Rebbe isn't alone in saying this, and he's not really deriving a chiddush from an obscure drasha on a paseuk. The whole idea is pretty clear in the Ramchal's Derech Hashem where he discusses how the purpose of creation is so that Hashem can bestow good on a person commensurate to his actions in this world. Thus it's up to you what your actions are -- if you're very effective at some mitzvot and not others, your reward will be for the mitzvot you were effective at. (But remember not to understimate what you're missing out on in Olam HaBa if you can't tackle the averirot...
    – Chanoch
    Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 17:24
  • ... that you're currently lacking in.)
    – Chanoch
    Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 17:24
  • I don't know that this is necessarily the same thing, though. Based on your summary of what Derech Hashem is saying (and I haven't learned it), you could argue that there's a difference between passive non-fulfillment of certain mitzvos (where indeed, failing to observe one of them out of laziness, or whatever, doesn't necessarily taint the other ones) and active disobedience.
    – Alex
    Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 20:40
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    While this makes sense for misdeeds in the past, the original question regards one who continues to sin. Wouldn't this be more analogous to going to the mikveh with a sheretz in your hand?
    – Tzvi
    Commented Jan 2, 2011 at 15:13
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    טובל ושרץ בידו means exactly that - a person who is trying to become tahor from a particular kind of tum'ah while still holding on to it. In the analogy, it is a person who does teshuvah hypocritically, saying that he's sorry for what he did but thinking that he'll do that same aveirah again. Here we're talking about two different aveiros, where the person sincerely regrets one (and will never do it again) but isn't yet strong enough to give up the other - which is akin to the halachic case of a person who is tamei in two different ways and who is immersing himself to get rid of one of them.
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 2, 2011 at 20:33

I recommend that you take a look at the works of R' Dr. Abraham J. Twerski. He's a rabbi with a very strong Chasidic heritage, a major psychiatrist, and a prolific author. Self-esteem is a very big theme in his books. I haven't read it, but one title that looks like it's aimed very close to the issue you're describing is Angels Don't Leave Footprints: Discovering What's Right with Yourself.


No person is completely free of sin (Kohelet 7:20). This does not prevent anyone from doing Teshuva, at least for those sins he's ready to abandon.

Humans are referred to as "mehalchim/moving", as opposed to angels, who are referred to as "omdim/standing". Angels' spiritual level is frozen and cannot be altered. By contrast, humans are never standing still; rather, a human being is always moving, either upwards or downwards. God expects humans to strive to always move upwards; where exactly you are on the ladder is secondary.

Rabbi Dan Segal explained a verse in tehillim "זדים הליצני עד מאד מתורתך לא נטיתי": sins I have committed intentionally pressured me, but I haven't strayed from your Torah. King David was tormented by personal failings but didn't let them deter him from Hashem's service. There is a well-known Chassidishe saying that the Yetzer Hara isn't after getting you to sin as much as getting you to feel depressed about it afterwards.

Advice which has worked for many people (including myself): Instead of obsessing over the here and now, formulate a 12-month (or 5-year) plan in which you take upon yourself teeny little baby steps that move you away from a particular practice you wish to drop. Every move is a victory and should be celebrated. Eventually, with God's help, you'll get to where you need to be.

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    Well said. A small step may be to choose a practical time period where you will absolutely not do the sin. Say, depending on the issue, one day a week. And yes, celebrate that success, even if you waited until 12:01 AM and then did the aveirah, you were successful. Many may choose Shabbos as the day since it is holy, but keep in mind that it is also a day you are more idle and more likely to give in.
    – YDK
    Commented Dec 31, 2010 at 18:39

Mishlei states:

מִי יֹאמַר זִכִּיתִי לִבִּי טָהַרְתִּי מֵחַטָּאתִי

Who can say they are free of sin? (loosely translated)

Man by definition is imperfect and will sin. No one is perfect. No one is without sin. We live in a society were a premium is placed on accomplishment, goals and how people view us. The key is to be involved in the process of developing oneself, full well realizing that we may never be perfect. The process is what is more important.

In fact Chazal say that

במקום כפרתי נברא ,in the place man was created was atonement.

Man must recognize and acknowledge he is a sinner. We must be honest with ourselves. Honesty is probably one of the most difficult things to do. I applaud you for being honest with yourself about what you can do and what you can't do.

The third point I would like to make is regarding that overwhelming feeling you have regarding your sins We have a part of us that let's us know we are doing something we may consider wrong. This is our conscience. Our feeling of guilt, fear and shame. We often have a view of ourselves. We imagine we "ought" to be one way. When we don't measure up we feel pangs of guilt. However, our guilt is really just an emotional response that is based on our image of what we imagine to be correct. This image is often formed and influenced by our parents, friends, society. If we lived in a different society we may feel guilty about some other issue. (For example a member of a cannibal tribe may feel guilty leaving over a limb). The guilt can be a tool or an alarm telling you to think about what you are doing. But you can't let it rule you. You need to evaluate with your mind and determine if the decision you are making is the best decision. The Torah's view is not an all or nothing approach. So, although one may feel guilty about only keeping part of the mitzvot, they must intellectually realize this is the best approach for true growth and development. Our society is a christian society that emphasizes sin is evil and promotes a guilt, fear and shame attitude. However, according to Torah חט really translated better as one missed the mark. It is true one may miss the mark in one area, but they certainly can make progress in other areas of their life.
It is challenging to get past the guilt, but I hope that this awareness can help you address the guilt and not allow it to occupy your thoughts. If you want I can offer further thoughts on how to address the guilty feelings, if these ideas don't completely help.

I applaud your pursuit of the truth and the path to development. Keep up the great work!


For more answers, see:

R' Mordechai Becher; R' Moshe Newman. After the return: maintaining good family relations and adjusting to your new lifestyle—a practical halachic guide for the newly observant. Chapter 1: "Evolution or revolution?"

(Please note: The book was written for ba'alei teshuvah. Page 9 warns that many of the rulings in the book are forbidden for non-ba'alei teshuvah to follow.)


this is a tough one, because my experience is that people with this attitude NEVER get out of this mentality.

sounds to me like you need to hang on a few years until you have more maturity, and at some point you'll need to make that decision of which side you're on.

Because, really, you can't play games with Gd.

my $0.02

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    Your first paragraph contradicts your second: the first says people never get out of the attitude, and the second suggests that the asker might do so in a few years.
    – msh210
    Commented Sep 13, 2012 at 21:57
  • good point. the answer is: if it's due to being young and immature then there's hope. my experience is OLDER people (middle age and beyond) who have this attitude never get out of it.
    – ray
    Commented Sep 22, 2012 at 20:47
  • come to think of it, what i said is explicit in the talmud (yoma 85b) "one who says 'I will sin and repent' is prevented from doing teshuva", all the more so one who says "I will sin and will not repent"
    – ray
    Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 18:31

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