Dear Rabbi,

It was an accident, but I feel so guilty and awfully depressed about it. I feel like my soul and body are contaminated forever. How can I make up for it?

—Guilty

Dear Guilty,

Feeling like you want to make up for a messup is a good thing. Feeling depressed and guilty is not.

Sometimes it’s hard to sense whether a particular feeling is coming from the yetzer tov (good inclination) or the yetzer hara (other inclination). So, here’s a rule of thumb: Any feeling that brings you to do something good definitely comes from the yetzer tov. But any feeling that brings gloom and depression—no matter how noble and virtuous it may seem—is just another sneaky tactic of the the yetzer hara.

Let’s apply this to your situation:

This was an accident. But still, if you are really concerned about keeping kosher, messups like this don’t happen. So, even though you did this by accident, you still need to do teshuvah. Essentially, that means remorse for what was done, together with the pledge not to do it again. You already seem to be pretty remorseful; now all you need is to resolve to be more careful in the future. Resolve to think twice, and make sure you know what you are eating before you eat it.

But, as you recognize, you also need to remove any negative energy remaining from the deed—and from that food, which is now metabolized into your physiology. We don’t chase away darkness with broomsticks. We use light. It just so happens we have a very powerful light in our hands for zapping away all sorts of darkness. It’s called tzedakah—simply giving more money than you usually would to a worthy cause. Tzedakah is like bringing a sacrifice in the Temple—you give away something precious to you, and that takes away those things that you don’t want to be part of you.

Tzedakah helps in all situations. But here are some additional suggestions, specifically for kashrut:

1) Spend some time reading up the laws of kashrut in detail. I would be happy to suggest some books, if you’d like.

2) Inspire another Jew to start keeping kosher.

Doing these things not only erases the deed—they actually transform what happened into something positive. Now this deed is no longer a low point in your life, but a point of inspiration, driving you and others higher and higher.

Let me know if this helps.

Yours truly,
Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar