Hi Rabbi,

The Torah teaches about the forgiveness of G‑d, but I don’t feel forgiven and I certainly can’t forgive myself. How do I get victory once and for all from this evil inclination? How do I know that G‑d has forgiven me? How do I forgive myself?

I get depressed and don’t desire to pray, learn or do anything, because I am so ashamed and concerned that I am not worthy to stand before G‑d. I would appreciate any help that you can offer.

—Gill T.

Hi Gill,

Eve got in trouble because she answered back to a snake. She should have ignored him, as though he didn’t exist. Instead, she gave him the acknowledgment that he demanded, and then some more, and eventually . . . well, you know what happened. After Eve, her children continued falling into the same trap again and again, exactly the same way—by providing undeserved credence to an otherwise impotent reptilian urge.

After a while, someone figured it out. He said, “Hey—if I just ignore this dumb snake, maybe he’ll go away!”

So he tried it, and at first the snake got louder and ruder and more chutzpadik. But he kept ignoring the snake, and eventually became a pure and enlightened master. Other people started learning from him, and pretty soon there were more such pure souls. So the snake got desperate and tried more conniving, sly and sneaky attention-getting tricks. People figured those out as well.

But eventually the snake came up with a new trick: He dressed up in a costume as a very pious and holy being—just like the kind of person these people wanted to be. And that worked. He was able to bring down thousands of righteous people within days.

The costume worked so well, he even chose a name for it. And he uses it to this day. He calls it “guilt.”

Now you know the truth: Guilt is nothing more than the poison of a snake. And the same strategy that works with the snake works with guilt: Ignore it. Get on with life. Do good and turn from evil. Feel remorse, shed some tears, resolve to not fall in the same trap next time—and then get back on the road and keep moving. If you’ve done that, G‑d has forgiven you—so why shouldn’t you forgive you?

And if you come across a snake along the road that picks up its head and calls you a sinner—ignore it. Eve already made that mistake. We must have learned something by now.