It’s that time of year again when messages come in like, “Rabbi, I gotta prepare for Yom Kippur! How do I repent?”

So I tell them, “Repentance? Keep far away from that stuff! You could get burned real bad!”

“But rabbi, what am I gonna do about this sin messup deal in my life? Do you know what I was doing between the ages of xx-xx?”

“I know. I get it. I’m with you. Take my advice: Get this repentance trip out of your head and just start running towards the light.”

“But then I’ll never do the repentance thing, like it says in all those books, about deep remorse and weeping over your sins!”

Yes, there was a time when people would spend every evening of the days before Yom Kippur (and especially just before Yom Kippur) pondering their sins, their faults, and just everything wrong, bad and crummy about themselves.

They would cry and sob from the depths of their hearts and resolve that tomorrow would be a whole new day. Then they would get up the next morning with a sparkling-pure soul to serve their Maker.

But nowadays, when we contemplate all those things, it inevitably leads to depression.

So you’re in this depressed, bitter mode, doing a self-accounting, and you ask yourself why you did such stupid things. Well, the answer is simple. It all made you feel good. And right now, you’re feeling awful. And if so…

Get the idea? This program is taking you to the opposite end of the galaxy from where you were trying to get.

So what happened? Why does something that worked so well for our great-grandparents totally fail for us today?

Quite simply, the darkness got thicker.

When you’re surrounded by light, it’s okay to stick your nose into a few dark corners—maybe you’ll find something valuable you lost in there. But when you live in a world with the lights dimmed and all the blinds pulled down, dark corners become black holes with relentless gravitational pull.

Pondering your sins, you may just come to the conclusion that you actually enjoyed them.

So I tell this guy, “Don’t even think of repenting! It’s a scam! It’s your nasty, self-destructive snake inside trying to take you for lunch. And you’re the lunch.”

“No, rabbi, no! I gotta repent!”

“You don’t want to repent. You want a replay!”

“A what?”

“A replay. Okay, I’ll explain: When your mind experiences something pleasurable, it’s programmed to go replay it again and again, until it rewires all its neurons, readies the limbic system and has the entire endocrine system on board.

“That way, when the associated stimuli turn up again, by sight, smell, sound or whatever, your entire visceral person is primed to lunge for it like a hawk.

“But you won’t let your mind replay this particular messup, because you know it was real immoral, bad and crummy. So your mind, being just as smart as you are—since it is your mind after all—comes up with a solution: It says, ‘I don’t want a replay. I want to repent.’

“Don’t fall for it! You want a replay. Nothing to do with repenting.”

“But when will I rip away all the ugly stuff clinging to me because of this lousy thing I did?”

The brain will do anything to get its replay. Even convince you to repent.

And I answer: “So don’t repent. Do teshuvah instead.”

“That’s what I said I want to do!”

“No, you said you wanted to do repentance. I’m telling you to do teshuvah. That means “return.” Return towards the light from which your soul originally came.

“When you are running towards the light, filling your life with more inspiring Torah wisdom, lots more mitzvahs, more joy, love and beauty, and the light is getting brighter and brighter, and you want to reach out and talk directly, sincerely with your G‑d…

“...that’s when it hits you that this ugly stuff from the past that was never really you to begin with is holding you back, like a useless backpack weighing you down, like a lump of clay in your heart, like a wall between you and the true place of your soul.

“That’s when a genuine, aching remorse overcomes you, just swelling up all on its own from the bottom of your heart.

“That’s when you scream, ‘Get off my back!’

“With that aching, yearning, sincere cry, your unwanted detritus is jettisoned off into the nothingness, sending you flying ahead at lightspeed.

“That’s when you repent. But not until then.”

During the ten days from Rosh Hashanah until Yom Kippur, there’s a lot of light. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year. Why waste the holiest time of the year dwelling on stupid things you did in the past?

Why waste the holiest day of the year dwelling on everything you messed up?

Instead, reach towards the light. Feel the presence of an Infinite G‑d, Creator of all things, who awaits your return to Him, with unconditional, limitless love.

The messy, gunky stuff will just fall away, never to come back again. ’Cause you’ll never want it back again, once you’ve felt the embrace of His light.

Today, only the children of light can rise.