When you make a bad choice, God doesn’t abandon you and leave you to your own fate. Even when you make a bad choice, God still has to decide what’s going to happen to you from your bad choice, and how it is going to affect other people. So even when a person makes a bad choice in some way god protects you from your own bad choices. God is still in charge of what happens.
Teshuvah is when you start to sin and stop it. God is no longer angry at you and he will not punish you for this sin, but it’s not like you never sinned. To clean it up you do all these extra things but the forgiveness was already there and that’s why Yom Kippur is not a day of forgiveness. Kippur doesn’t mean forgiveness – kippur means cleansing. You want to erase even the memory of it but you’re already forgiven when you stop sinning, which could have been before Yom Kippur.
God forgives you for violating his commandments even if you complete a sin, and the realization of this forgiveness improves your relationship with God exponentially. Kapparah is the desire to have that beautiful, heightened relationship with God because of God’s forgiveness of your sins. Forgiveness is the beginning of a whole new relationship with God – it’s not the end of a problem.
Some people cannot forgive themselves even after God has forgiven them, which takes all of the attention away from God. The reason you did something bad in the first place is because you were just thinking about yourself. You can’t be the criminal and the judge, so forgiving yourself makes no sense because no one is asking your opinion about yourself. According to the Chasidic teachings in Tanya, you should be grateful for the discovery about yourself that you had an impulse to sin but didn’t do it. A good person is not someone who never gets into a bad mood – a good person is someone who even when they’re in a bad mood doesn’t do anything bad.
If you commit a sin and then regret the sin you committed, the person committing the sin can’t be the same person as the person who regrets the sin. Real Teshuvah means you separate yourself from the one who did the sin and become a different person who would never do that sin. When you sin you’re sinning against your better judgment, and then you regret the sin because you never wanted to do it.
The part of you that remains innocent is what your conscience is about. We always think of guilty conscience but what is a human conscience? Even if you never did anything wrong and there’s nothing to feel guilty about, do you still have a conscience? The Torah says yes, that conscience is your sense of purpose and not necessarily your sense of guilt. We must focus on our healthy conscience instead of our guilty conscience, because that is what keeps us doing what we are supposed to.