Today, if you head His voice” (Tehillim 95:7). In this life, all a person has is the very day and the very hour one finds oneself in. (Likutei Moharan I: 272)
Each of us must engrave this deeply into our mind and heart, namely, that the past does not exist! We should not think about it at all, and definitely not let it affect our future. Even if we have sinned very much, G-d forbid, we should never think that our past sins have made us so filthy that another sin won’t matter, G-d forbid.
Fulfilling Hashem’s command that we not sin still applies to us! When faced with the temptation to sin, we must restrain ourselves as if we have never sinned even once in our entire life. When the opportunity arises to perform a mitzva, we must fulfill it as if doing mitzvot is completely natural for us.
In reality, our worries over the past are our main obstacle to our avodat (service of) Hashem. As soon as we determine to serve Him, the memory of thousands of our past failings fall upon us, trying to crush us into the ground, G-d forbid. Our past failings have no right to destroy our present. Our present moment is to filled with mitzvot, prayer, and Torah study.
If we truly desire to repair our past, then we must grab this present moment, as well as the future as it comes, and repair what was previously damaged. As Rebbe Nachman says, “If you believe that you can damage, believe that you can repair!” (Likutei Moharan II: 112). When we have the opportunity to do a mitzva in the present, we are not to think about our past sins.
Rebbe Nachman teaches, “When a person breaks the grip of sinful thoughts, he extracts the portion of holiness that had fallen into the darkness because of his sins” (Likutei Moharan I: 27). Through this, not only will we overcome our present desires, but we even elevate and restore those sparks of holiness that had already been lost due to our previous sins.
The Sages write, “Run to perform a mitzva, and flee from a sin, because the reward of a mitzva is a mitzva, and the reward of a sin is a sin” (Pirkei Avot 4:2). A sin has the power to lead to another sin, but if we do t’shuva (repentance) and overcome the evil inclination the second time around, the original holiness that fell and was trapped is restored to its place. By fleeing from sin in the present, we actually regain what was lost in the past! In this way, the past does not exist!
Based on In All Your Ways: A Guide to Avodas HaShem, Collected Discourses of Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter, The Past Does Not Exist.