The Recipe for a Sin Free Life

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

There was a little girl, whose father was a clergyman.

One day, she came to her father and said, “Daddy, can a person go their whole life without sinning?”

The father answered, “No, honey, I’m sorry, but that’s just not possible.”

“What about a year, daddy? Can a person go a whole year without sinning?” She continued.

“No, I don’t think that’s possible either.”

“What about a day, can a person go a day without sinning once?”

“It’s very unlikely. No, I don’t think they can.”

“What about one moment, daddy, can a person go one moment without sinning?”

“Yes, that is possible.”

“Then daddy, I want to live my life, moment by moment.” Author Unknown

This beautiful anecdote contains within it a number of really meaningful and deep life messages relevant to our Yom Kippur experience.

Firstly, the idea of taking life one moment at a time and making a conscious choice to live in that moment and choose good for that moment. Friends, God has given us the most precious gift: an opportunity in every moment of the next twenty-four hours to cleanse our souls of all the negativity and spiritual impurities we have, unfortunately, accumulated over the past year. Yom Kippur is the high efficiency washing machine of the year. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter explains that one moment of repentance – the high efficiency detergent of the day – can cleanse and prevent a person from enduring much pain and hardship, God forbid. So, let us use each moment in the Mitzvah of cleansing and purifying ourselves before Hashem.

Secondly, this anecdote raises an important question: if it is indeed possible to go one moment without sinning, then why is it impossible to go one day without sinning? I think that the simple answer is that one of the greatest challenges we face in our lives is the challenge of consistency. It is easy to choose good in one moment, but to do the right thing and choose the right path consistently is the real challenge in life.

And, finally, this anecdote leaves us with a wonderful spiritual life message: if it is indeed possible not to sin for one moment, then it must (by definition) also be possible not to sin for a day, a week, a month, a year, and a lifetime. This follows logically from the fact that a lifetime is merely the collection of many individual moments. You see, friends, the key for attaining consistent morality is the ability to live this very moment as if it were our last. When we live life with that attitude, it is indeed possible to live a life free of sin. However, if we live our lives focusing on the long, arduous task at hand and the incredible moral consistency required, it appears inconceivable and impossible to live a life without sin.

This pertinent point was noted by the great sage Rebbi (or Rabbi) Nachman of Breslov 200 years ago when he commented upon the verse we say in the first psalm of Kabbalat Shabbat every Friday night: “Today, if you listen to His voice…” The secret of service of God is to focus on today as if that is all that exists. This Yom Kippur let us not commit ourselves to a sin-free year, which appears impossible; rather, let us commit ourselves to that which is indeed possible, to live each moment free of sin as if it were our last.