There are four stages in the process of transgression:


  1. Dormant
  2. Active
  3. Situation
  4. Transgression


To illustrate, let's use the example of someone trying to stop smoking. The scene is a man sitting by his desk at the office doing work. He has a history of addiction to cigarettes and has been trying to stop smoking, unsuccessfully, for three months. Let's observe him and see what happens...


At first the urge for a cigarette is DORMANT. It can be activated at any time but at this point the craving for a cigarette is nothing more than potential energy.


The door to our smoker's office is opened briefly by a co-worker and a wisp of a cigarette passing in the hallway floats invitingly through the opened door and seductively over to the our friend's nostrils. He now begins to think of having a cigarette. The passion has become ACTIVE.

However, he does not smoke in his office and cannot go at the present time to the smokers' lounge set aside down the hallway. He continues working...

Our friend gets up to use the restroom. He's thinking about a cigarette now but the urge is not out of control.


After leaving the restroom he can either turn right and head back to his desk or head left to the smoking lounge. He makes a fateful left turn, (to supposedly speak to a friend) and finds himself moving quickly almost out of control into a SITUATION. In this case the smoking lounge.

The situation is where the transgression can be repeated and where the urge to transgress increases in intensity to unbearable degrees.


He enters the smokers' lounge and is immediately offered free cigarettes by all his friends. The smell of the freshly ground coffee mixed with tobacco smoke drives his passion for a cigarette into uncontrollable proportions, and before he knows it he is inhaling deeply a robust blend of tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide, wondering if he is ever going to "kick the habit."

Now I ask you the following question:

At what point did our friend lose the battle?

It was not in the smokers' lounge. It was when he turned left instead of right after leaving the restroom. Because even though at that point his forbidden desire was ACTIVE, he could not have fulfilled it because he did not have a SITUATION that afforded him the opportunity to smoke.

What we see from this story is that there are times when our behavior is still in our own hands. And although we may crave that which is forbidden, if we can keep ourselves away from SITUATIONS that afford us the chance to slip into the negative behavior, then we will be spared the transgression.

Not only that, but the urge to transgress, although it may be strong, usually does not reach uncontrollable proportions (impassioned frenzy?) until we are in a SITUATION.

As you can see from the story above, it is difficult to avoid the second stage when our desire becomes ACTIVE, since we live in a world with so much stimuli. But it is rare that a person is placed in a SITUATION against their will. Therefore, the key to overcoming transgression is keeping out of SITUATIONS.

Because of what we have just mentioned, part of breaking the pattern of transgression is to know when and where the transgression is usually performed.

That way, one can avoid situations that make the transgression possible. This is not a cop-out, an escape. Rather it is an effective strategy.

The ultimate goal is that once you are stronger, you can indeed re-enter that same situation -- and not stumble this time.

That is what we call "complete teshuva." That's heroic.


You now have to ask yourself three key questions:

Question 1: WHAT? What do you want to change?

Question 2: WHERE? In what location(s) are you most prone to committing this negative act?

Question 3: HOW? How are you going to avoid getting into this potentially negative situation the next time it arises?


Our sages teach us that the difference between a righteous person and a non-righteous person is not "that one makes mistakes and one does not."

Rather, the difference is that the righteous person makes mistakes and refuses to give up. While the non-righteous person gives up after he makes a mistake.

A righteous person can be compared to a baby learning to walk. The baby takes a few steps forward and falls down, only to get up and keep moving again. Imagine if the baby would give up after the first few knocks! He would never learn how to walk!

When we set out to do teshuva, we must know that it is a process that takes time. If you are not getting where you want to be, don't get discouraged!

God knew right from the start that humanity would make mistakes.

Indeed, King Solomon, one of the wisest men of all time, wrote: "There is no righteous person on the land who does good and does not sin" (Ecclesiastes 7:20).

Even if we fail to achieve the desired results, the very fact that we are trying to change is beloved by God.

So when you fall down, remember: It is an essential stepping stone to your eventual success.