When man senses the wrongness, evil, and emptiness in his life, it is not enough that he yearn for God or try to change his way of life.
Repentance is more than aspiration and yearning, for it also involves the sense of despair.
And it is this very despair- and, paradoxically, the sin that precedes it-that gives man the possibility of overleaping his past.
The desperation of the endeavor to separate himself from his past, to reach heights that the innocent and ordinary man is not even aware of, gives the penitent the power to break the inexorability of his fate, sometimes in a way that involves a total destruction of his past, his goals, and almost all of his personality.
–Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz