In chapter 3 of the Path of the Just, the Ramchal says:

    He who wants to watch over himself must investigate two matters.
  1. The first: that he contemplate what is the true good for man to choose and what is the true evil for him to flee from.
  2. The second: on the actions which he does, to determine if they are in the category of the good or the evil.
      This applies both to times when he is in the act of doing and when not in the act of doing.
    1. When in the act of doing: that he not do any act without first weighing it on the scales of this understanding.
    2. Not in the act of doing: that he bring up before himself the remembrance of his deeds in general and weigh them, likewise, in these scales to determine what they contain of evil in order to cast it away and what of good, in order to perpetuate it and strengthen himself in it. If he finds in them of the evil, he should then contemplate and investigate, reasoning out a strategy to employ in order to turn away from that evil and cleanse himself of it....

then later on says

Our sages of blessed memory taught us explicitly the need for this accounting as they said: " 'therefore the rulers say, let us enter into an accounting' (Numbers 21:27). Therefore the rulers - of their [evil] inclinations said come and consider the accounting of the world - the loss incurred by doing a mitzva against the gain earned through it, and the gain obtained by doing a sin against the loss incurred..."

how is this an "explicit" instruction of what he said previously?

the former is about examining one's personal deeds whereas this is about weighing generally the reward/loss of a mitzva against a sin

  • It's not a rephrase of #1? "[C]ontemplat[ing] what is the true good for man to choose and what is the true evil for him to flee from" requires knowing the magnitude of each side of the trade-off, no? May 3 '16 at 13:45
  • @MichaBerger good point
    – ray
    May 3 '16 at 19:19
  • Dr Alan Morinis (who teaches mussar globally, aside from his Amazon presence) emailed me in disagreement: I agree that it is not a rephrase. It can't be because what changes is not just phraseology but the substance in focus. (cont.) May 5 '16 at 0:11
  • (Dr Morinis, cont.) That said, I suspect that in the mind of the Ramchal (if I can presume to speculate about such a thing from way down here), "the true good for man" could not be separated from mitzvot and hence the reward of a mitzvah (whatever that might be). Similarly, "true evil" and aveirot can't be separated. It's not a rephrase but two dimensions of the same phenomena, separated only by the perspective of the person contemplating, not in fact. May 5 '16 at 0:11
  • Did you translate these passages into English yourself? If no, then you need to cite the translation you used.
    – ezra
    Jun 2 '17 at 4:19

You seem to be reading the last paragraph quoted not in the proper context.

The opening of the chapter (3:1-6) is the detailed explanation of the process of watchfulness (what you are being watchful about, that it relates to what you are actually doing, and that your actions should be deliberate).

Then, toward the end of the chapter, in the paragraph just before the last paragraph you quote (3:11-13), Ramchal summarizes the chapter by saying the concept of watchfullness needs to be a regular accounting (literally each day) like a successful business person who regularly and accurately calculates their income, costs and expenses.

יא כלל הדבר: יהיה האדם מעיין על מעשיו כולם, ומפקח על כל דרכיו שלא להניח לעצמו הרגל רע ומדה רעה, כל שכן עבירה ופשע. יב והנני רואה צורך לאדם שיהיה מדקדק ושוקל דרכיו דבר יום ביומו כסוחרים הגדולים אשר יפלסו תמיד כל עסקיהם למען לא יתקלקלו, ויקבע עתים ושעות לזה שלא יהיה משקלו עראי, אלא בקביעות גדול, כי רב התולדה הוא. יג וחכמים זכרונם לברכה הורונו בפירוש צורך החשבון הזה, והוא מה שאמרו ז"ל (בבא בתרא עח):

And it is this regular, daily accounting that the Sages taught us explicitly in Bava Bathra 78b.

The last paragraph you quote is then saying that the Sages state the frequency of this trait of watchfulness in Ramchal's summary explicitly, meaning in clear and unambiguous language. They call the process literally "accounting" and put it in terms of a daily profit and loss assessment.

  • "the concept of watchfullness is generally to make a regular accounting" - where does he define watchfulness like this?
    – ray
    Apr 2 '17 at 20:02

The advice of making a cheshbono shel olam seems to be to treat religion as you would a business, which requires a profit and loss statement to know if the business is heading in the right direction.

Once you accept that premise you will keep the company ledger in mind when performing a mitzva or aveira, and do an end-of-day profit and loss statement which you can analyse to improve future profitability.


This passage is hard to decipher.

The Chazal of "המושלים ביצרם...‏" comes after the advice given to make Cheshbon Hanefesh.
So, apparently, the Moshlim talk about this issue: What is happened in past activities?

But the author explains that the good outcome of Cheshbon Hanefesh is also to reach an improvement for future actions.

When the Ramchal marvels reading this statements, he shows that only a "Moshel" can clearly distinguish between Good and Evil as every body can look at a concrete object. Average persons have not yet a such acuity. We know what is Avera and what is mitsva. We know about Sachar and Onesh. But we do not feel nothing.

This advice is as a compass. The Moshlim say "This is your compass, follow the arrow!" Everytime, in way to avoid sin, "look at profits and losses". This will redirect you to choose Mitsva and avoid Avera.

So the advice of Moshlim apply to the whole topic above.

The parable of the labyrinth explains that Moshlim point essentially what we have to do in immediate future, following the compass.

Further in chapter 4, the author, in the passage "עומק הדין עד היכן מגיע", comes back to this issue and we can understand that a retrospective Cheshbon Hanefesh is also enlightening for the future decisions.

In conclusion: The advice is to look from the reward/damage point of view. This is a very efficient way witch lead to victory against Yetser Hara.

This topic is explicitly explained in Mishna Avot 2, 1:

וֶהֱוֵי מְחַשֵּׁב הֶפְסֵד מִצְוָה כְּנֶגֶד שְׂכָרָהּ, וּשְׂכַר עֲבֵרָה כְּנֶגֶד הֶפְסֵדָהּ. ‏

If we look at the whole statement in Talmud here

we understand perfectly: If you make this, you are building yourself...

But to see what is Mitsva and Avera we need priorly to study Torah (תורה מביאה לידי זהירות), nothing else can help.

  • I edited the answer and principally explain through the end of the Gmara of Cheshbon
    – kouty
    May 3 '16 at 21:20
  • who is the "man witch"? also, if we cant see good and evil why cant we see mitzva and aveira? thnx
    – ray
    Jul 3 '16 at 5:17
  • @Gizbar I corrected, my answer was wrong, and at the end I also added a last line
    – kouty
    Jul 3 '16 at 6:59
  • @Gizbar in the previous edit there was an error d/t confusion between mitsva and schar mitsva.
    – kouty
    Jul 3 '16 at 8:32
  • המושלים ביצרם simply means those who are able to overcome their natural, animal nature. All Jews have this ability. It is the concept of free choice like Rambam defines in section 3, chapter 17 of Moreh Nevuchim. Apr 4 '17 at 0:05

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