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Mesilat Yesharim Home

» Author's Introduction
» 1-Man's Duty in the World
» 2-The Trait of Watchfulness
» 3-The Divisions of Watchfulness
» 4-Acquiring Watchfulness
» 5-Detriments of Watchfulness
» 6-The Trait of Zeal
» 7-Divisions of Zeal
» 8-Acquiring Zeal
» 9-Detriments of Zeal
» 10-The Trait of Cleanliness
» 11-Particulars of Cleanliness
» 12-Acquiring Cleanliness
» 13-The Trait of Separation
» 14-The Divisions of Separation
» 15-Acquiring Separation
» 16-The Trait of Purity
» 17-Acquiring Purity
» 18-The Trait of Piety
» 19-Divisions of Piety
» 20-Weighing of Piety
» 21-Acquiring Piety
» 22-The Trait of Humility
» 23-Acquiring Humility
» 24-The Trait of Fear of Sin
» 25-Acquiring Fear of Sin
» 26-The Trait of Holiness
» Derech Etz Chaim
» Ramban's Letter

» Review Questions
» Letters of the Ramchal
» Audio Classes


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Mirrored From Dafyomireview.com

Mesilat Yesharim / Path of the Just
by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato zt'l
Chapter 4 - Acquiring Watchfulness
with select commentaries
copyright 2018 dafyomireview.com

Abbreviations used in this translation:
SR - Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna (1890–1969) (from hebrewbooks.org/41769)
ER - Rabbi Avraham Erlinger (from hebrewbooks.org/52042) (with author's permission)
SP - Rabbi Yosef Spinner (from hebrewbooks.org/51471) (with author's permission)
CS - Rabbi Moshe Chaim Shalenger (with author's permission)
MB - Mesilas Yesharim im Biruim (with author's permission)
NE - Netiv Eliezer by Rabbi Eliezer Lopian (with author's permission)
NH - Nefesh HaMesilah (with author's permission)
OG - Oros Genuzim by Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Hoffman (with author's permission) download
SO - Shaarei Orah, Vaadim by Rabbi Avigdor Miller (excerpts with book author's permission)
LS - Leket Sichot Mussar by Rabbi Yitzchak Isaac Sher (1875–1952) (Vol.2, Kuntras Mesilat Yesharim, with permission of Slabodka Rosh Yeshiva (R.Shmuel Zacks), Bnei Brak. download hebrew original)

Commentaries: Max+ Max Med Min None
  • Min - (level 1) for basic commentaries as relating to the plain meaning (Pshat).
  • Med - (level 2) elaborates more into the theme.
  • Max - (level 3) deeper in, including mystical excerpts from the Orot Genuzim commentary (Sod).
  • Max+ - (level 4) more commentaries for those familiar with the text.
Suggestion: Read once without commentaries (or min). Then a second time with.

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*** CHAPTER 4 - ACQUIRING WATCHFULNESS ***פרק 4 - בדרך קנית הזהירות
Generally, that which brings a person to watchfulness is the study of Torah as Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair stated in the Beraitha: "Torah brings to Watchfulness.."

But that which, in particular, brings one to watchfulness is contemplation on the severity of the service which a man is obligated in and the depth of judgment incurred for it.
הנה מה שמביא את האדם אל הזהירות, הוא לימוד התורה. והוא מה שאמר רבי פינחס בתחלת הברייתא, תורה מביאה לידי זהירות.

אמנם על דרך פרט המביא לזה, הוא ההתבוננות על חומר העבודה אשר חייב בה האדם, ועומק הדין עליה.

MB - "depth of judgment" - this rouses to Watchfulness since it causes him to be cautious and make a cheshbon (accounting of reward of sin, etc.) on every detail since in the end he will anyways have to be judged on them.
This realization comes from studying the events reported in the holy books, and from studying the statements of our Sages of blessed memory which rouse one on this.

This reflection has varying degrees of arousing, respectively, for those of wholeness of understanding, those of lesser understanding, and for the general masses.
ויצא לו זה, מן העיון במעשים הכתובים בספרי הקודש ומן הלימוד במאמרי החכמים זכרונם לברכה המעוררים על זה.

והנה יש בהתבוננות הזה הערות הערות בהדרגה: לשלמי הדעת, ולפחותים מהם, ולכל ההמון כולו.

Those of wholeness of understanding will be roused to watchfulness by their coming to see clearly that only perfection and nothing else is worthy of their desire, and that there is no greater evil than the lack of perfection and distance from it.

For after this has become clear to them and likewise after it has become clear to them that the means to perfection are good deeds and traits, they will certainly never consent to diminish these means or be lenient in them. Since, it has already become clear to them that if they diminish in these means or are weak in these means, not employing the full force necessary, they will not attain the true perfection. Rather, it will be reduced in proportion to their reduction in exerting themselves to the necessary extent, leaving them lacking in perfection which is a great calamity and great evil to them.
לשלמי הדעת, תהיה להם ההערה במה שיתברר להם כי רק השלימות הוא הדבר הראוי שיחמד מהם ולא זולת זה, ושאין רע גדול מחסרון השלמות וההרחקה ממנו.

כי הנה אחר שיתבאר זה אצלם ויתבאר להם כמו כן היות האמצעים אליו המעשים הטובים והמדות הטובות, ודאי הוא שלא יתרצו מעולם להמעיט מאלה האמצעים או להקל בהם. כי כבר נתבאר אצלם שאם אמצעים אלה ימעטו להם, או אם האמצעים יהיו חלשים ולא בכל החוזק המצטרך בהם, הנה לא ישיגו בהם שלמות אמיתי אלא יגרע מהם כפי מה שגרעו הם בהשתדלותם, ונמצאים חסרי השלימות, מה שהוא להם צרה גודלה ורעה רבה.

MB - "no greater evil" - dont think: "if I don't attain complete Shelemut (Wholeness) it is not so terrible that I lacked this level". It is not so. Rather, there is no worse calamity than this. (see also Vilna Gaon on Mishlei 3:15).
Divrei Bina U'Mussar 32 - "those of wholeness of understanding" - the primary matter is for a man to know his will and not be "wavering between two opinions" (see Kings I 18:21). He must want one thing only and not many things. For otherwise he will attain neither this nor that as the Chovot Halevavot says (Gate 8, 3:25): "just like fire and water cannot coexist together in one container, so too the love of this world and the love of the World to Come cannot coexist together in the heart of the believer".

The explanation is that both can co-exist but love of both of them cannot co-exist for they contradict each other. Thus the primary work of a man is to realize that Torah is his life and without it he has no life. "to those of wholeness of understanding... lacking in perfection is a great calamity and great evil to them". A man must first totally devote himself (moser nafsho) for the Torah and empty himself of all personal desires. After he banishes all the hidden secrets deep inside him, he can turn to the way of Torah. For then his Torah study will be lishma (for its own sake) and all his will shall be the will of G-d only. Then the secrets of Torah will be revealed to him and the path to tread, teaching him what to do, whereby he will find everything in it.
OG - "these means or are weak in these means..." - it is well known that the Ramchal was also a great master in the Hebrew language. Undoubtedly, if he repeated several times the word "means" here, this was done with intent.. It seems to me to explain that the Ramchal is teaching us that these good deeds and traits are not just "means" that connect a man with G-d. Rather they are means in a central aspect. i.e. like the central point in a sphere which is the primary point of the sphere for it sets around it all the other points of the sphere at a fixed distance. So too all the good commandments and traits, they are means and focal points in our lives to fulfill our duty in our world, to rectify ourselves and the entire world. But if one fulfills the commandments in a partial manner, then they are merely just "means".
Therefore, they will choose only to maximize these means and to be stringent in all of their details, finding no rest or peace due to worry lest they possibly lack what will bring them to the perfection that they desire. This is what King Shlomo, peace be unto him, said: "fortunate is the man that fears always" (Mishlei 28:14), which our Sages explained (Berachot 60a) refers to Torah study. על כן לא יבחרו אלא להרבות בהם ולהחמיר בכל תנאיהם, ולא ינוחו ולא ישקטו מדאגה מדבר פן יחסר מהם מה שיגיע אותם אל השלימות אשר הם חפצים. והוא מה שאמר שלמה המלך עליו השלום (משלי כח): אשרי אדם מפחד תמיד, ופירשו זכרונם לברכה (ברכות ס'): ההוא בדברי תורה כתיב.

MB - "refers to Torah study" - it seems Rabeinu understood the intent of "divrei Torah" to refer to all spiritual matters not just Torah study.
ER - "no rest or peace due to worry" - Rabeinu's description is akin to one who has a sick man in his house and worries on his treatment. He has no rest until he obtains a clear diagnostic of the root problem of the sick man and what are the proper treatments which are certified and verified. All the time this is not clear, and the illness is still there, he worries and goes from doctor to doctor until he finds the correct treatment and the patient heals. So too, by the sicknesses of the soul, and even if one does not detect that he is ill nevertheless lacking perfection itself is an illness, or at least a great weakness. And there are treatments, medications, and proper diet to strengthen one to become healthy and whole.
The pinnacle of this level called "fear of sin", one of the greatest levels, is when a man is constantly afraid and worried lest he have in his hand some trace of sin which obstructs him from the perfection that he is under duty to strive for.

Regarding this our Sages of blessed memory said: "this teaches each person is burned from the Chupa (canopy) of his fellow" (Bava Basra 75a). This [burning] does not refer to jealousy which falls only to people lacking in understanding as I will explain with G-d's help. Rather, it is due to seeing oneself lacking from the perfection that he was capable of attaining just as his fellow had attained it.
והנה סוף זאת המדרגה, היא הנקראת יראת חטא, שהיא מן המשובחות שבמדרגות, והוא שיהיה האדם ירא תמיד ודואג פן ימצא בידו איזה שמץ חטא שיעכבהו מן השלימות אשר הוא חייב להשתדל בעבורו.

ועל זה אמרו ז"ל (ב"ב עה): על דרך המשל, מלמד שכל אחד נכוה מחופתו של חבירו. כי אין זה מטעם הקנאה אשר תפול רק בחסירי הדעת כמו שאכתוב עוד בסיעתא דשמיא, אלא מפני ראותו עצמו חסר מן השלימות מדריגה שהיה יכול להשיגה כמו שהשיגה חבירו.

CR - "burned" - i.e. receives suffering and pain.
"canopy" - due to his honorable standing which is metaphorically compared to a canopy.
ER - "burned from the Chupa (canopy) of his fellow" - the sayings ends there "woe to that shame, woe to that disgrace". This statement teaches us that not only must one guard himself from sin and that all forms of evil necessitate watchfulness, worry, and fleeing. But even from every good trait, each person is likewise measured in the extent of his doing good. This is what Rabeinu writes that each level of shelemus (virtue) that one sees in his friend prosecutes him and claims from him that he also could have attained it. Hence, even in the domain of "do good" he will care very much if he was capable of reaching it but did not. Therefore, when one sees any good quality in any person, he should check himself if he also can acquire it. He should investigate how his fellow attained this and tell himself "I will do the same also!"
Through this contemplation certainly one of wholeness of understanding will not refrain from being watchful of his deeds.

Those of lesser understanding, however, will be roused to Watchfulness according to their perceptions. Namely, according to the matter of honor that they crave.
והנה על פי ההתבוננות הזה ודאי שלא ימנע השלם בדעתו להיות זהיר במעשיו.

אך לפחותים מאלה, תהיה ההערה לפי הבחנתם, והוא, לפי ענין הכבוד אשר הם מתאוים לו.

CR - i.e. they need to rouse themselves to undertake watchfulness through their perceiving and considering honor as the most important thing in the world.
SR - "honor" - just like there is a concept of fear of punishment which is a low level relative to the perfect level of Yira Romemus (fear of the greatness of G-d). So too in the realm of love, there is love of reward which is a lower level than the great love of virtue and shelemus (perfection).

MB - "those of wholeness of understanding... those of lesser understanding" - those of wholeness of understanding see perfection as of utmost importance. This is something evident to one whose intellect is not blemished. But those of lesser understanding, i.e. they have their intellect skewed due to desire for honor...
For it is evident to every man of faith (who believes in reward and punishment, and Olam Haba - CS), that the various levels in the world of truth, i.e., the world to come, are according to one's level of deeds and that one is only elevated over his fellow if his deeds are greater than his fellow's. But one who is of few deeds will be the lower one.

If so, how could a man hide his eye from his deeds or slacken his striving in attaining this (trait of watchfulness - CS)? For afterwards, certainly he will suffer at the time he can no longer rectify what he made crooked.
וזה כי זה פשוט אצל כל בעל דעת, שאין המדריגות מתחלקות בעולם האמיתי שהוא העולם הבא, אלא לפי המעשים. ושלא יתרומם שם אלא מי שהוא רב המעשים מחבירו. ואשר הוא מעט המעשים הוא יהיה השפל.

אם כן, איפוא, איך יוכל האדם להעלים עיניו ממעשיו או למעט השתדלותו בזה אם אחר כך ודאי יצר לו בזמן שלא יוכל לתקן את אשר עותו.

CS - "suffer" - in Olam Haba due to not being in a high level there.
"he made crooked" - the situation which he himself bent and made crooked.
There are some simpletons who seek only to lighten the burden on themselves. They reply: "why should we weary ourselves with so much Piety and Separation? Is it not sufficient for us to not be among the wicked sentenced to Gehinom? We will not strain ourselves just to enter into the innermost chambers of Gan Eden. If we don't have a large portion, at least we will have a small portion. This is enough for us. We will not further burden the yoke of our load just for this." והנה יש מהפתאים המבקשים רק להקל מעליהם, שיאמרו, למה נייגע עצמנו בכל כך חסידות ופרישות, הלא די לנו שלא נהיה מהרשעים הנידונים בגיהנם. אנחנו לא נדחוק עצמנו ליכנס בגן עדן לפני ולפנים. אם לא יהיה לנו חלק גדול, יהיה לנו חלק קטן. אנו די לנו בזה, ולא נכביד על משאנו בעבור זאת.

MB - "there are some simpletons.." - who desire tranquility in this world. Therefore the evil inclination presents to them an outlook suitable to their desire for tranquility, namely, the outlook that they need not weary themselves and it is enough to have a small portion in Gan Eden. But on truthful examination this is a deception as will be explained.

MB - "why should we weary ourselves with so much piety and separation" - their view is that the need for Watchfulness is only for he who wants to be a Chasid or Parush (pious, ascetic man), but in order to not be a Rasha (wicked man), one can do without it. Even though this too is a mistake, their rousing is not on this point (but rather on honor as will be explained).
Ohr Yechezkel 3:47 - "is it not sufficient for us" - their error stems from the power of not having pictured to themselves what is the World to Come. For one who pictures to himself what is the World to Come will not be satisfied with a small portion. Rather, he will long to increase his portion however much he possibly can.
There is just one question that we will put to these people: can they so easily tolerate in this fleeting world the sight of one their peers being honored and elevated above them, and coming to rule over them? Or worse still, if this is one of their servants or one of the beggars which are lowly and despicable in their eyes. Would they not be filled with pain and would their blood not boil inside them?! Surely they could not!

For behold we can see with our own eyes that all of a man's labor is to raise himself over anyone he can and to establish his place among those more elevated. This is jealousy between man and his fellow. For if he sees his fellow being elevated while he remains lowly, certainly what he tolerates will be only what he is forced to tolerate because of his inability to prevent it, but his heart will rot within him (due to the great suffering and sadness - CS).
אמנם שאלה אחת נשאל מהם: היוכלו כל כך על נקלה לסבול בעולם הזה החולף, לראות אחד מחבריהם מכובד ומנושא יותר מהם ומושל עליהם וכל שכן אחד מעבדיהם או מן העניים הנבזים ושפלים בעיניהם ולא יצטערו ולא יהיה דמם רותח בקרבם? לא, ודאי!

כי הנה עינינו הרואות: כל עמל האדם, להנשא על כל מי שיוכל ולשים מקומו בין הרמים יותר, כי היא קנאת איש מרעהו. ואם יראה חברו מתרומם והוא נשאר שפל, ודאי שמה שיסבול הוא מה שיוכרח לסבלו, כי לא יוכל למנוע, ולבבו יתעשת בקרבו.

SR - "jealousy" - jealousy is, in essence, a virtue of the soul, that a man cannot bear the sight of seeing himself lacking in a level he could have attained as his fellow attained. But the lower type of jealousy stems from foolishness, namely, to be jealous of imaginary levels. Therefore in the world of truth, where people will recognize the true levels, the suffering of jealousy will be enormously great. Hence, what rouses one [to "Watchfulness"] is also a lack of shelemut (perfection). It comes through the matter of honor in this world...
Hence if it is so difficult for them to be lower than their fellow in levels that are imaginary and false, where a lower level is just a superficial appearance, and all elevation is just vanity and falsehood (for they are fleeting and not true levels - CS). How then will they tolerate seeing themselves lower than those same people who are now their inferiors? And this is in the place of true levels and eternal worth, which even though they don't recognize it and its worth now, therefore they don't give much concern for it. But in its time, certainly, they will understand it for what it truly is, to their pain and shame. There is no doubt, that their suffering in this will be great and everlasting. מעתה, אם כך קשה עליהם להיות שפלים מזולתם במעלות המדומות והכוזבות, שאין השפלות בם אלא לפנים, ולא ההנשא אלא שוא ושקר, איך יוכלו לסבול שיראו עצמם שפלים יותר מאותם האנשים עצמם אשר הם עתה שפלים מהם. וזה במקום המעלה האמיתית והיקר הנצחי, שאף על פי שעכשו אין מכירים אותו ואת ערכו, על כן לא יחושו אליו, אבל בזמנו, ודאי שיכירוהו לאמיתו לצערם ולבשתם, ודאי שלא יהיה להם זה אלא צער גדול ונצחי.

MB - "even though they don't recognize it and its worth now" - Rabeinu implies that this is the cause of their lacking in watchfulness. But later he says it is due to enticement of the Yetzer. It seems the explanation is that since they don't recognize the worth of Olam Haba, on its own, they are not so meticulous to examine whether their reasoning is sound or whether it is the enticement of the yetzer.

"to their pain and shame" - they will have pain and shame. Not like they claim now (that they will rejoice in their small portion).

everlasting - for this is the essence of the place, i.e. eternity. Therefore all feelings there are likewise eternal.
SR - "great and everlasting" - the punishment of Gehinom is not everlasting. Its duration is 12 months or so. But the pain of the burning from the canopy of one's fellow is everlasting just like the reward in Gan Eden is everlasting.
MB - "great and everlasting" - for he lacks true virtues. It is proper to bring here the words of the Vilna Gaon (brought in the book "Divrei Emet" by Rabbi Alexander Moshe Lapidot, which speaks of a man's perception after death):
"There is a teshuka (longing,desire) that there is no power for a man to imagine or measure its strength and magnitude. When they bring a man from his house to the kever (grave), then all his (spiritual) senses open and he can see what he was not capable of seeing during the days of his life. They show him the punishments of gehinom and the pleasures of Gan Eden, and he sees how he wasted his days in vanity. And all the silver and gold which he toiled on them, they are like thorns and pricks in his eyes. Because it is due to them that he acquired for his soul the punishments of gehinom and the loss of the pleasures of Gan Eden.

And he then contemplates with his pure intellect how much pleasures of Gan Eden he lost in his life, because "one hour of teshuva (repentance) and good deeds in this world is greater than all the life of the world to come" (Pirkei Avos 4:22). And how many hours did he have in his life that were wasted in which each and every hour he was capable of acquiring Gan Eden with wondrous pleasures which the eye cannot imagine. And from this tremendous teshuka (longing, desire) which he wants to enjoy there but is not capable because he is soiled in the filth of his sins, he is ready to be punished in Gehinom with terrible and bitter punishments as long as he will go afterwards to the pleasures of Gan Eden.

And there is no power for a man to imagine the magnitude of his broken heart and his regret. And if a living man in this world had but one thousandth of a thousandth of the pain that he has then in the next world, he would be forced to die because he is not capable of bearing this pain (while alive). Then the greatness of his desire that they will give him permission to return to his house and to toil in Torah and avodah (service) all the days of his life and he (so to speak) pulls his hair and rips his flesh and says "woe to me - how did I trade a world of eternal pleasures for a world of darkness". And this pain is more painful to him than all the punishments of Gehinom.
Sefer HaIkarim 4:33 - the matter of pain on punishment to the soul is as follows: when a man was pursuing the lusts and the material things during his life, and his soul separated from doing the will of G-d, and habituated its deeds according to the body's nature, which is opposite to the soul's nature, then, when it separates from the body (after death), it will long for those things it habituated in and will turn to them. But it does not have the instrument (physical body) to obtain them. By its own nature, the soul turns to cling to the supernal forms (tzurot elyonot) and the things devoid of the physical, and it longs to them. But it lacks a beginning, study, and habituation in the service of G-d. For it is impossible to attain this pleasure for one who has not habituated his soul in this and prepared himself to this, as our sages said: "the Holy One, blessed be He, gives wisdom only to he who has wisdom (Berachot 55a) as written 'He gives wisdom to the wise' (Daniel 2:21)"

Thus, the soul will yearn for both sides simultaneously - to above and to below. On one side due to its (holy) nature, and on the other side due to its habit and custom [in the physical]. It does not have the instruments (physical body) to attain the side below, and it lacks the preparation to attain the side above. Due to this it feels agonizing pain, worse than any pain in this world, worse than all sorts of dismemberment, more than being burned in fire, more than awesome cold and ice, and worse than being stabbed with knives and swords, or from being bitten by snakes and scorpions...

This is what our sages taught (Shabbat 152b):
"R. Eliezer said: The souls of the righteous are stationed under the Throne of Glory, as it is said 'but my master's soul shall be bound in the bundle of life, with the L-rd your G-d' (Shmuel I 25:29) But those of the wicked continue to be imprisoned, while one angel stands at one end of the world and a second stands at the other end, and they sling his soul to each other, as the verse continues: 'and the souls of your enemies, them shall He sling out, as from the hollow of a sling'"

This is to hint on the two opposite yearnings which the soul has. For the Tzadikim, who do not have a yearning for below, but only for above, their souls immediately cling to what is in its nature, to sit under the Throne of Glory. And just like this pleasure is greater than all possible pleasures imaginable, so too the pain (of the wicked) is greater than all pains imaginable.
Hence, this "tolerance" which they adopt in order to lighten on themselves the severity of the service is but a false enticement which their evil inclination employs to entice them, with no basis whatsoever in truth.

There would be no room for this incitement if they saw the truth of the matter, but since they do not seek the truth, but go on in their erroneous ways willingly, this incitement will not leave them until the time when it will no longer avail. For it will not be in their power to rectify what they had ruined.
הרי לך, שאין הסבלנות הזה אשר הם דורשים לעצמם להקל מהם חומר העבודה, אלא פיתוי כוזב שמפתה יצרם אותם, ולא דבר אמיתי כלל.

וכבר לא היה מקום לפיתוי זה להם לולי היו רואים אמיתת הענין. אבל לפי שאין מבקשים אותו והולכים ושוגים לרצונם, הנה לא יוסר מהם פתויים עד הזמן אשר לא יועיל להם, כי לא יהיה עוד בידם לתקן את אשר שחתו.

MB - "false enticement" - it is called "false" because now he tells them that in Olam Haba he will rejoice in whatever small portion of his, but in the end it will not be so.

"but since they do not seek the truth" - don't think he is unintentional in all this, that he is unable to refute the Yetzer. Rather, they do not seek to find their error. For due to their desire to make things easier for themselves, they don't investigate whether they are erring...
This is what King Shlomo, peace be unto him, referred to: "Whatever your hand finds to do with your power, do it, for there is no deed, nor account, nor knowledge, nor wisdom [in the She'ol (grave) where you are going]" (Ecc.9:10). The explanation is that: what a man can do while the power is granted in his hands by the Creator, namely, the power of free will granted to him all the days of his life with which he chooses and is commanded to do, behold he will not be able to do more in the grave and pit. For this power [of free will] will no longer be in his hands. Thus for one who has failed to do many good deeds in his lifetime, it is impossible for him to do them afterwards (since he no longer has free will after death). And he who did not make an accounting of his deeds [while alive] will no longer have the opportunity to do so then. And he who has not become wise in this world, will not become wise in the grave. This is the intent of: "for there is no deed nor account nor knowledge in the She'ol were you are going" (Ecc.9:10). והוא מה שאמר שלמה המלך עליו השלום (קהלת ט): כל אשר תמצא ידך לעשות בכחך עשה כי אין מעשה וחשבון ודעת וחכמה בשאול אשר אתה הולך שמה. והיינו, כי מה שאין האדם עושה עד שהכח מסור בידו מבוראו הוא הכח הבחיריי המסור לו כל ימי חייו שהוא בהם בחיריי ומצוה לעשות, הנה לא יוכל לעשותו עוד בקבר ובשאול, שאין הכח הזה עוד בידו, כי מי שלא הרבה מעשים טובים בחייו, אי אפשר לו לעשותם אחרי כן. ומי שלא חשב חשבון מעשיו, לא יהיה לו זמן לחשבו אז. ומי שלא התחכם בעולם הזה, לא יתחכם בקבר. וזהו שאמר (שם): כי אין מעשה וחשבון ודעת וחכמה בשאול אשר אתה הולך שמה.

MB - "this is what King Shlomo said..." - a man enticed by his yetzer must check all of his thoughts and views. For the time he has to rectify errors is limited.. if a man knew that what he does now will have unchangeable, eternal consequences, he would think very, very well before being lenient on himself.
Derech Chaim 1:3 (Maharal) - certainly the main service is for a man to serve G-d out of love, and if he does for reward, this is not the primary service. But nevertheless, even if he serves G-d for the reward - he is considered a Tzadik Gamur (complete Tzadik). For the good of Israel is G-d's will. Thus, that which he says "I will give Tzedaka in order that I merit the world to come" - this is G-d's will (that he merit the world to come). The explanation is not that he is a Tzadik Gamur Gadol (big complete tzadik), but rather a tzadik without lacking and without addition of piety. (see there)
SR - "no deed, nor account" - this needs understanding. For what loss does a man incur if he cannot make an accounting after death. For the accounting is only so that one will be able to rectify his deeds. And if there are no deeds what will it help to make an accounting? What does he lose for not being able to make an accounting? Hence, the verse in Koheles teaches that the accounting is not just a preliminary (hechsher) to rectify one's deeds. Rather the accounting itself which means coming to correctly recognize and value (hahakara vehahaaracha) the deeds - this itself is a good deed even if one's accounting does not result in rectifying his deeds. The proof of this, besides the verse in Koheles, is from the statement of the Sages in Bava Basra "that each person is burned from the Chupa of his fellow.." The Rashbam explains there (in Bava Basra 78b) that this means one who does not make an accounting will be burned from one who does make an accounting.
Translator: here is the text there in Bava Basra 78b:
" 'therefore the rulers say, let us enter into an accounting, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared' (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.
"let the city of Sihon be built and prepared" - if you do this you will be built in this world and prepared in the next world.
"the city of Sihon" - if a man makes himself like this city which pursues idle speech, what does the verse say after? "For there has gone out a fire from Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon. It has consumed Ar of Moab, the lords of the high places of Arnon" (ibid 21:28), which means the fire from the Mechashvim (those who make an accounting - Rashbam) burn those who do not make an accounting.
Furthermore, all the levels of the Tzadikim depend solely on the accounting. As they said there: "a fire went out of those who make an accounting and burned those who did not.." This is a proof that the accounting itself is such a lofty level that all the jealousy between man and his fellow in the higher world is only on the level of accounting. For anyone smaller than his fellow in the accounting is burned from the canopy of his fellow which his friend merited to do greater in the accounting. This is a clear explicit proof.

Hence we learn that the study of mussar which primarily leads one to make an accounting of his deeds, as Rabeinu writes explicitly in chapter 3 and other places - it in of itself is a good deed even in the case where it does not lead to tikun (rectification) of his deeds. And a man needs to worry very much that he will no longer be able to do this in the pit just like the other good deeds.

ER - another mistake for one claiming to be content with a small portion in olam haba is as follows. He thinks and feels confident that the reward of a mitzva and the punishment for sins and for refraining from mitzvot is weighed in such a manner that his merits will be greater than his sins and that he will merit Gan Eden, just not in such an honorable place. Instead of living there with a large salary, he will get by with a small salary. But in truth, it is not so. Firstly how can he be so sure that his merits exceed his demerits? The Rambam already wrote (Teshuva 3:2) that this accounting is not according to the quantity of merits and sins, but rather according to their quality and only G-d knows how to weigh them against each other. One who refrains from applying himself in the service of G-d is in great danger of stumbling in sins that can cause him to lose it all. May G-d save us and arouse us while we still have time.

Furthermore, we find another important foundation in the book Tomer Devorah (1:8) regarding the trait "He cleans our sins": "G-d does not judge for one who did 40 mitzvot and 10 sins. Subtract the 10 and he is left with 30 mitzvot. Rather, even a perfect Tzadik who did only one sin, it is considered as if he burned the entire Torah until he pays his debt [of punishment], and afterwards he will receive his reward. This is a great kindness that G-d does with the righteous to not deduct their merits. For the mitzvot are exceedingly valuable..." See there powerful words. Hence, one cannot at all content himself with a small portion in Olam Haba, for behold he will be severely punished for every sin, stumbling, and refraining of mitzva that was incumbent on him. He who pays close attention to Rabeinu's answer to the next group of the general masses will see also an answer to these in the middle group...
But the general masses will be roused to "Watchfulness" through the matter of reward and punishment upon recognizing the extent of the depth of judgment on this. In truth, it is proper to continuously shudder and fear, for who will stand on the Day of Judgment? Who will be found righteous before his Creator, whose sight scrutinizes all things, great and small.

Likewise our Sages of blessed memory said on the verse: "Who declares to man his speech" (Amos 4:13) - even casual talk between a man and his wife is related to a man at the time of judgment" (Chagiga 5b).
אך ההערה לכל ההמון, הנה הוא בענין השכר ועונש עצמם בראות עומק הדין עד היכן מגיע, אשר באמת ראוי להזדעזע ולהתחרד תמיד, כי מי יעמוד ביום הדין ומי יצדק לפני בוראו באשר השקפתו מדקדקת על כל דבר קטן או גדול.

וכן אמרו רבותינו ז"ל (חגיגה ה): ומגיד לאדם מה שיחו, אפילו שיחה קלה שבין איש לאשתו, מגידים לו לאדם בשעת הדין.

"who will stand.. who will be found righteous" - (double expression) for some people merit Olam Haba but do not merit to receive the Shechina there as the Sages stated (Sanhedrin 103): "four classes do not receive the Shechina - scorners, liars, flatterers, and slanderers" (Ohr Yechezkel).

ER - "casual talk" - in the Talmud there, the text is "extra speech". In context there, the intent is more than necessary for proper appeasement and affection.

Translator - "punishment" - note that punishment is a consequence of the severity of man's actions not as a "revenge" by G-d. For G-d has granted man vast powers, as explained in the book Nefesh HaChaim. Man's thoughts, words, and actions, either create or destroy higher mystical worlds. Each mitzva or sin by man even creates a conscious spiritual being (see Tomer Devorah ch.1). Thus, the punishment in the next world is a kind of rectification not as a revenge, G-d forbid.
MB - "casual talk" - they bring it before him to examine if there was anything forbidden or if it was lebatala (useless). The main point is that there is no act a person does which is forgotten and that he will not be required to give a judgment and accounting for. Even casual talk which is the simplest and lightest act and which one does almost without any thought whatsoever. In Nefesh HaChaim 1:13:
"Due to being in this world, a man does not perceive the building or destruction done above from each word he utters. He may think to himself "how could a casual word have any effect in the world?" But he must know faithfully that every word and every light conversation of his does not go to waste, G-d forbid. Like all that he utters will be done above and he rouses supernal forces... this is the meaning of "who declares to man what is his speech" (Amos 4:13), i.e. at the time a man will stand in judgment and accounting before G-d, then G-d will show him the secret of what his speech caused above in the upper worlds". End quote.

In truth, this is the inner side of the matter here.
Lev Eliyahu 1:6 - It is known and understood by all that the punishment which is meted out to a person for his sins, is not a matter of revenge, G-d forbid without purpose or goal. Rather it is a kindness and a mercy to clean the sinner and rectify him from the corruption which he corrupted himself through the sin he committed. After he receives his punishment, he is clean from his sin and returns to his rectified state. Likewise we must say that this matter is also so regarding the tikun (rectification) of the whole world which became corrupted with him through his sin. Thus when he is punished and rectified, the world also becomes rectified along with him...

We must know that just like man which the kabalists call "a miniature world", is composite from earth, physical material, and a very, very lofty spiritual soul, hewn from G-d's throne, so too the world which we see is only the body of the world. But its trunk and root is an awesome and wondrous spiritual world which our flesh and blood eyes cannot see.. this is called Olam Haba! the destruction wreaked by the wicked through their evil sins and deeds in the upper spiritual world is enormously far greater without limit than that which they destroy here in the physical world... And it was said in the name of the Arizal that if a man could see how many spiritual worlds he builds through moving one hand l'Shem Shamayim (for the sake of Heaven), and for the opposite G-d forbid, how much he destroys, he would sit still like a stone all his days afraid to move a finger.
Chayei Mussar 1:13 - "reward and punishment" - every storefront has a board with pictures of all the merchandise contained in the store. Therefore the Tanna said: "this world is like a corridor before the World to Come". We must say that even in this world there exists, in the form of pictures, the Gehinom and the Gan Eden in the next world. The pictures of Gehinom are all the various pains, worries, humiliations, and harsh sufferings which befall people in this world, r''l. But they are merely pictures regarding the future Gehinom. Just like the real merchandise is greater than the pictures displayed on the board, so too the Gehinom in the next world is greater than the one in this world, as the Ramban wrote (Shaar Gemul) that "one moment in Gehinom is worse than all the suffering of Iyov for 70 years". If the sufferings of this world are so bad and they are merely "pictures", how harsh and bitter will it be to endure the sufferings of Gehinom itself?! And if a man tries so hard to save himself from the sufferings of this world, and he does everything to spare himself, then how much he should strive to save himself from the true sufferings.

Likewise, the pictures of Gan Eden are all the various enjoyments a person can experience in this world. The superiority of enjoyments in the next world are like the superiority of the merchandise in the store relative to the pictures on the board, as the Tana said "one moment in Olam Haba is greater than all the life of this world" (Avot 4:17). And if to attain worldly pleasures which are like mere pictures, one is willing to cross seas and rivers and toil in grueling work and bear insults, how much more so should he toil to attain the pleasures of the next world. What is the reason we are so foolish and our toil is in attaining the picture only? It is due to the worldly preoccupation as explained in chapter 5 in the Mesilat Yesharim.
Mishnat Rebbi Aharon 1:108 - Behold the level of fear of punishment is very low. The Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva (10:1) writes:

"A person should not say: 'I will fulfill the mitzvot of the Torah and occupy myself in its wisdom in order to receive all the blessings which are contained within it or in order to merit the life of the world to come.' [Similarly,] 'I will separate myself from all the sins which the Torah warned against so that I will be saved from all the curses contained in the Torah or so that [my soul] will not be cut off from the life of the world to come.' It is not fitting to serve G-d in this manner. A person whose service is motivated by these factors is considered one who serves out of fear. He is not on the level of the prophets or of the wise." End quote.

And in Halacha 5 there: "Anyone who occupies himself with the Torah in order to receive reward or in order to protect himself from punishment is considered as one who is not occupied for G-d's sake (shelo lishma)". end quote.

Thus even fear of punishments of the next world is the work of unlearned men, women, and children. This needs explanation for matters of physical reward and punishments occupy a large part of the Torah, namely, that the service is due to this. And that which the Torah explained this [physical] reward more than the reward of Olam Haba, was already explained by the Rishonim (see Rambam Teshuva 9:1). But the question is that the divine service is at a low level while the Torah is not satisfied with this low level and claims much from a man, "to love G-d and serve Him with all your heart and soul" (Devarim 6:5). The Torah repeats many times the duty to love G-d, cling to Him, and serve Him wholeheartedly and with all of one's soul.

The explanation is that the straying away from the Torah is due to tending towards the physical and through [worldly] desire. Thus through fear of punishment, one pushes off the yetzer (evil inclination), and after he pushes off the yetzer through fear of punishment and acts according to the Torah, he comes through this to the level of fear of G-d's exaltedness and Fear of Sin to love G-d. This is not like the view of the "smart people" (mitchakmin) who claim that spirituality must come through recognition and good will, and that which comes through being forced is not so important. Thus, fear of punishment is a kind of forcing.

But the truth is like the explanation of the Rambam regarding forcing a man to give a Get to his aguna wife, whereby he is forced until he says "I want to divorce her" (Rambam Girushin 2:20) (i.e. even though he was forced, it is considered that he gave it willfully). Because after his yetzer has been weakened, he then truly wants the service of G-d and to fulfill the commands of the Torah sages. (Thus he gives the Get willfully even though he was forced).

Furthermore, through fear, one always remembers G-d. And when he examines the deeds he is about to do whether they are forbidden or permitted, behold, he is actually contemplating what is the will of G-d. Even though the cause of this is simple fear of punishment, but in actuality, there is here an act of remembering the Creator and subjugating himself to His will. Likewise he puts attention on his ways and guards from stumbling blocks. There is in this purity and holiness, and from this he will come to rectify his inner being and ascend higher in perception and recognition.

Thus according to this, there are strong grounds for a claim against one who neglects simple fear [of punishment] for it is the foundation of all the levels and without it, it is impossible to attain even a low level.
And expounding on "it is very stormy round about Him" (Ps.50:3) - "this teaches that the Holy One blessed be He scrutinizes judgment on His pious ones to the degree of a hair's breadth" (Yevamos 121a).

Avraham, who was so beloved to his Maker such that scripture testifies of him "Avraham, My beloved" (Isaiah 41:8). Even so, he did not escape from judgment for slight words which he was not meticulous in, namely, for merely saying "with what will I know?" (Gen. 15:8), G-d replied to him: "by your life, you will know that your descendants will be foreigners [in Egypt]" (Nedarim 32a). And similarly for forging a covenant with Abimelech without being commanded by G-d, the Holy One blessed be He, replied to him: "by your life, I will delay the rejoicing of your sons for seven generations" (Gen. Raba 54:5).
עוד אמרו (יבמות קכא): וסביביו נשערה מאד, מלמד שהקדוש ברוך הוא מדקדק עם חסידיו כחוט השערה.

אברהם, הוא אברהם האהוב לקונו עד שהכתוב אמר עליו (ישעיה מא): אברהם אוהבי, לא פלט מן הדין מפני דברים קלים שלא דקדק בהם. על שאמר "במה אדע", אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא, חייך, ידוע תדע כי גר יהיה זרעך (פר"א מח). על שכרת ברית עם אבימלך בלא ציוויו של מקום, (ב"ר נד) אמר לו הקב"ה חייך שאני משהא בשמחת בניך שבעה דורות (שם פט).

MB - Avraham - although he was beloved, this did not help him at the time of judgment.
Yaakov, for replying angrily to Rachel when she said to him "give me children", the Midrash reports (Genesis Raba 71:10): "the Holy One blessed be He, said to him: 'is this how one answers a distressed person? By your life, your sons will stand before her son'.

And for hiding his daughter Dina in a box so that his brother Esav would not take her as a wife, even though his intent was certainly good, but nevertheless for merely withholding kindness from his brother the Midrash reports: "the Holy One blessed be He said to him: 'He who withholds kindness from his fellow..' (Job 6:14). You did not seek to marry her to a circumcised? Behold she will be married to an uncircumcised. You did not seek to marry her in a permitted way? She will be married in a forbidden way".
יעקב, על שחרה אפו ברחל שאמרה לו הבה לי בנים, אמרו במדרש, זה לשונו: אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא, כך עונים את המעוקות? חייך, שבניך עומדים לפני בנה (שם עא).

ולפי שנתן את דינה בתיבה כדי שלא יקחה עשו, אף על פי שכונתו היתה ודאי לטובה, אך לפי שמנע חסד מאחיו, אמרו במדרש (שם ע"ו): אמר לו הקדוש ברוך הוא, למס מרעהו חסד (איוב ו), לא בקשת להשיאה למהול הרי היא נשאת לערל, לא בקשת להשיאה דרך היתר הרי היא נשאת דרך איסור.

Yosef, for saying to the officer of [Pharaoh's] drink: "But remember me when it is well with you [and please show kindness to me, and make mention of me to Pharaoh..]" (Gen 40:14), his sentence [in prison] was increased by 2 years as the Midrash reports (Genesis Raba 89b). And Yosef himself for embalming his father without G-d's permission, according to one view, or because he heard the words: "your servant, our father [Yaakov]" (Gen.43:28) and remained silent, according to another view, died before all of his brothers (Gen. Raba 100:4).

David, because he referred to the words of Torah as "songs", was punished by the calamity of Uza and his joy was muted (Sotah 35a).

Michal, for rebuking David for dancing outside before the Ark was punished by not having children during her lifetime and dying in childbirth (Shmuel II 6:20).

Hizkiyahu, because he showed the treasure house to the ministers of the king of Babylonia, it was decreed that his sons be castrated servants (eunuchs) in the palace of the King of Babylonia (Kings II 20:13).

There are many more instances like this.
יוסף, לפי שאמר לשר המשקים כי אם זכרתני אתך, נתוספו לו שתי שנים, כמאמרם זכרונם לברכה (שם פ"ט). יוסף עצמו על שחנט את אביו בלי רשותו של מקום, או לפי ששמע עבדך אבינו ושתק, למר כדאית לה ולמר כדאית לה, מת לפני אחיו (שם ק).

דוד, לפי שקרא לדברי תורה זמירות, נענש, שנכשל בדבר עוזא ונתערבבה שמחתו (סוטה לה).

מיכל, לפי שהוכיחה את דוד במה שרקד בחוץ לפני הארון, נענשה שלא היה לה ולד אלא במותה (שמואל ב ו).

חזקיהו, לפי שהראה אל שרי מלך בבל את בית נכתה, נגזר על בניו להיות סריסים בהיכל מלך בבל (מלכים ב כ).

ורבים כאלה מאד.

SR - if we study in-depth his words, we see that he concisely summarized all the divisions of the Torah in general and specific (klal perat). 1) generally, the scrutiny on each person: "even casual talk between a man and his wife...". 2) the special scrutiny on His pious ones. Then he entered into specifics: Regarding Avraham, the great scrutiny between man and G-d. Afterwards, from Yaakov regarding between man and his fellow. The scrutiny in Midos (traits) from Yosef in holding him to scrutiny on the trait of Bitachon (trust in G-d). And after this on Kavod (honor) also from Yosef, and the scrutiny in the study of Torah from David, and the scrutiny in rebuke from Michal, and the scrutiny in honor of heaven from Chizkiyahu. And all the statements of the Sages which he brings after require a long and deep explanation, and nevertheless the masses are under duty to delve deeply into them as he will explain.
The Maharsha explains (Yevamos 121b) that G-d pays the righteous for their few sins in this world to pay them full reward in Olam Haba. There is great mussar here for every person, not just the pious ones, rather even for one standing on the entrance gate of watchfulness. For it is not possible that the righteous be punished more [than the wicked]. Even though it is conceivable that some things are sins according to their high level, but not for all person, but according to the Maharsha the scrutiny of justice is on every man, only that the righteous are paid in this world. From this a man should learn that even for small things there is justice and if the punishment is saved for Olam Haba it is even worse.

SR - even though fear of punishment is common to the masses, nevertheless, it is needed by all. The entire Torah is full of fear of punishment. We find for instance, that G-d exhorted Aharon with fear of punishment, see the beginning of Acharei Mot and Rashi there (Vayikra 16:1-2).
"general masses" - the deep study of the depth of judgment from scripture and the words of the Sages is a necessary study for all of the Jewish people.

Translator: It seems each of the three levels the Ramchal brings focuses on the primary motivation of that group. Those of wholeness of understanding are primarily motivated through the matter of sheleimus (perfection). While those of lesser understanding, whose intellect is skewed by lust for honor, are primarily motivated through the matter of honor while the masses are primarily motivated by fear of punishment. Hence, even though fear of punishment motivates all groups, it is the main motivator only of the third group, the general masses.
In the chapter "All are Liable" (Chagiga 5a):
"When Rabbi Yochanan would come to this verse, he would weep - 'I will come near you to judgment and I will be a swift witness..' (Malachi 3:5) - a servant whose minor offenses are weighed just like major offenses, is there any remedy for him?
ובפרק הכל חיבים אמרו (חגיגה ה): רבי יוחנן כד הוה מטי להאי קרא הוה בכי, וקרבתי אליכם למשפט והייתי עד ממהר וגו', עבד ששוקלים עליו קלות כחמורות, תקנה יש לו?

SR - the small sins go on the balance scales just like the big ones, and sometimes the small one tilts the balance of the entire scale as in Pirkei Avot: "a person should always see himself as half guilty and half meritorious. One act tips the scales...". Hence, in this aspect the small ones are weighed just like the big ones. (no doubt Rabeinu is using this analogy of scales to hint to this Mishna - OG)

ER - "weep" - it seems from the sayings in the Talmud there that they wept when they reached the verses on justice. This was not a one time thing, rather this was their normal way to be roused to the point of weeping when they studied these matters for they felt the pain and worry of justice until they burst in tears, a deep feeling inside the heart rousing one to weep. This is coming to teach us, that through the intellect we may also try to reach this deep recognition until we tangibly feel the justice. This is what greatly awakens a person to the trait of watchfulness.
Certainly the intent is not that the punishment is identical for both, for the Holy One blessed be He only pays back measure for measure. Rather, regarding the matter of weighing of deeds, the minor deeds are put on the scales just like the grave ones. For the grave ones do not cause the minor ones to be forgotten, and the Judge will not overlook these at all just like he will not overlook the grave ones.

Rather on all of them, he will preside over and inspect equally, judging each one and meting out punishment afterwards on each and every one according to what it is. This is what Shlomo said: "For G-d will bring every deed into judgment, [with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil]" (Koheles 12:14). For just like the Holy One blessed be He does not leave any good deed unrewarded, small as it may be, so too He does not leave any bad deed unjudged and unpunished, small as it may be.

This is to awaken the hearts of those who want to be seduced [by their evil inclination] into thinking that the L-ord, blessed be He, will not bring up in his judgments the minute deeds and will not exact an accounting for them.
ובודאי שאין כונת המאמר שיהיה העונש על שתיהן אחד, כי הקדוש ברוך הוא אינו משלם אלא מדה כנגד מדה. אמנם הענין הוא, שלענין משקל המעשים כך עולות בכף הקלות כמו החמורות, כי לא ישכיחו החמורות את הקלות ולא יעלים הדיין עינו מהם כלל כאשר לא יעלים מהחמורות

אלא על כולם ישגיח ויפקח בהשואה אחת, לדון כל אחד מהם ולהעניש אחר כך על כל אחד כפי מה שהוא, והוא מה ששלמה המלך עליו השלום אומר (קהלת יב): כי את כל מעשה האלקים יביא במשפט וגו', כי כאשר אין הקדוש ברוך הוא מניח מלשכוח כל מעשה טוב קטן כמות שהוא, כן לא יניח מלשפוט ולהוכיח כל מעשה רע קטן כמות שהוא

ולהוציא מלב הרוצים להתפתות ולחשוב שלא יעלה האדון ברוך הוא בדיניו הדברים הקלים ולא יקח חשבון עליהם.

MB - "who want to be seduced" - this enticement is not forced against him and he is innocent. Rather it is because he wants to believe it is so.
LeHitaneg Al H-shem commentary - pg.62 - "small as it may be" - it is known that the Vilna Gaon spent some time in a jail. While there, he saw the prison guard drinking wine. The prison guard was a formerly religious Jew who had abandoned his religion entirely and was married to a christian woman. He had children from her and lived like a gentile in every way. The Vilna Gaon yelled to that guard while he was drinking wine: "Jew! That is forbidden! That is 'stam yeinam' (wine of non-Jews)! It is forbidden for you to drink the wine!" The guard burst out in laughter. Here he was married to a Christian woman with children she bore him, living like a complete gentile for many years already, and now he is yelling at him that "it is forbidden to drink the wine", which is only a Rabbinic prohibition! The Vilna Gaon replied to him: "what do you think? After you finish giving a din and cheshbon (judgment) on all the severe things you did throughout your life - you will be claimed also for drinking the wine".

Similar to this story are two others from the book "HaGaon HaChasid M'Vilna". One time the Vilna Gaon passed by a hotel, accompanied with some students. There was a sound of song there. One of his students who entered there quickly came out. For he saw there a Jew who abandoned his religion dancing with a gentile woman. The Vilna Gaon saw an opportunity to teach his students and said: "see now, even this rasha (wicked Jew), is destined to give a din and cheshbon on not having toiled in Maasei Merkava (divine chariot). But how many troubles will befall him and how many scorchings (tzerufim) he will need to be forged with in the world of truth until he reaches the level that he lacks only the study of the Merkava.
Rather the general principle is "whoever says the Holy One blessed be He overlooks things will have his life overlooked" (Bava Kama 50a). Likewise they said: "if the evil inclination says to you: 'sin and the Holy One, blessed be He, will forgive you' - do not listen to him" (Chagiga 16a).

All this is evident and clear. For G-d is a G-d of truth as Moshe Rabeinu, peace be unto him, said: "The Rock, His work is perfect; For all His ways are justice: A G-d of faithfulness and without iniquity, Just and right is He" (Deut. 32:4). For since the Holy One blessed be He wants justice, to ignore the bad would be just as much an injustice as to ignore the good. Therefore, if it is justice that He wants, then He must pay each man according to his ways and according to the fruits of his deeds to absolute exactness, whether for good or for bad. Thus "A G-d of faithfulness and without iniquity, Just and right is He" (Deut. 32:4) which our Sages of blessed memory explained [the dual terms]: "to the righteous and to the wicked" (Taanis 11a). For this is the trait [of justice]. He judges on every thing. He punishes every sin. And there is no escape.

If you ask: if so, for what does G-d's attribute of mercy exist if He must be absolutely meticulous in judging every thing?
אלא כללא הוא (בבא קמא נ): כל האומר, הקדוש ברוך הוא ותרן הוא, יותרו מעוהי. וכן אמרו: אם אומר לך יצר הרע, חטא, והקדוש ברוך הוא מוחל לך אל תשמע לו.

וזה דבר פשוט ומבורר, כי הנה אל אמת ה'. והוא מה שאמר משה רבנו עליו השלום (דברים לב): הצור תמים פעלו כי כל דרכיו משפט אל אמונה ואין עול וגו', כי כיון שהקדוש ברוך הוא רוצה במשפט, הנה כך הוא עבור על המשפט, העלים את העין מן הזכות כמו מן החובה. על כן אם משפט הוא רוצה, צריך שיתן לכל איש כדרכיו וכפרי מעלליו בתכלית הדקדוק, בין לטוב בין למוטב, והיינו, אל אמונה ואין עול צדיק וישר הוא, שפירשו ז"ל (ספרי): לצדיקים ולרשעים, כי כך היא המדה ועל הכל הוא דן ועל כל חטא הוא מעניש ואין להמלט.

ואם תאמר, אם כן, מדת הרחמים למה היא עומדת, כיון שעל כל פנים צריך לדקדק בדין על כל דבר?

MB - "wants justice" - he did not explain why this is His will. Even though this matter is deep and beyond me, I thought to bring a bit of his words from other places to add a bit of clarity. In "the Way of G-d" (1-2:2): "G-d wanted that we have a perfect good and this is possible only if we merit this through our own work". Likewise in Daat Tevunot (12,18). And in order to fulfill this purpose, G-d made the order of justice, namely, the possibility of merit and sin (Daat Tevunot 48).

MB - "wants justice...if it is justice that He wants" - Rabeinu emphasizes again the concept of "wanting" regarding justice. This is well explained in Daat Tevunot (sec.134): "that all of mishpat (justice) is not actually essence (b'etzem mamash), for 'if you sinned, what do you do to Him?..if you are righteous, what do you give Him?' (Iyov 35:6). Rather it is just a manner of conduct in order to fulfill His will to bestow good to us". see there.
OG - here the Ramchal tells us an important principle which the entire book stands on... When the Creator emanated the 10 sefiros, and arranged them along 3 lines: right, left, and middle. From the right and left side arises a great stira (contradiction) in the creation. G-d, so to speak, contradicts Himself. For the right line, consisting of the sefiros Chachma, Chesed, and Netzach, all emanating from Him, lights of kindness without limit, like G-d who is boundless. In this context the sefira of chesed bestows good to the world, even to the wicked. For this sefira was created for this matter. On the other hand, the sefiros of the left side, Bina, Gevura, Hod, emanated from lights which metzamtzem (constrict) the kindliness, and emanate the attribute of justice to the world. In our chapter, the Ramchal explained well just how far the attribute of justice reaches - to not overlook any sin whatsoever, even the smallest of the smallest, and with the Tzadikim even to a hair's breadth!

If so, which Sefira prevails? The sefira of chesed or gevurah? The attribute of kindness prevails or the attribute of justice? Or as the Ramchal says: "If you ask: if so, for what does G-d's attribute of mercy exist if He must be absolutely meticulous in judging every thing?" The answer to this contradiction between kindness and justice is that between the sefira of chesed and gevura is the sefira of Tiferes and its company, Daas and Yesod. The explanation is that all the sefiros in the middle row, their lights are also received directly from G-d, who is the ultimate source of all flow (hashpaot), in addition to G-d's hashpa (flow) through the 10 sefiros. This flow goes from sefira to sefira. In other words, while the right line is all chesed, and the left line is all justice, as if there is a power struggle between kindness and justice. But the middle line teaches us that all is from the Ein Sof, blessed be He, both kindness and justice. For there is nothing besides Him. He made the lights of Chesed which bestow kindness and He made the lights of Din which punish for each sin, and there is really no contradiction between them. Regarding what is the middle line: Daas, Tiferes, and Yesod are called "Rachamim" (mercy). The implication is that G-d has mercy even on the thoroughly wicked. For He has a treasure house in His upper world, which is called "mercy". The details of this treasure house, the Ramchal now explains:
The answer: The trait of mercy is certainly the pillar of the world. For it could not endure without it at all whatsoever. But nevertheless, G-d's attribute of justice is not negated. For according to strict justice it would be proper that:

* the sinner be punished immediately for his sin without any delay whatsoever.
* that the punishment itself be wrathful as befits one who rebels against the word of the Creator, blessed be His Name.
* that there be no possible repair whatsoever for the sin.

For in truth, how can a man rectify what he has made crooked after committing the sin? If one murdered his fellow or committed adultery? How can he possibly rectify this? Can he undo a deed already done from existence?
התשובה, ודאי, מדת הרחמים היא קיומו של עולם, שלא היה עומד זולתו כלל וכלל. ואף על פי כן אין מדת הדין לוקה, וזה, כי לפי שורת הדין ממש:

היה ראוי שהחוטא יענש מיד תיכף לחטאו בלי המתנה כלל.
וגם שהעונש עצמו יהיה בחרון אף, כראוי למי שממרה פי הבורא יתברך שמו.
ושלא יהיה תיקון לחטא כלל.

כי הנה באמת, איך יתקן האדם את אשר עיות והחטא כבר נעשה? הרי שרצח האדם את חברו, הרי שנאף, איך יוכל לתקן הדבר הזה? היוכל להסיר המעשה העשוי מן המציאות.

But the attribute of mercy reverses the three aforementioned matters.
* it grants that the sinner be given time and not be eradicated from the earth immediately upon sinning.
* that the punishment itself not utterly destroy him.
* that the opportunity of repentance be granted to sinners as a complete kindness, so that the uprooting of the will be counted as the uprooting of the deed.
Thus when the penitent man recognizes his sin and admits it, and reflects on his evil, repents of it and completely regrets ever having done it, as he would regret [in annulling] a certain vow, in which case there is complete regret, and he desires and longs that this deed had never been committed, and pains himself strongly that the matter was done, and renounces it for the future, and flees from it - then the uprooting of the deed from his will is counted to him as the annulment of a vow and he gains atonement for it. As scripture says: "your iniquity is gone and your sin atoned for" (Isaiah 6:7) - that the sin is actually removed from existence, and uprooted through his paining himself and regretting in the present what he had done in the past.
אמנם, מדת הרחמים היא הנותנת הפך השלשה דברים שזכרנו:
דהינו, שיתן זמן לחוטא ולא יכחד מן הארץ מיד כשחטא.
ושהעונש עצמו לא יהיה עד לכלה.
ושהתשובה תנתן לחוטאים בחסד גמור, שתחשב עקירת הרצון כעקירת המעשה.
דהיינו, שבהיות השב מכיר את חטאו ומודה בו ומתבונן על רעתו ושב ומתחרט עליו חרטה גמורה דמעיקרא כחרטת הנדר ממש שהוא מתנחם לגמרי והיה חפץ ומשתוקק שמעולם לא היה נעשה הדבר ההוא ומצטער בלבו צער חזק על שכבר נעשה הדבר ועוזב אותו להבא ובורח ממנו, הנה עקירת הדבר מרצונו, יחשב לו כעקירת הנדר ומתכפר לו. והוא מה שאמר הכתוב (ישעיה ו): וסר עונך וחטאתך תכפר, שהעון סר ממש מהמציאות ונעקר במה שעכשיו מצטער ומתנחם על מה שהיה למפרע.

This is certainly a kindness for it is not according to the letter of justice. But nevertheless, it does not negate the attribute of justice completely for there are ways to consider it justice.

* For in place of the will to consent to sin, and the pleasure that it provided, there is now regret and pain.
* Providing him time is not an overlooking of the sin, but rather a small patience, to open for him an opening to rectify.
* So too, for all the ways of kindliness, such as "a son brings merit to the father" (Sanhedrin 104a), or "part of a life like the whole of a life" (Koheles Raba 7:25) mentioned by the Sages which are aspects of kindness to account a small amount as a large amount. But these do not really conflict with or contradict the attribute of justice. For there is already a proper reason to consider them [as justice].
וזה חסד ודאי שאינה משורת הדין, אך על כל פנים הנה הוא חסד שאינו מכחיש הדין לגמרי, שהרי יש צד לתלות בו.

שתחת הרצון שנתרצה בחטא וההנאה שנהנה ממנו בא עתה הנחמה והצער. וכן אריכות הזמן איננו ויתרון על החטא, אלא סבלנות קצת לפתוח לו פתח תקון. וכן כל שאר דרכי חסד: כענין ברא מזכה אבא (סנהדרין קד), או מקצת נפש ככל הנפש (קהלת רבה ז כז), המוזכרים בדברי החכמים, דרכי חסד הם לקבל את המעט כמרובה, אך לא מתנגדים ומכחישים ממש מדת הדין, כי כבר יש בהם טעם הגון להחשיב אותם.
MB - "it is not according to the letter of justice" - it seems that the conduct of mercy is essentially a going out of right justice. it is as if Rabeinu is asking: "how can the attribute of mercy possibly be at all compatible with the attribute of justice. For justice is absolute and any going out of it is called that justice has not been fulfilled?"

MB - "it does not negate the attribute of justice completely" - this is the main point of the answer. Yes, it is correct that it is not absolute, complete justice. But nevertheless, it does not completely contradict justice. If so, it is not a lacking in the attribute of justice. We will explain according to his words in Daat Tevunot that the attribute of justice does not have its own independent purpose. Rather, it is a method of bringing out G-d's conduct of love to actuality. Here is a quote from there (siman 154): "the second examination through which we study the ways of divine love is that through it itself stems the justice in all its general orders, namely, kindness, justice, and mercy (Chesed, Din, v'Rachamim)". End quote.

Likewise in Siman 138: "thus the mussar (sufferings) stems from actual love. Hence, a revealed rebuke stems from hidden love. Two good results come from this fundamental principle: 1) the mussar itself, even at the time when it is meted out, is not done with furious cruelty, but with great "sweetening" (mituk gadol) due to the hidden love which does not allow the anger to rule and become cruel". End quote.

Likewise, it is explained in "the Way of G-d" (2-8:1) see there. Thus, yes, it is correct that justice does not operate absolutely, but rather in a "sweetened" manner. But this itself is its purpose in order to bring out G-d's love to us. (In truth this is a deep matter. I tried to explain concisely to the best of my understanding and limited ability).

But to let sins pass without any reason or to ignore them - this would be completely against justice. For this would not constitute a truthful justice in the matter. Therefore it is impossible for this to be found at all. Hence, if one of the ways mentioned above is not found for the sinner to escape, certainly, the attribute of justice will not return empty. Likewise our Sages of blessed memory said: "He withholds wrath but collects what is His" (Bereishis Raba 67:4).

We find therefore, that a man who wants to open his eyes does not have any valid enticement to prevent him from being watchful of his deeds to the utmost watchfulness, and to examine them to the utmost scrutiny. Indeed, all these investigations which if one considers will certainly acquire through them the trait of watchfulness if he is a conscientious person (baal nefesh).
אך שיותרו עבירות בלא כלום או שלא ישגיח עליהם, זה היה נגד הדין לגמרי, כי כבר לא היה משפט ודין אמיתי בדברים, על כן זה אי אפשר להמצא כלל. ואם אחד מן הדרכים שזכרנו לא ימצא לחוטא להמלט, ודאי שמדת הדין לא תשוב ריקם. וכן אמרו ז"ל (ירושלמי תענית פ"ב): מאריך אפיה וגבי דילה.

נמצא, שאין לאדם הרוצה לפקוח עיניו פיתוי שיוכל להתפתות בו לבלתי הזהר במעשיו בתכלית הזהירות ולדקדק בהם תכלית הדקדוק. הן כל אלה ההשקפות שישקיף עליהן האדם ויקנה בם מדת הזהירות ודאי, אם בעל נפש הוא.
OG - "Generally, that which brings a person to watchfulness... But that which, in particular, brings one to watchfulness is contemplation on the severity of the service..." - Torah study in general brings to watchfulness without any logical explanation as the Talmud says (Kidushin 30b): "... so too the Holy One blessed be He said: 'I have created the evil inclination and I have created the Torah as its antidote. If you toil in the Torah, you will not be delivered in his hand. [but if you do not, you will be delivered in his hand.]'" End quote. As the Ramchal explains in the next chapter: "if G-d created for this illness - the evil inclination - only this healing, namely, Torah study, it is impossible under any circumstances to heal oneself from the illness of the evil inclination without Torah study." There is something very wondrous and holy about Torah study which removes the evil inclination from a man's heart, and helps him to fulfill his duty in this world... see the Orot Genuzim introduction how the power of Torah comes from the sefira of Malchus... (translated below).

OG - "in particular..." - the Ramchal adds that there is also a logical dimension of Torah study which brings one to Watchfulness and to progress up the ladder of the ten levels - particularly - the toil in mussar (ethics) study.

But all Torah study, regardless which section of Torah, whether it be in the written Torah, oral Torah, or the mussar works of the Rishonim (early Sages) or Acharonim (later Sages), arouses a man's mind and heart to observe the commandments and to be watchful of stumbling in the forbidden. All these bring a person to fear and love of G-d, the two pillars supporting the service of G-d. But even with the aspect mentioned that all the various sections of Torah, regardless of where, bring one to watchfulness, nevertheless, the primary one is the segula harefuis (the special healing) of the Torah which is beyond human logic as mentioned earlier.

OG - (from Orot Genuzim intro): One who studies Torah and fulfills its commandments causes devekus (clinging) to G-d to be mashpia (flow) to the Sefira of Malchus. The Malchus immediately is mashpia the devekus it received to the sefira of Yesod and so on ascending until the tenth, highest sefira, Chachma, and from there through Keter this devekus reaches the Ein Sof blessed be He. As a consequence of this pathway man formed through his toil in Torah, the Ein Sof returns lights of Beracha and Shefa (blessing and spiritual flow) through the Sefiros from high to low until this shefa reaches the man who toiled in Torah. And likewise, the entire world is blessed through the Talmud Torah of the Tzadik. From this shefa a man is elevated and ascends to a higher level. This is watchfulness. The Watchfulness in turn is mashpia devekus to G-d and this shefa arouses the next sefira, and again the devekus ascends up the sefiros to the Ein Sof. This cycle may continue until a man ascends the ladder of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair to the level of Holiness, the ultimate purpose of the ladder of ascent. The level of holiness corresponds to the sefira of Chachma. This means that this man succeeded in ascending up to his pinnacle level of service of G-d... and then the Shechina rests on him and he attains ruach hakodesh... End quote.
Translator: note that there exists a parallel (outer) system for evil also as the Vilna Gaon commented on Proverbs 1:23:
"in everything a person does, a ruach (spirit) is sent down from heaven, and helps him to repeat more things like these. And this spirit does not rest and quiet until the person repeats more things like this. The person then finds pleasure in doing these things, whether they are good (mitzvas) or evil (sins). And this is what is meant by 'sin brings sin and mitzva brings mitzva (pirkei avos 4:2)'" And the greater the sin, the greater the spirit, and the greater the lust to do more evil. And likewise for a great mitzva, a spirit from a very holy place comes down and the person lusts immensely for another mitzva. And because of this, he finds enormous pleasure in doing mitzvos. As is known, the greatest of all mitzvos is learning Torah, and the opposite is idle chatter and frivolity which is the opposite of Torah. Therefore, there is greater pleasure in idle chatter and frivolity than in all other sins, even though there is no physical benefit, because the ruach hatuma (evil spirit) is exceedingly great....but really, the pleasure in the holy spirit (mitzvos) is greater than the evil spirit (sin) because it is a true pleasure"