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Thursday, 23 April 2015

Spiritual Cost-Benefit Analysis

Daf Yomi Kesubos 80


Rachel was stressed out just at the thought of calling Mindy.   She always made a point of touching base with her whenever she was in LA.  After all, they’d grown up together, and as kids they were best friends.  But now she felt emotionally drained every time they met.  Much as she loved LA, she dreaded seeing her old friend.  And the truth is, when Mindy was in New York, she never made an effort to call.  ‘Maybe it’s time to call it a day on this relationship,’ she pondered.

There was once a woman who inherited four hundred zuz in Jose Bay.  En route to collecting her four hundred, her husband spent six hundred zuz.  On the way home, he needed one more zuz and he took it from the inheritance money.  He subsequently appeared before Rabbi Ami seeking compensation for his expenditure.  He ruled, “What you spent, you spent; and what you ate, you ate.”

In this story, it was nice of the husband to go off travelling to get his wife her inheritance, but he spent more in the process than he actually gained!  What’s the point of that?  Clearly not much of a businessman, he failed to perform a cost-benefit analysis prior to setting out on his journey!

Every night before going to sleep, one should make a cheshbon hanefesh, which literally means ‘accounting of the soul,’ but roughly translates to a personal cost-benefit analysis.   ‘What spiritual investments did I make today?  Were they worth the effort I put in?’  You’re meant to subject yourself to this self-analysis each day.  And then during the month of Elul, as you approach the New Year, you should perform the analysis for your accomplishments over the course of the past year.  If you’re investing more in terms of time and effort than you’re getting out of it, you’re doing something wrong.

How does this cost-benefit analysis work?  Let’s say you feel like patting yourself on the back because you attended a shiur (class) that day.  Well, out of the hour-long class, how much were you paying attention?  Could you have accomplished more if you’d learned with a chavrusa (study partner) instead?  Or do you find yourself chatting about naarishkeit (nonsense) half the time when you’re meant to be learning with your chavrusa?  

You went to shul to daven.  Did you spend the time productively or were you hanging out with the guys talking through davening?  If you didn’t bother davening properly in shul, could you have been more effective at home?   Could you be more effective at a different minyan?  Sure, you get Heavenly marks simply for showing up, but if you can’t prove to yourself that the time was well spent, you’re not achieving your full potential in life. 

The same is true of relationships.  Sure you have to be nice to everyone.  But if you feel that every time you talk to some person in your life you feel drained and stressed, you have to ask yourself if it’s worth it.  You can’t allow others to take away your joy, just because they have so much negative energy.  In life, you get to choose who you’d like to surround yourself with – you want to pick people with positive energy who are going to bring joy into your life. 

Or maybe you’re pushing your kid in a certain educational direction that you think is a good idea, but they’re overwhelmed and almost drowning.  You have to ask yourself whether you are truly helping them.  Whether all the stress you’re causing them will truly pay off or whether they should consider an alternative path of action.


You wouldn’t keep investing time and effort in a business venture that’s not working.  Cost-benefit analyses must be performed in every aspect of your life.  May you merit maximizing your growth by constantly assessing everything you do and investing in the things that will bring the most positive energy into your life!