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"Did you hear a loud noise last night?"
"Yes, I did. It sounded like bricks falling down. Let's go outside to see what happened."
The husband and wife go into the yard and find that the ten-foot wall that divided their yard from the neighbor's yard had fallen down. The stones are all over the place. Their neighbor is also surveying the situation.
"We have to rebuild this thing. We need a wall. Let's hire a contractor to put up a new wall and split the expenses."
"Not so fast, neighbor. I don't need a new wall, and I can't afford a new wall. Let's just leave things the way they are."
"But we had such nice private yards! Now we will see each other all of the time."
"It doesn't bother me. When I bought this house and yard, the wall was already here. I did not agree to put it up in the first place, and I see no reason to replace it. Save your money and get used to the new situation."
The question is:
Does the second neighbor have to pay half of the expenses for the new wall, even though he does not want it?
The answer is:
The Gemora (Bava Basra 2b and 5a) discusses this case. Rashi says that the original owners of the homes and yards agreed to put up the wall. Therefore, the buyers are bound to replace it. Some say that it is a part of the communal expenses, whose upkeep falls upon all of the neighbors. Tosafos explain that although there was no obligation to put up the original wall, the neighbors got used to the privacy that it gave them. They became accustomed to doing private things in the yard. The new situation without a wall will be hard for them. Therefore, according to both Rashi and Tosafos, the neighbors must split the expenses in building a new wall. This is in fact the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 157:10.
"Okay, let's go over this again."
"Yes, my dear."
It is late at night, but the husband and wife are still awake in their grocery store, going over their notes.
"Those new pickles sold very well this week."
"Yes, 117 cans."
"Good. Let's increase our order next week. What about the whole wheat cookies?"
"When they were on the front shelf, they sold a lot better than when they were in the back of the store."
"Let's move them to the front. They are a high-profit item. Which hour of the day was the busiest?"
"Between 4-5 in the afternoon."
"Good. Let's make sure that all of our workers are there during that hour."
And so it goes. They husband and wife methodically and patiently go through every aspect of their business. They look for their strengths and weaknesses, and search out ideas about how to improve. Thus, their business prospers.
Take an accounting of your soul (cheshbon hanefesh). What are your strong middos, and what are your weak ones? When are your most productive times of the day? How much time do you waste on unnecessary things? How many unnecessary words do you speak? How much Torah did you learn? How well did you pray? How many times did you become angry? All of these issues are taken into cheshbon. The Mesillas Yesharim speaks about the importance of cheshbon hanefesh in the third chapter. A well-known Rav once remarked that cheshbon hanefesh is the most powerful tool for teshuva, as the following story illustrates.
"Avi, you look very happy."
"I am extremely happy."
"I just found a gold mine."
"Where? Tell me all about it."
"I was examining my daily schedule and I noticed something interesting. I could add 20 minutes of productive time to my day with almost no effort whatsoever."
"So you started digging for gold during those 20 minutes."
"In a manner of speaking. I decided to devote them to learning something new. Then I began to make a cheshbon. Twenty minutes a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year times seventy years equals . . ."
"Let me guess. One hundred hours?"
"A thousand hours?"
"Not even close."
"Please tell me."
"The total is 8500 hours which equals a whole year. With twenty minutes a day, you can add a whole year to your life."
"That is astounding. Now I see why you are so happy. You really have discovered a gold mine."
"Why don't you go looking for buried treasure also?"
"I've started digging already."
Kinderlach . . .
We are now in the midst of "aseres yimai (the ten days of) teshuva". Take a cheshbon hanefesh. If not now, when? Think about what you have done, what you are doing, and what you will do. Are you doing the right things? Is there room for improvement? The Rabbeinu Yona zt"l, in Yesod HaTeshuva points out several good times to take a cheshbon. When you wake up each day, before each meal, and before sleep. Once a week before Shabbos, and once a month before Rosh Chodesh. Also yearly, during aseres yimai teshuva. Take a cheshbon, and watch your soul prosper.
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