A man once came before Rabbi Israel Salanter with a complaint that his neighbor beat him up. To the perpetrator Rabbi Salanter said, "First you struck a fellow human being. Second, during the time you were doint this, you could have been studying Torah; this waste of time is a very grave offense."
The Hebrew for 'account and reckoning' is "din v'cheshbon", literally 'law and accounting.' Din refers to the sinful act committed, while cheshbon is the reckoning that will be maed of the positivie things a person could have been doing while he/she was engrossed in the transgression.
The Rosh Hashana prayer states 'For the remembrance of every created person comes before You (G-d) - a man's deeds and assignment.' The word for 'and assignment' in Hebrew is "uf'kudato" from the word pekudah, an order, a directive. The language of the prayer implies that we are judged according to an assigned task with which we are charged.
This can be extrapolated to a great degree and the implications are clear from the language of the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4:10, "The voice of your brother''s bloods (plural) cry from the ground." Why is the word bloods plural? To indicate that when Cain killed Abel, he not only prevented Abel's blood from living, but also untold generations that would never come to life. They were included in Cain's "accounting."
The Midrash tells us (Midrash Raba Deuteronomy VIII, 1) that Cain repented and was forgiven, unlike Jeroboam ben Nebat. This was because Jeroboam caused others to sin. Even if Jeroboam repented, he would not be able to undo the evil effects of his deeds insofar as others were concerned.
Another Midrash says "Rabbi Simon stated in the name of Rabbi Simeon the Pious 'In this world a man may go to pluck figs on the Sabbath and the figs will not say a word. Bit in the world to come, if a man will go to pluck a fig on the Sabbath, it will cry out, "It is Sabbath!"' If a person picks a fig on the Sabbath, his son might see him doing it and take to driving his car on the Sabbath. His grandson might open his business on the Sabbath.
In the words 'din v'cheshbon', din precedes cheshbon - law before accounting... The Talmud Tractate Niddah (30b) states that in Heaven each soul is taught all the laws, and the rewards and penalties related to them. If one will study Torah, he will be reminded of what he learned while he was in Heaven. It is recommended that he do this first, and then he will later work on improving his accounting, those things that he will take with him to the world to come when his earthly existence is over.
- Adapted from Bunim's Ethics From Sinai Volume 1, Feldheim, pp. 225-227