Recently, when my foot accidentally touched someone’s electronic scale, I recoiled like I’d just stepped on hot coals. A few zeroes passed over the digital screen. I instantly averted my eyes: Pay no attention to those numbers!

Why did I respond like that to such a harmless experience?

I know that everything in the physical world has a spiritual corollary and contains a lesson for me in how to serve G‑d. The lesson can be big (the miraculous survival of the Jewish people) or small (what is it with me and my scale?). Actually, my relationship to my scale is not so insignificant, judging from my recent reaction.

Here are four things I have learned from it:

1. Know before Whom I give an account.

Weight is just a number, I know, but when I get on my scale, I can’t fool myself that the number is anything other than what it is. How it got that way is a longer story, but for that moment, the judgment is sealed. The spiritual scales operate differently, but they are very real, too, even if I don’t see them. If I picture them in my mind, I am more likely to follow G‑d’s plan successfully. It’s pretty straightforward: One scale is for piling on good deeds and refraining from “not-good” deeds. His other scale is where those less than gooddeeds accumulate. (Here’s a big benefit of the spiritual weigh-in: G‑d runs the world with His attribute of Kindness, so He instantly, eagerly returns the negative scale back to “zero” when I sincerely regret my misdeeds.) Regarding both the physical and spiritual scales, the first step is resolving to do better; the main thing and the harder thing, is actually doing that.

2. The struggle is the service.

If I want to have a good relationship with my scale, I have to be committed to it for life—and success doesn’t come easily. The struggles may change, or even lessen, but they’re always there. When I was first becoming observant, I heard these exact words in a spiritual context and wanted to cry. I felt like my soul had a hundred pounds to lose, and this notion was supposed to comfort me. Instead, it sounded like a warning that I shouldn’t expect to be happy (ever), even if I got into spiritual shape. Only G‑d knows what ultimately motivated me to get with the program and stay with it. But it took many years before my spirit actually felt lighter. I appreciate feeling the internal difference and don’t want to lose what I’ve worked so hard to gain, which motivates me to remain vigilant. (And while there is such a thing as being too thin, there’s no such thing as being too G‑dly.)

3. It only matters which way I’m going.

My scale is very old. I don’t think it’s even accurate, but it’s accurate enough for me, especially if it’s the only scale I ever use. Which is why I never want to touch another scale. Mine tells me the only thing I need to know: if I am up or down compared to the last time I got on it. Even “staying the same” reflects the dynamic of my effort to manage my weight. My relationship with G‑d is my spiritual dynamic; “gaining” and “losing” are relative terms that depend solely on my past performance.

4. My relationship with my scale is my business. Or is it?

I know all know the basic rules of nutrition, so why is it challenging for me to incorporate them? Because it’s not just about the food. Some people successfully eat as a G‑dly endeavor, but the rest of us are affected by more earthly issues, like too much vanity or too little self-control. I know these don’t look good on me, making me less likely to be open about my struggles with them. (I don’t think that I’m alone on this. I once saw an embroidered pillow that said: “God, If You Can’t Make Me Thin, at Least Make My Fiends Fat.”) My spiritual scales can be weighed down by my lack of transparency as well. It’s not flattering to disclose my physical or spiritual weaknesses, but sharing them with a trusted friend helps us both to improve ourselves. And, ultimately, that’s what we’re all here to do.

G‑d has one more scale, too, the one I want to try to tip. It’s the scale that has been accumulating everyone’s good deeds throughout the millennia. It’s the scale that’s waiting for one small act of kindness to shift the balance overwhelmingly and irrevocably for good. It’s the scale that will usher in the coming of Moshiach, when our appetites will be exclusively G‑dly, and we’ll do everything, including eat, in keeping with that.