Nachum Ish Gam Zu, one of the greatest Tanaim who ever lived, was a complete Tzadik. Yet, at one point in his life, he made a minor mistake, and from then on suffered terribly. When he explained to his students that it was because of this minor oversight that he was suffering they said to him, Woe to us, that we have to see you this way. He responded, Woe to me, if you didnt see me this way. Meaning he felt that his pain was worth it. Even more, he felt that his suffering was a good thing, something he welcomed — something in fact he had wished upon himself.

Through this perplexing episode brought in the Gemarah we are presented with a radically different view of punishment in this world, and the extent of accountability that a human is held to. But more than a fire and brimstone concept, we see what is expected of a person, and what he can accomplish during his stay on this planet.