Thursday, August 1, 2013

The misconception of Mesiras nefesh

A recent article in the American Yated Neeman proclaimed that today's generation of kollel youngeleit are lacking the Mesiras nefesh of the previous generation. The author goes on to say that the pioneers and first kollel couples in the yeshivos of Bais medrash Elyon and Bais medrash Govoha of Lakewood survived on sardines and bare minimum. The author questions  the youngeleit of today who b'h are in a better financial situation if they have the proper mesiras nefesh for Torah learning. He says so because his premise for mesiras nefesh is false.

In truth mesiras nefesh is a very broad term it does not mean living in poor conditions, Post  ww2 even those who had full time jobs were living on sardines and a shoe string budget. Mesiras nefesh means giving up your life for the sake of  Torah learning and doing the mitzvos of hashem. A baal habbos a businessman who when not at his office, spends his hours learning is also being moser nefesh arguably even more so than a youngerman. The kollel couples of today ARE living a life of mesiras nefesh dedicating themselves totally to Torah learning regardless of their financial decision. More so, there are many youngeleit today who are living bedachkus  its a shame to compare to the nisyonos of the previous generation an say they are lacking mesiras nefesh.

At a time when the Torah world is under attack in EY we should all support the Youngeleit here in America and all over the world and thank them for their mesiras nefesh in keeping up the world.


  1. yasher ko'ach. Avada the eichus isn't as good as their eichus but in kamus baruch hashem in our dor we definitely have a lot.

  2. Fotheringay-PhippsAugust 5, 2013 at 1:06 PM

    I disagree.

    By your definition, the ba'al habos you describe is in fact being moiser nefesh, but the yungerleit are not.

    Because the ba'al habos can do what he wants. No one is giving him anything for that learning. So he is taking time that he could just as easily spend enjoying himself, and giving it over to Haashem.

    By contrast, the yungerleit are living the standard of living that they are based solely on the fact that they are learning. So their learning is not mesiras nefesh, IF they're not necessarily sacrificing anything to do it.

    Your other point is a much better one, but here too the situation is complex, IMHO.

    Fact is that a lot of yungerleit are struggling and struggling a lot. People deny this - other than people who in general dislike yungerleit and Torah learning - for the following reason.

    Most of the yungerleit who are struggling are long term yungerleit. Very few yungerleit in the first years of marriage are struggling. And most yungerleit in the first years of marriage actually live pretty decent lifestyles - and insist on it. (A few years back I was speaking to a choson I knew who grew up in a fairly small house in Lakewood about his apartment search, and I suggested Gertners. And he said he was looking for something better than Gertners. Having lived in Gertners for quite a few years myelf, I was rather taken aback.)

    When a lot of people encounter yungerleit, it's frequently these younger yungerleit, who are living OK, live in nice apartments, drive nice cars, eat in the occasional restaurant, vacation in the summer all over the place, travel to EY & elsewhere at the drop of a hat and so on and so on. And even more so, people encounter these chevra when they're in the parsha and insist on a certain level of support that will enable them to live these lifestyles - at least initially.

    The guys who are really struggling are the older yungerleit, who are starting to enroll kids in school, whose wives can't work as many hours, whose parental support is starting to run out. There is a tremendous amount of suffering being endured by a lot of very choshuver people. But it's not as visible.

    And this is where it gets complex. Because the question is how visible it is to these yungerleit themselves, at the outset. Back in the old days, before parental support and government programs, when yungerleit had to mucher right from the outset, everyone who learned knew what they were signing up for. So these people were truly being moser nefesh. But today, almost everyone has it OK from the start. And by the time it gets really hard, the options are very limited. So the question is: are people signing up for this type of lifestyle? Or are they signing up based on the fact that “right now it’s doable and you could never know what’s down the line, and a lot of people are matzliach so mehaichi teisi to make all these cheshbonos”.

    Based on people I know, it’s almost universally the latter.

  3. A younerman can choose to go right away to the workforce or at anytime yet he gives that up as an ideal way of life commited to torah learning. Agree to your second point.

    1. Fotheringay-PhippsAugust 5, 2013 at 1:57 PM

      Yeah, but the point is that a yungerman ho does choose to go right away to the workforce will not live measurably better than he would as a yungerman - at the outset.

      So this yungerman is living a lifestyle that is not significantly worse than that of an average ba'al habos at his stage of life, and he's getting that standard of living based on the fac that he's learning.

  4. Fotheringay-PhippsAugust 5, 2013 at 2:01 PM

    Truth is that it's not realistic to expect the yungerleit of today to measure up in mesiras nefesh to the yungerleit of amul. Back in those days only a small percentage of married guys went into kollel to begin with. So these yungerleit were the cream of the crop, the top 10% or 5% of ehrenster Torahdisker guys. Now you have 90% or more going into kollel - there's no way the top 90% of today is going to match up with the top 10% of then. That's not realistic.

    But it's worth bearing in mind if people do make the comparison. As if there's some sort of gezeira shava - ne'emar kan yungerman vene'emar lehalon yungerman, mah kan ...

    It's not at all the same thing.