My Own Mesiras Nefesh For Yidishkiete – Is There Really Such A Thing?

By: Aaron Joseph. Today I went to a Levaya. The Niftar had been born in the American in 1910. I had the Z’chus of taking this special man to Minyanim for a week when he had  last visited his grand and great-grandchildren here in Lakewood this past February. We had formed an immediate bond; me, a relative youngster in my lower 30’s, and this Zakain who reached adulthood before the Mishna Brura was to be found in every Shul- and already passed his hundredth birthday,  I was touched by his amiable and genial easy attitude and the wizen insights he so matter-of-factly offered. One of the things I was told was that he takes his Minyanim very seriously- having almost never missed one since he was a Bocher. Pretty good I thought- for a man who was a Major in the United States Army having led troops in actual combat through Europe during World War Two.
We had a few brief conversations about his early life; what is was like growing up in Eastern Pennsylvania; what kind of ‘Klal Yisroel’ existed in America back in the Model-T days. We talked about the few who did keep Shabbos properly, how Kosher was kept and the fact that his schooling was by public school. For one, he was extremely vague in regard to discussing his army service. Although I came to understand that he was already married with a child before he went to serve, beyond that he wouldn’t discus very much more. I sensed a distant look in his eyes that partially divulged what history wants us to forget.
As I drove home from the Hespaidim, I reflected upon the vast distance of worlds this man helped bridge; the multitude of various differences our generation faces today, from what was or perhaps was not in his bygone early years. I thought of his obviously trying period during the Second World War, and wondered if anybody today can properly fathom even minutely the challenges of those who lived through those times, certainly having witnessed it first hand. No, this man did not have numbers burned onto his arm, for he had fought that terrible evil as a Yankee- a born and bred American boy. Yet he had deeply buried memories of doing so- forever burned into his memory- even seventy years hence.
What challenges such a great Jewish hero must have faced along his way, oh how so courageous his Meseiras Nefesh must have been; to have accomplished all he did throughout a so very long and productive life. His leaving behind four further Doros of Erlicha Yiden, each of them a renowned Shomrei Torah and Mitzvos and pillars of their respective community hails in its own right  inestimable accolades of accomplishment.
This last thought though stayed in my mind for a long while through the drive back home. I wondered- What real Jewish challenges do I face today? What Mitzvos do I find difficult to keep in my own surroundings? Do I really have Mesiras Nefesh for something? Anything? After all- soon I will be standing on Rosh Hashonah begging the Riboneo Shel Olam B’Zchus of my being a good Jew and doing what HE wants, to grant me a Shona Tova U’Misuka.
Do I in fact ever go out of my way for our Father in Heaven on my very own accord? The thought and question pounded in my mind. I was Michunach in Y’Hadus since infancy. My Chinuch like most other B’nei Torah was in the pure halls of Chadorim, Mesivtos and Bais Medrash. What is NOT keeping Shabbos. Where can you NOT find Kosher food or a Minyan- whenever, wherever you need it? What is a true bonified Torah challange? This was a scary train of thought- what Mitzvos of the Torah do I have to struggle to uphold and fulfill- that society at large or some shmooze on an ipod will not ever quickly reinforce ? What part of Yidsihkiet is NOT served up to me on a silver- no- gold platter- allowing me to microwave my commitment to Torah and Hashem. How can I prove my true loyalty to the King of all kings on my own?
I leave you my friend with this thought that has been hounding me all day. Perhaps by way of communal introspection you can help me arrive at a fair resolution. Please don’t get me wrong- I am by no means a “Tzaddik,” but I am searching for something- anything with which to serve the Rebonei Shel Olam and arrive at Rosh Hashonah with that is not by way of rote- something that is not just by habit- reinforced or otherwise.
May the Neshoma of Moshe Aryeh ben Yeruchem have an Aliyah and may he be a Melitz Yosher for his beautiful family.

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  1. A Yid who was in Siberia for many years for keeping Torah and being Mechanach his children told me that he stills looks up to the Mesiras Nefesh of Bochrim and Baal Battim who force themselves to be Omal in Torah even when they have no Chesek to do so.

  2. My free advice would be:
    Take delight in every Yid. As it says in Avos , Approach everyone with simcha.
    If you care about everyone, Hashem will care about you.

  3. Just a thought- mine and your challenge is to give real feeling and meaning to the things we do. Yes, we have it relatively easy but that is precisely our challenge. When things come easy, there is no struggle and therefore little feeling. But G-d wants our hearts “Rachmana Liba Boi”. Our challenge and “mesiras nefesh” is actually huge. We see cultural, torah and mitzva jews all over the place but it is often is done without any feeling of closeness to hashem, without thoughts of “I am now fulfilling G-d’s will”. Bring in true feeling- that’s our challenge!

  4. Mesiras nefesh is dead.
    There is no such concept anymore of austerity for austerity sake.
    Every luxury is indulged to the max.
    I told my kids that we won’t be having shwarma in Elul just for the sake of austerity. They looked at me like I just fell off the moon.

    That’s not mesiras nefesh. That’s the ground floor…

  5. Mesiras nefesh doesn’t have to be walking 3 miles in the rain for a minyan, its anything that’s a little difficult for u. Learn after ma’ariv in shul. Till ur tired. Close ur gemara. Get up. Walk out of shul. Then walk back in & learn another 15 min. That’s mesiras nefesh. So is smiling at the guy you don’t like that much. U can do it all day, every day. Hatzlocha!

  6. David- Mesiras nefesh as I understand it is the point where you have to exert your will most to do the will of G-d. Austerity is not Mesiras Nefesh for me as I grew up with little and had a frugal upbringing (I had Shwarma maybe 3 times since I left Israel 15 years ago). If it is for you than go for it! Hatzlacha

  7. u want mesiras nefesh ? See the guy at Shop-rite who needs a ride. He’s going the opposite way u r – it would be a chesed to give him aride,

    A guy who davens at ur minyon but u don’t really know is making a sholem zochor. U hate to go out Friday nite after the meal – be moser nefesh & go & show that u r machshiv him as a fellow davener in the minyon.

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