Monday, April 07, 2008

Perspective Is Everything...'s view on just about anything is influenced, if not flat out dictated, by their point of reference.

Posted originally on Life In Israel
Guest-Posted again on The Dove Bar

My response, as it were, can be found in the comments of both postings.

I was chatting with my chavrusa the other day. We were talking about Kollel life and the topic of mesirus nefesh to learn Torah came up (my chavrusa is a Rosh Kollel. He is very organized, very serious and runs his kollel in a very organized way).

Kollel guys are moser nefesh - they give up everything, to learn in kollel. To learn Torah. And that is wonderful.

Typically when we hear the phrase "moser nefesh to learn Torah" we think of money. These avreichim are giving up a life of (possible) comfort, earning a decent living, all to learn Torah while living on, often, nothing more than the basics and the minimum.

Aside from the money aspect of their mesirus nefesh, there is an aspect even greater. And this is what I had never heard described before. The whole lifestyle is mesirus nefesh on a psychological level.

Avreichim, living in an area where there are plenty of kollels and plenty of avreichim, live a life of obscurity. many of these guys (the more serious ones), could easily have been successful in the business world; as professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, financial pros, etc., computers, whatever. They would have been noticed, their work would be appreciated, and they would feel good about what they do because they are noticed (to a certain extent).

However, as an avreich in a neighborhood where kollels and avreichim are "a dime a dozen" so to speak, these guys are all bundled into one package. They are not noticed because there are so many. An exception is one who is unusually exceptional - he gets noticed as a real star, but he will often take a job fairly quickly in the Rabbinate, or in a yeshiva, etc. But just for good serious guys who are learning, successfully, there is tremendous mesirus nefesh in living such a lifestyle. These are, often, guys who could be doing other things, yet they chose to learn because of its importance to them.

He went on to explain that this is why, he thinks, he sees many frustrated avreichim at about age 29-32, who start looking for things to do - starting local shiurim in shuls even for just 2 or 3 people, for example. They do that because they have begun to get frustrated that they have learned, and learned well, for a number of years, but they are not noticed at all.

Yes, it is nice to be altruistic and say that people should do what they love and not be concerned whether they are being noticed or not. Especially when learning Torah. But everybody likes, and wants, to be appreciated, and recognized, for their accomplishments and for their success. So even if for a number of years they go by and learn quietly, eventually it catches up with them, with most of them, and they start to feel it at a certain point.

That is a tremendous mesirus nefesh. To learn in kollel, seriously, knowing that nobody is recognizing you for your accomplishments, for your achievements, for your contributions. And add to that, when you could have been doing something else that would have gotten you noticed, even if only on a small scale. And it is harder for a kollel guy who is in an area where kollel is more accepted, and even the standard perhaps, than it is for a guy who goes to learn in an "out of town" kollel" where it is not the norm and they are appreciated by the local baalebatim, and they get involved, etc.

If you are working at a job and you accomplish something successfully, likely you will have your peers commend you, your boss will notice, etc. Your efforts will get noticed and you will get complimented. You will be appreciated.

If you are in kollel, and you are learning seriously, your efforts will almost never get noticed. You figured out pshat in a difficult tosafos or Ritva! Wow! You are so excited. You tell the guys learning at the other table, and they could care less. They were not bothered by your question and just want you to leave them alone so they can work out their own difficult piece.

That weighs down on a person, even somebody who is supposed to be learning L'shma will often be affected by this eventually. These guys are human and want to be noticed for their accomplishments just like the rest of us.

That is mesirus nefesh in a way that you probably have not considered.