Bugaboo and 21st Century Mesiras Nefesh


bugabooBy S. Friedman, Matzav.com

Historically speaking, we are living in a time where there is an abundance of yeshivos and Torah learning at levels that have never been reached.  Ironically, we have also been living in a period of unparalleled affluence and comfortableness not seen

since the times when we had Malchei Yisroel.  These two phenomena one would think were diametrically opposed extremes; a large percentage of our population learning full time for many years with no source of principal income on one hand, and enormous houses, fancy clothes, and extravagant simcha celebrations on the other. Yet these two worlds seem to not be exclusively mutual.

Traditionally, people associated with full time limud haTorah and teaching Torah were people who anticipated and accepted upon themselves a much simpler lifestyle, well below the standards of the rest of the community.  That seems not to be the case anymore.  As one class of society has increased their lavish lifestyles by leaps and bounds, the klei kodesh part of society seems to be trending in that direction as well, and not without consequences.  A typical kollel couple used to be content living on a shoe string budget; small housing, beat up cars, hand me down clothing, no expensive trips, etc… Now, as more and more members of our kehillah are joining the ranks of full time kollel learning, they are not leaving behind the materialistic expectations of their youth.  Bugaboo carriages, late model car leases, Sonia Rykiel clothing for their children, expensive vacations, etc… all for a family with no substantial source of income, except perhaps one: their parents.

There is a paternal instinct to provide for your children, and in our society this practice does not end when one’s child becomes a legal adult. We marry off our kids, and happily try to help them establish beautiful homes of their own.  Parents don’t want to see their kids live in “substandard” conditions, and those with the wherewithal try to provide their married children with the material comfort that they expect them to have.  This, I believe, is contradictory to what should be (and has been) the lifestyle of someone committed to Torah and avodas Hashem.  By introducing these luxuries into the kollel lifestyle, we have created a peer pressure that did not exist previously.  How often did your rebbeim get a new hat or your morahs a new sheitel?  Now Ferragamo, Coach and Burberry have all became part of the kollel vernacular in many homes.  This punctuation on materialism is not in line for people who have the intentions of striving to engage in unmitigated avodas hakodesh, and want to raise their children with the sense that Torah is the number one priority in life, and other things are not important.

Consequently, the higher lifestyles that seem to have become more and more common amongst kollel families causes many challenges besides the over emphasis of materialism.  Firstly, if the wife is the breadwinner, then she has the pressure to come up with more money then possibly her job generates, which is often the case, especially if she was taught not to go to school of any sort.  She may take up a side job from the house and in the end get run ragged and it is more difficult for her to be a loving wife and caring mother. Then come the well meaning parents who want to help, but they are also under immense pressure, and are in many cases not financially solvent enough to provide for a second family’s needs.  Add to this the current financial crisis, and that gets manifested even more so.

Then there is the husband, who has accepted his current mission in life to be totally involved with his learning.  Now he also has to deal with his friends taking their wives on vacations, their neighbor getting another sheitel etc  If and when he does embark on the road to make a parnasso, he has the added challenge of having to meet higher expectations than the salary of an entry level position can possibly meet. 

All in all, there seems to be an aspect of mesiras nefesh missing; an integral ingredient in the makeup of a true yorei shomayim and ben Torah.  I don’t believe that one has to chas v’sholom suffer in order to pull his weight as a yungerman, but sacrifices should be expected, and the standards should be understood by the collective kollel community and their families as well. It may be the “high life” in ruchniyus, but it should not be in gashmiyus too.

{Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. It is not about the Bugaboo. It is about the general issue of not knowing how to live simply. That’s the point, and it is made very well here in this article.

  2. I don’t think there is a problem of living comfortably and learning full time if you can afford it, i.e. you have well-to-do parents or in-laws – it doesn’t have to be a contradiction. If anything, the problem is for people who CANNOT afford it, to live beyond there means because of peer pressure. But if I can afford a bugaboo, and a brand new car, what is wrong with that?

  3. Firstly, remember that we are encouraging our children to pursue this lifestyle (some who are not even legal adults). This is in contrast to the previous generations in kollel who pursued the lifestyle without parental encouragement, in fact many parents actively discouraged it and provided little if any financial support, they either didn’t have the money or didn’t want to fund the lifestyle. Additionally, the previous generation (those of us 40+) and certainly the generation prior grew up with substantially less whether kollel was a part of the equation or not. So here we have a generation who we raised to be upper middle class and we want them to get married and automatically adjust to poverty… Doesn’t work

  4. Very well said. Even for people who work and do not sit and mooch off the shver, there is a huge preassure to keep up with the Schwartzes that are driving many frum families far into debt that they will never be able to dig themselves out of. It’s time to re-evaluate our priorities.

  5. Anyone that spends $500.00 + on a baby carriage or stroller, is a fool/idiot – regardless wether they are rich or poor! It is a total waist of money!

  6. Although its true that kolel families are living more lavishly than ever before. The trend has B”h increased the percentage of young married husbands whom begin their marriage by learning in kolel for some period of time. something which can’t be said for the previous generations.

  7. Move out of town!

    This problem has been long in the making. when families raise their childrento be so gashmiyus oriented, they are not going to suddenly change when they get married and move to Lakewood! They are bringing the New York mindset with them! Move out of town where it is not the norm to spend $150 on a 5 year old’s shabbos outfit!

  8. Please do not lump together all people in klai kodesh. There is a small minority that does purchase these items. Most kollel families cannot and/or would not buy the items you describe.

  9. Very simple. When you see me the guy who left yeshivah to work as a outcast. A less frum person, someone to look down upon. That is a problem. No I am not saying you personally do that, but I do feel this sentiment of superiority from lots of people. Am I less frum because I work and only get to learn 2-3 hours a day? What do you, the guy in yeshivah with your $1,000 bugaboo do by lunch, do you eat quickly to have a seder in the few minutes you have a brake. When you get home a night do you relax or force your self to leave your comfortable home and go learn( even if you are not getting paid for night seder). While your shirt might be whiter then mine, I sacrifice to learn Torah. What about you? What are you giving up to learn? A $1,000 baby carriage? No you have that. A fancy home and car? Got that too. Your spare time? Well do you sacrifice your spare time ? On Shabbos afternoon are you in Shul learning or is that your vacation. Is Shabbos a day when you don’t feel the need to learn, you know a day off to relax and recharge, a little like my lunch hour, a little like my nights home. When I don’t see you in Shul on Shabbos I come to a deferent conclusion then that one usually makes. I realize I am FRUMMER then you. Yes me with my blue shirt and my 9-5 job. You see I sacrifice for Hashem more then you.

  10. Wait! After spending $500+ on a stroller for your little one, you need a new one when the next little one comes along. You know, the styles change, the color isn’t right, etc…

    Why? Because some Hollywood actress made it seem normal to push a $900 stroller?!

  11. When I went to purchase a baby carriage I couldn’t stop wondering “How can I spend more on a carriage than I did on my car”.

  12. I think the emphasis should not be on looking to see what other people are spending their money on but on looking to see how we can do a better job of helping those who do not have money and are living in or near poverty. There is a lot of material prosperity out there, and yes that has allowed the Yeshiva and Kollel world to grow. At the same time there are many impoverished people in our community both working and learning. Can anyone answer me as to what resources there are to help someone who is teetering on the edge, financially, or has already fallen off to help them get back on theri feet. That is the question we should be asking, and we should be answering it with a big increase in Tzedaka and Chesed in a manner that is commensurate with the prosperity we enjoy.

  13. Very true. Our kids have to learn how to live simply and be resourceful. (And our parents deserve to be able to put away money for retirement or give it away to local tzedakos and mosdos.) BUT
    and it’s a big but: in the current economy there are many people living simply and resourcefully and still not making it. I know, that’s a whole nother reader’s write. Just saying.

  14. your all correct buggaboo is a little over rated has anyone addressed the issue of MARKETING?? MARKETING creates a LACK in people who otherwise would be ok with what they have. Making us sad and depressed if we dont have a Buggaboo stroller. I totally recomend my stroller the Infinti for Jerusalamites great to get on buses folds one handed in a second.

  15. this is an issue that has been addressed before and is right on target. we all have to remember what is really important especially in these economic times and those that feel the peer pressure from their peers should take a long ,hard look at their “luxurious” lifestyle and make sure that what they are doing with their money is proper.

  16. I understand the point of the article to be that we have to live within our means and sacrifice is what is needed if we want to grow.

    Two points: Just because someone else has it doesn’t mean we need it or have to have it; we don’t need everything that some one else has. There needs to be this understanding so instead of saying don’t do it cause then you will put someone else under pressure say to the person is this what you need.

    Secondly, we are not the ones to decide what people should sacrifice. It is a personal decision; for some it is a new sheitel and for others the new sheitel is a necessity and they will sacrifice the latest carriage. So if a kollel wife has a new sheitel you don’t know how she got the money and what she did sacrifice.

  17. there is NOTHING WRONG to live nicley,spend on cloths go away to a nice place or get a bugaboo and lern full time if your parents/inlaws have money!!!! i understand that all of you are jelouse of those who can learn biminucha and have alot exstra to use and spend on luxuries but there is nothing wrong with it!!!!and life is not fear,some people have money and some people dont-and hashem is the one who decides that!!!so please stay in your own dalid amos and stop looking what yenim has cause you just might give them an eiyan hara………….!!!!!

  18. I have a neighbor who has to have the latest it is very sad She needs Bugaboo you should of seen the last carrraige it was straigth out of the latest baby style magazine she is a slave to herself She needs some freedom the lease was up she neede the latest minivan what was wrong with the other one. Of course she can only socialize with her frined on the block I never see her come out of her fortress. Nebach

  19. 8, due to societal pressure we helped out kids in kollel, minimally but more than our parents helped us. I don’t believe I am at all better than our parents, who chose/weren’t able not to help substantially.

    As bracing and wonderful as it is to see how widespread full time learning is let’s just remember a) at what cost, and that b) just because this has become a priority we are NOT more enlightened, or better in any way than the previous doros. Yes, there are plenty of stories of people who weren’t machshiv Torah (like the legendary story of the people who wondered why a certain yeshiva needed janitorial staff; couldn’t the rebbetzin do this?) but there are many 60, 70, and 80 somethings around who are genuine bnei Torah and talmidei chachamim, yet didn’t or couldn’t funnel the money into the next generation that many of us are.

  20. if you think that if you have the money there is nothing wrong you are mistaken ubchukosahem lo seileichu and look at rashi end of i think parshas kedoshim about v`hivdaltem v`avdil eschem yidden do not go after these type of things

  21. I will quote from Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld once again: “Now I understand the words of Musaf for Yom Tov: `Because of our sins were we exiled from our country and distanced from our Land.’ This we have done VOLUNTARILY. Many times have I directed that the religious Jews in the diaspora be instructed that anyone who has the ability to come to Eretz Yisroel and doesn’t, will have to account for his FAILURE in Ha’Olam Haba.” (Ha’ish Al Hachoma, vol. II, p. 149)

    Perhaps this article supplies the answer as to why we VOLUNTARILY stay in our American golus and FAIL to make aliyah when we should. IT’S JUST TOO COMFORTABLE HERE!!! Why leave and have to struggle–even if only a little–in Eretz Yisrael.

    Remember when the German Jews proclaimed Berlin as their new Yerushalayim (r”l). Question: are we not, today, guilty of the same attitude (only not daring to say it out loud)? Just replace Berlin with Lakewood, Monsey, Flatbush, Boro Park, Lawrence, etc. I’m am frightened for American Bnei Torah that this is the awful truth.

  22. And even if your parents / in-laws have money is this something you should spend it on? Although it may not be wrong, but one who is learning all day should not value such nonsense . materialism and gashmiyos is a stirah to what was kollel. it used to be you were giving something up to learn in kolel but now it is easier. you don’t have to even work to earn a living. you could live like a king while learning all day.
    hagaon harav ahron leib shteinmann shlita said that for a ben torah to be into trends and styles it is a stirah to his hatzlachah in learning

  23. Please all of you dont judge. I have a bugaboo it was bought for me a present. We dont own a car we live a totall kollel lifestyle go ever where by subway and bus, once in a blue moon we take a taxi.

    Dont judge a person who has nice things. they are still nice ppl living a torah life style.

  24. For those who defend the gashmiusdik lifestyle I want to ask: How much of the available money came from sheker and FRAUD?

  25. An additional thought to my previous comment (no. 23): Perhaps the thousands of Yidden who, each summer, board their Nefesh B’Nefesh aliyah flights are the true BALEI EMUNAH. They are the ones who, by their mesiras nefesh to fulfill the mitzvah of Yishuv Ha’aretz, will bring about the final geula. I increasingly feel that they are putting the ‘frum’ McMansion builders of Lakewood, Flatbush, Boro Park, Lawrence and Deal, etc. to shame.

    I’ve read that 98% of Nefesh B’Nefesh olim succeed in their Aliyah. Clearly the Ribbono Shel Olam is giving them chizuk and bracha. The rest of us voluntarily (and even desperately) cling to our lives in golus. As per the words of Rav Yosef Chaim, this is perhaps our generations’ major failure…and we WILL be answerable to Hashem for this failure, G-d help us.

  26. Dear # 27
    There is a whole world full of honest wealthy ppl. frum erlicha ppl. who have never taken a penny from any one, not even the goverment.

  27. i will repeat,there is NOTHING WRONG with living nicley if you can afford it!!!!and there is NOTHING wrong with having money(evry one is mispallel for parnasa)!and even if someones husband is learning in kollel and they have these nice things -does it mean they are not good people,does it mean that they are not talmiday chachamim or that they cant grow up to be a gadol b`tora?????OF COURSE THEY CAN!!!and i saw this MANY times!!so please stop saying things against these people 1-cause they might be much better people than all of you!! 2-and writing these comments is showing TERRIBLE kina!!!

  28. There is one possible element that might be contributing to this and that is the “age ghetto.” It seems almost automatic now – as soon as Sheva Brochos is over the young couple move to either Lakewood or Eretz Yisroel. In either case the major influences in their daily lives are no longer their parents or other relatives, teachers, etc., but young people like themselves with little life experience and a great need to be accepted.

    This is something I saw back in the ’60’s. There was a “youth culture” with young people going away for college and having little day-to-day contact with older people. The result in the ’60’s was political extremism. Now the result seems to be materialistic extremism.

    In both cases a major factor was the lack of contact with people of other ages. True, older and middle-aged people are now moving to Lakewood because their children are there, but it’s still a kollel-based community, not a natural organic one.

    Sure, I can see someone from Brooklyn moving to Lakewood because there’s no affordable housing back home. But why only Lakewood? And why do out-of-towners also move there almost by reflex?

    If young couples stayed in their home communities (and yes, there are other yeshivos besides BMG) they might have the influence of older and wiser heads to help them sort out their priorities, and the encouragement necessary to withstand pressures to conform to the “free-spending” lifestyle.

  29. #30, you are indeed wrong, since the people who have the money are unfortunately setting the standard for the rest of us. So it is incumbent upon those who DO have money not to spend it so obviously. For example, my sister in law who is many times wealthier than me (kollel wife, several kids) dresses her kids in expensive, fancy chlothes. I feel bad when we get together over yomim tovim that my kids looks like vagabonds next to hers. And even my kids pick up on it. So I make myself crazy and spend more than I an afford so that the differences between us shouldn’t be so obvious. Why can’t she tone it down? Do you see, it’s not true that there is NOTHING WRONG with being fancy, as you say. It ups the ante for us simple people.

  30. there is something wrong with a ben torah spending an insane amount of money on designer clothing. someone learning all day should not go around like this like i already said rav shteinman said that a being into styles is a stirah to hatzlachah in learning

  31. Such a mechaya to live out of town. Those who have, spend and usually while elegantly, in an understated way. They are not setting the pace for everyone,other than to set a fine example should the rest of us ever come into money. Those who don’t feel little pressure. The younger kids may want nicer things than we had but they don’t have to go to the nth degree and they are willing to be resourceful to get them.

  32. 23 & 28 Beautifully said.

    Young adults SHOULD be mature enough when getting married to make decisions regarding purchases and budgets. Parents who pay all the bills are continuing giving a pacifier to their kids. Give the kindre a monthly stipend and let them work it out. If vacations, grilled steaks, eating out, furnishings are the choice go with it..then the budget gets squeezed for the next month. Grow up and stop looking at the neighbors kids, house, car, furnishings, etc. DEVELOP SOME SELF ESTEEM.
    Meiserus Nefesh is getting up for minyon, dressing tzniusly, dealing b’yashrus, respect for parents & those INLAWS, learning, emunah and bitachon are the essentials for the 21st century.

  33. There is nothing wrong with being rich. There’s nothing wrong with being rich and in kollel. There’s nothing wrong with being rich, in kollel, and spending money.

    What needs to be brought to everyone’s attention is the fact that it is human nature to be jealous. We can all admit that we experience it. Jealousy is on different levels in different towns.

    The “have’s” need to be aware of the jealousy they are causing the “have nots” by showing off their goods. This jealousy becomes a cause of tremendous agmas nefesh within any community. When it comes to a kollel town like Lakewood, how much more so!

    Aren’t we supposed to be the ones setting an example of histapkus b’muat? Aren’t we supposed to be the ones who chose this life-style as a step up for our ruchnius? Before you buy the next item that you “need”, please think – will this cause my neighbor/sister/cousin to be jealous?

  34. I heard a great vort from Avroham Fried. we are living in the the “Storm of the I”; IPhone, Ipod. It’s the “me” generation taken to a new extreme. Commentor # 8 seems to state that this generation is better as they sit and learn after they marry and the previous generation didn’t. You know why we didn’t? Because we were taught to support our wives and children and not rely on our parents to hand us everything. It is ridiculous to expect parents who are paying tuitions for there “x” number of children still in elementary and high school and then support a newly married couple. Why does the Gemora in Kiddushin tell us that one has to teach his son a trade? So that he can turn to his father of father-in-law and say “pay me”?

  35. why, why did matzav print this? you should have known there’d be chutzpah against the amazing kollel system created and encouraged by our gedolei hador. so much self-righteous criticism…

  36. Several years ago, a big mosad put out a gorgeous Chinese Auction fundraising catalog, full of the latest and most expensive furniture, jewelry, Shaitels and the like. A number of people protested: “This is what the Yeshiva meant when it taught us about Mesiras Nefesh for Torah and ‘Pas Bamelech’? Now the Yeshiva is encouraging materialism – as a fundraiser?” To their credit, the Yeshiva agreed with them and cancelled it!

    Aside from their powerful point, when people who have, flaunt what they have, they raise the expectations of those who don’t and will have to answer for it. Our Gedollim said as much when they enacted limits on Simchas. Deep down, is this jealousy? Yes, but it’s a natural reaction and encouraging the envy of others makes one a Michshol!

  37. One more point: Bracha and Mazal are very closely tied to Dagim – fish. This is because fish are covered by water and not generally visible to all. The best way to ensure the Brachos that Hashem gives us endure is to keep them hidden as much as possible. Otherwise, they are open to Ayin Ra’ah and Kitrug and can Chas V’shalom disappear!

  38. toradika lerner and others – do those people who “have money” learn at the kollel for free or are they receiving a salary from the kollel?

  39. before Moshiach comes the Eigel Hazohov will be destroyed – All our lavish gashmiusdik lifestyles will have to go. What do we need all this for? I try to live a simple life, but, I am also caught up in all this nonsense. I live in a older house wiyh a 30 year old kitchen which is perfectly funtional and adequate, yet I see myself wistfully thinking about new cabinets and flooring etc. For what? Just because it will look nicer and more modern? (I don’t have the money to do it, and if I did, I think I wouldn’t do it anyway, I don’t know, If I were wealthy maybe I’d have a bigger Yetzer Horah to spend more)It’s really sad that this generation is so steeped in the gashmius, and that’s why Hashem is now bringing down the swindlers, to show us how false it all is.

  40. 45, yes.
    And a word about that speech. I’ve heard many speeches addressed to the (still) haves, but not much chizuk to the have nots (or close to it).
    Rabbi Frand suggested bringing a kugel to a friend undergoing such stress. Funny, we’re the people who B”H still have work but at hefty pay cuts and are fast going down. (Hashem ya’azor. At least that’s what we’re hoping for.) But we still manage to bring cakes and kugels to friends simchas.
    But I’m digressing.

  41. I don’t know if anyone remembers but up until about 15 years ago the whole world was walking around with a Silver Cross carriage. And they DON’T cost anything less then a bugaboo, if anything more… The only difference nowadays is the self control people possess.

    Oh, by the way if you want you can still purchase a Silver Cross carriage for about $800. (it still looks the same as it did 15 years ago!)