HaRav Moshe Hill Hirsch shlita, in a special message he delivered this past motzei Shabbos in anticipation of the Yemei Hadin in the Beis Knesses Yotzei Slobodka in Elad to a massive audience before the recital of Selichos, aroused everyone through his words which encompassed at length the self-improvement efforts preceding the Yomim Noraim. He dwelt upon the need to be prepared for self-sacrifice and to be fortified against being drawn after various enticements which beckon to a person to descend from his spiritual level, for only through great effort and vigil can one be worthy to merit the zchus Ovos which is available at this pertinent time of year, for the very essence of their lives was mesirus nefesh.
He said, among other things: "How is our self-sacrifice expressed? There is one kind of level where each time we break our inclination [for something negative], we are exercising mesirus nefesh. But there is another kind as well - the very literal kind.
"When a family is faced with financial difficulty and the wife is able to find work, but the workplace is full of secular employees, there is a very real danger of her being influenced by what she hears there. This can lead to a cooling attitude and a deterioration in her spiritual level and negatively effect the children's education. But there is a problem of livelihood! So the husband goes to a Rav, who tells him that she is forbidden to work in such a place. Both of them accept this ruling and she seeks other work. This is a perfect example of mesirus nefesh which not everyone can stand up to.
"Others think about getting an academic degree or two to upgrade the family income. But their Rav says `No'. No to an M.A. or a B.A. since this is a spiritual trap. When the husband accepts this ruling, this is another example of mesirus nefesh.
"Then there are the dangers of technology where one works in an office which refuses to provide proper computer screening. The husband asks the Rav, who forbids the wife to work in such a place. One cannot work under circumstances of open Internet, and she quits her job. This is the mesirus nefesh test of our times. Sometimes the challenge is for the husband who is tempted to leave kollel and go out to work.
"I once heard of an avreich who went to HaRav Aharon Leib Shteinman and said that the family was starving. The Rav asked what he had in his refrigerator.
"`I only have milk and leben.'
"`So you do have what to eat,' said Rav Aharon Leib.
It all depends on how one looks at things in general and at his priorities. This is the call for the self-sacrifice of avreichim in our times, to begin with. We must be prepared to sacrifice our lives just like Yitzchok Ovinu. For the sake of our souls, we must be prepared to forego many things."
He concluded his message as follows, "We are at the threshold of Rosh Hashonoh. We must work on the concept of crowning Hashem as our king and prepare ourselves for the upcoming avoda of prayer. We must accept the kingship of Hashem and assume the readiness for true mesirus nefesh like Yitzchok. We must attempt to grow constantly, to spiritually upgrade our lifestyle so that when that day finally arrives, we will be able to pray properly and enter into the atmosphere of Malchuyos, Zichronos and Shoforos via the Shofar's call. And thus shall we hopefully and truly merit a kesiva vachasima tovah."