A mashgiach ruchani (Hebrew: משגיח רוחני) – or mashgiach for short – is a spiritual supervisor or guide. He is usually a rabbi who has an official position within a yeshiva and is responsible for the non-academic areas of yeshiva students' lives.
The position of mashgiach ruchani arose with the establishment of the modern "Lithuanian-style" mussar yeshivas. The prototype of this new type of rabbinical leader and educator was Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel (1849-1927) known as the Alter (elder) of the Slabodka yeshiva, Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael (Slabodka), in Lithuania.
The role of the mashgiach ruchani was strongest in the era prior to World War II, when often the mashgiach was responsible for maintaining the yeshiva financially, recruiting and interviewing new students, and hiring staff, something akin to an academic dean. After the Holocaust, the influence and position of the mashgiach decreased, and the roles of the rosh yeshivas have grown at the expense of those of the mashgichim. A modern mashgiach is somewhat equivalent to the secular counselor position.
The need for having a mashgiach within the modern yeshivas was tied in with the rise of the modern mussar movement (teaching of Jewish ethics), inspired by the 19th-century rabbi Yisrael Lipkin Salanter, and was seen as necessary because yeshiva students faced greater pressures and problems from the world outside their yeshiva studies.
Some yeshivas may refer to a mashgiach ruchani as a menahel ruchani (the word menahel means 'principal', as in the principal of a school, or 'supervisor'.)
- Nosson Tzvi Finkel (1849-1927) mashgiach ruchani of Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael (Slabodka), Lithuania
- Yehuda Leib Chasman, mashgiach ruchani of the Hebron Yeshiva, Israel
- Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler (1892-1953), mashgiach ruchani of the Ponevezh yeshiva in Bnei Brak, Israel
- Binyamin Finkel, mashgiach ruchani of Yeshivas Mishkan Yisrael, Jerusalem
- Yechezkel Levenstein (1895-1974), mashgiach ruchani of Mir yeshiva, Poland
- Yeruchom Levovitz (1873-1936), mashgiach ruchani of the Mir yeshiva, Poland
- Moshe Rosenstein (1880-1941), mashgiach ruchani of Lomza Yeshiva, Poland
- Don Segal
- Elyah Lopian (1876-1970) mashgiach ruchani of Knesses Chizkiyahu, Israel
- Matisyahu Salomon, mashgiach ruchani of Gateshead Yeshiva and later, Beth Medrash Govoha (the Lakewood Yeshiva)
- Nosson Meir Wachtfogel (1910-1998), mashgiach ruchani of Beth Medrash Govoha (the Lakewood Yeshiva), USA, from 1941-1998
- Shlomo Wolbe (1914-2005)
- Dov Yaffe (d. 2017), mashgiach ruchani of Knesses Chizkiyahu, Israel
- Avigdor Miller (1908-2001) mashgiach ruchani of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, USA, from 1944-1964
- Shlomo Carlebach (scholar), (b. 1925) mashgiach ruchani of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, USA, from 1966-1978
- HaRav Schach: Conversations: Stories to Inspire the Yeshiva World. Elʻazar Menaḥem Man Shakh - 2004 p52: "Speaking about the position of Mashgiach Ruchani (Spiritual Supervisor) in a yeshiva, Rav Schach used to say that while it goes without saying that the Mashgiach must be a God-fearing man, and a person capable of inspiring others with his ..."
- The dictionary definition of משגיח רוחני at Wiktionary