Chassidic leader, teacher of Rabbi Chaim of Sanz. Author of the book 'Zerah Kodesh', chassidic-style commentary on the Torah.
Rabbi Naftali, was born on the day the Baal Shem Tov died, and he proved to be one of the Baal Shem Tov's primary successors.
The Ropshitzer Rebbe was born into a distinguished family of mitnagdim, opponents of Chassidism. His father was the eminent Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Linsk. His mother Bayla, famous for her brilliant mind, was the daughter of the gaon R' Yitzchak Horowitz of Hamburg.
During his early years he studied in the Yeshiva of R' Meshulem Igra, one of the Torah giants of the time, where his fellow students were R' Mordechai Benet and R' Yaakov Loberbaum, who were to become two of the leading scholars of the next generation.
When R' Naftali decided to join the chassidic movement he chose Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk as his mentor. He subsequently became a dedicated chasid of the "three patriarchs:" the Chozeh of Lublin, the Maggid of Koznitz, and Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanov.
During the Napoleonic wars the Tzaddikim were divided in their attitude towards Napoleon. Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rymanov strongly supported Napoleon and felt the wars represented Gog and Magog and were a prelude to the Messiah. His disciple Rabbi Naftali, as well as Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Baal HaTanya, were strongly opposed, sensing that Napoleon's victory would introduce changes which would threaten the Jewish community's way of life.
After the passing of these three luminaries he settled in Ropshitz, which then became the focal point for thousands of chassidim. Ropshitz chassidut distinguished itself for the captivating niggunim it created, soul stirring melodies of ecstasy and of yearning for nearness to G-d.
Reb Naftali is a crucial figure in the development of Galician Chassidut and there are many "minhagei Ropshitz", which are followed in Galicia. He was known for his profound wisdom, sharp sense of humor and musical gifts. He was a master of kabbalistic interpretation of the Torah, a fact reflected in his writings. His demeanor, his sermons, and his witticisms concealed a depth of thought that could be grasped only by his closest students, foremost among whom was Rabbi Chaim of Tzanz.
A great number of chassidic rebbes of the Ropshitz lineage were murdered in Poland during the Holocaust. A few surviving descendants escaped to the United States (Brooklyn & New York City), where they established thriving chassidic communities.
Rabbi Naftali emphasized the power of prayer and stressed that a person must be able to pray in all circumstances and never say "I don't have the head for prayer now". In answer to the question how can a tzaddik undo a divine decree, he replied that through his actions and prayer a tzaddik creates a new world, to which the old decree does not apply. He commented that Moses was shown each generation first, and then shown their leaders, because he might be dismayed at seeing Naftali as a leader. However, having first seen the generation, he understood that Naftali was appropriate for his generation.
Rabbi Naftali was particularly devoted to the mitzvah of sukkah and it is said that every day he was preoccupied with some aspect of that mitzvah, which was particularly suited to his neshama.
Rabbi Naftali refused to give permission for the publication of his writings, but with the concurrence of his famous disciple, Rabbi Chaim Tzanz, his two works, Zerah Kodesh, chassidic-style commentary on the Torah, based on Kabbalah and Ayala Shelucha were finally published.
*** For more stories about the life of Rabbi Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz please check Rabbi Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz(Hebrew)
*** For Shabbat wisdom from the house of Ropshitz, please check Shabbat Beit Ropshitz (Hebrew).
May the merit of the Tzaddik Rabbi Naftali Tzvi of Ropshitz protect us all, amen.