Rabbi Naftali Zvi Horowitz of Ropshitz was born on the day that the Baal Shem Tov died
Rabbi Naftali Zvi Horowitz of Ropshitz (May 22, 1760 – May 8, 1827) was born on the day that the Baal Shem Tov died, to Rabbi Menachem Mendel Rubin of Linsk. His mother Beila was the daughter of Rabbi Yitzchak Halevi Horowitz of Hamburg. Naftali Zvi adopted the surname of his maternal grandfather.
He was the first Ropshitzer Rebbe. As a youth, Rabbi Naftali studied in the yeshiva of his uncle Rabbi Meshulam Igra, one of the Torah giants of the time, where his fellow students were Rabbi Mordechai Benet and Rabbi Yaakov Lorberbaum, who were to become two of the leading scholars of the next generation. Rabbi Naftali became attracted to the Hasidic movement, and traveled to the court of Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk. Because of Rabbi Naftali's illustrious lineage, Rabbi Elimelech at first refused to admit him, as was his custom, but finally acquiesced to Rabbi Naftali's entreaties.
Upon the death of Rabbi Elimelech, Rabbi Naftali became a student of Rabbi Elimelech's disciple, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Rimanov.
Rabbi Naftali Zvi is reputed to have had tens of thousands of followers. He died on 11 Iyar 5587 (corresponding to 8 May 1827) and is buried in Łańcut.
Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz is a crucial figure in the development of Galician Hassidism. There are many minhagei Ropshitz— "customs of Ropshitz", which are followed by Galician Hasidim. He was known for his profound wisdom, sharp sense of humor, and musical gifts. He insisted that young men should devote themselves exclusively to Torah study and not be involved in Hasidism until they were 25 years old. In his later years he perceived that some Hasidim followed Hasidic practices but were negligent in some basic requirements of Jewish Law, such as timely prayer and questioned if it would not be better if the Hasidic way were replaced by greater concentration on Torah study. When Rabbi Yosef Babad, the future author of the Minchas Chinuch, came to become a follower of his he sent him away, advising him to return home and pursue his studies in the revealed aspects of Torah.
Many major rabbis are descendants of the dynasty founded by Rabbi Naftali Zvi - see Ropshitz.
Rabbi Naftali of Ropshitz 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 tzadik undo a divine decree, he replied that through his actions and prayer a tzadik 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 he said was dear to his soul. Often in his works he speaks about the holiday of Sukkos.
Initially, Rabbi Naftali refused to give permission for the publication of his writings, but with the concurrence of his famous disciple, Rabbi Chaim Halberstam of Sanz, author of Divrei Chaim, his two works, Zera Kodesh and Ayala Shelucha were finally published. The only praise he permitted on his tombstone was "the singular one in his generation in the knowledge of God": ("יחיד בדורו בחכמת אלוקים".)
May the merit of the tzadik Rabbi Naftali Zvi Horowitz of Ropshitz protect us all. Amen