Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rav Naftali Ropshitzer (1760-1827)

Today, the eleventh of Iyar, is the yahrtzeit (anniversary of death) of Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Horowitz, the rebbe of Ropshitz.

Rav Naftali was a disciple of Reb Elimelch of Lizensk, and later of Reb Elimelech's successor Rev Menachem Mendel of Riminov. "The Ropshitzer" was known for his scholarship, his fastidious adherence to zmanei tefillah (prayer in a punctual and timely matter in keeping with halacha), and his sharp wit:

Reb Naftali once commented that he finally understood why the Sages call the Evil Inclination an "old fool" after going to the mikvah one frigid morning. He related to his followers that as he trudged through the snow toward the frozen riverbank, a voice in the back of his mind implored him to go home.
"Naftulche, you're crazy! It's far too cold to actually go to the mikvah! You'll get so sick..."
"Really, the Torah is meant to live by; there is no mitzvah to kill yourself for this!"
"No one will know if you just say that you went...and who would blame you?"
Despite the onslaught of discouragement, Reb Naftali broke a hole in the ice quickly undressed and sank below the water before he could be convinced otherwise. As he emerged from the first dip, he heard the same voice whisper with pride: "Ah, Naftulche...what a tzaddik! To get up before dawn and go to the mikvah in these conditions? Who is like you?"

With this, Reb Naftali turned to his students: "Only the foolish Evil Inclination would act this way! In his haste to ensnare me in his trap of arrogance, he was willing to jump in with me into the frozen water! A shoiteh!"

Reb Naftali left us with numerous niggunim, aphorisms, and two works of Torah: the Zera Kodesh and Ayala Shlucha. His influence on the various Chassidic courts of Galicia is apparent through the many customs attributed to minhagei Ropshitz.

Z'chuso yagein aleinu.