Galicia was able to boast of having three giants of the Chassidic movement who lived at the same period of time. They were Rav Meir of Premishlan, Rav Tzvi Hirsh of Rimenov and Rav Naftali of Ropshitz. The latter, especially, was famous for the sharpness of his mind.
His father, Rav Menachem Mendel, the rebbe of Liska, had married the daughter of the gaon Reb Yitzhak Halevi Horowitz, spiritual leader of the great Torah center of Altona and Hamburg, who was, ironically, one of the staunchest misnagdim (opponents of Chassidism). Yet, it was his grandson who was to become one of the leaders of the Chassidic movement.
Rav Naftali was born the day that the Baal Shem Tov passed away, on the holiday of Shavuos, in the year 5520. He was not only a Chassidic rebbe but also a great Torah scholar with both sharp mind and wit – traits he inherited from his father, Rav Menachem Mendel.
As A Child
The cleverness of the great Rav Naftali was apparent to all, even as a young child. It was the custom in Galicia that on the night before a bris milah the evening was set aside as Leyl Shemurim and all the little children would come to the home of the newborn child and say the Shema. Following this, they would all be given candy and other sweets.
One day, a bris was to be held in a certain house in Liska, and little Naftali and the other youngsters hurried over. They all said the Shema and Naftali said it with great fervor and in a loud voice.
Later, the father gave out sweets to the children and wanted to give Naftali a double portion. But the little boy refused, saying, “My father taught me that a person should never show preference to one boy over the others since this leads to jealousy.”
After a few moments, however, when all the portions had been handed out, Naftali came over to the man and asked for a second piece.
“What is this?” asked the man. “I offered you a double portion before and you refused. Now, why did you change your mind?”
“I did not change my mind,” answered the little boy. “Before, when you were giving out the portions, I thought that only one child had been born. I just learned that there were twins, so this calls for a double share for everyone.”
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