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Section: Stories   Category: Gedolim Biographies
Rav Naftali Trop - The Quintessential Rosh Yeshiva
The famous author, Reb Dovid Zaritzky told the following account.  It was the second year after the petira of Rav Naftali Trop, and Reb Dovid Zaritzky was walking down the road with one of the older Bochurim of Radin.  As they passed the cemetery the Bochur left him.  He had jumped over the cemetery wall and prostrated himself on the Kever of Rav Naftali.  He screamed, Rebbi Rebbi why did you leave us, while crying bitter tears.  Reb Dovid related that the cries were so bitter he is sure that a child never cried over his father with such intensity.  Only then did he understand the love and the bond between Reb Naftali and his talmidim.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz said there were four Roshei Yeshiva that restored Torah to it former glory, Rav Chaim Brisker, Rav Naftali Trop, Rav Boruch Ber Leibowitz, and Rav Shimon Shkop.

Rav Naftali was born in 1871 in Grodna to his father the great tzaddik Rav Moshe.  Rav Moshe was the Rosh Yeshiva of the local Yeshiva and he personally taught his son until the age of Bar Mitzva.  Although he so much enjoyed learning with his son, his friends persuaded him to send Rav Naftali to Yeshiva after his Bar Mitzva.  In 1886 Rav Naftali set off to Kelm to learn under Rav Simcha Zissel the Alter of Kelm.  After two years he left Kelm and went to Telshe where he learned under Rav Eliezer Gordon.  He also spent time learning in the Slonim branch of the Novhardok Yeshiva network and became close the Alter of Novhardok who came to Slonim for time to time to check on the Yeshiva.

It was only in Slabodka that Rav Naftali's soul found its place and he learned under Rav Itzele Ponevezh who was at that time considered second only to Rav Chaim Brisker in the Yeshiva world with an almost identical Derech HaLimud.  Rav Naftali was so successful in Slabodka that the Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, took him as a son-in-law in 1893.  Unfortunately a few months after the Chasuna tragedy struck and Rav Naftali's young wife died after a short illness.

Rav Naftali remarried the daughter of the tzaddik Rav Eliezer Yaakov Chavas shortly thereafter and returned to Kelm.  After absorbing the mussar of Kelm for four years, Rav Naftali was called back to Slabodka to head the Yeshiva Ohr HaChaim started by Rav Tzvi Levitan a talmid of Rav Yisroel Salanter.  Rav naftali was an instant hit and the Yeshiva grew by leaps and bounds due to his magnetic personality and his incredible warmth and caring for every talmid.

When the Chofetz Chaim was looking for a Rosh Yeshiva for Radin, he bypassed all the older more established big names in Europe and chose the thirty-five year old Rav Naftali Trop.  For the next 24 years Radin thrived led by Rav Naftali who earned himself a reputation among the giants of his generation and deep in the hearts of his many talmidim.  Rav Naftali's big heart gave almost every bochur an opportunity to learn with him B'Chavrusa in one form or another. 

His shiurim live on in the Yeshivos until today as his words and his chakiros pored over in depth.  His manner was to become the hallmark of the modern day Rosh Yeshiva with everyone trying to become Rav Naftali Trop.  Rav Naftali has many great talmidim including ,the Ponevezher Rov Rav Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, Rav Shlomo Heiman, Rav Dovid Leibowitz, and Rav Yechezkel Sarna. 

After going with the Yeshiva in their terrible exile during World War I, Rav Naftali and the Yeshiva finally returned to Radin in 1921.  At the age of 59 on Motza'ei Rosh HaShana 5690/1929, Rav Naftali's pure Neshama returned to the great Yeshiva in Shamayim amidst the heartbreak and anguish of the Chofetz Chaim and all the talmidim of Radin.  Yehi Zichro Boruch!
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