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Presenting for the first time to an English-speaking audience a vivid biography of the holy and action-filled life, and the ethical will, of one of the greatest sages and kabbalists, Rabbi Naftali HaKohen Katz (c. 5409 (c. 1648) – 5479 (1719)), of righteous memory.
Rabbi Naftali served as av bet din and reish metivta of Ostroh (Ukraine), Posen (Poland) and Frankfurt am Main (Germany), and was accepted to serve as nasi in Israel in the congregation of Safed. He was also appointed as head of the Va’ad Arba Aratzot (the Council of the Four Lands).
The work is embodied in two volumes enclosed by an elegant slipcase.
Rabbi Naftali’s biography (in volume 1) provides the reader with a sense of European Jewish life in the late 17th century and the beginning of the 18th century, and its interaction with the non-Jewish world. Among the material covered is Rav Naftali’s kidnapping by the Tatars; the great fire of Frankfurt in 1711, for which Rabbi Naftali was imprisoned; his battle against the charlatan Neḥemiah Ḥiyya Ḥayyon that had ripple effects throughout the Jewish world; and many other fascinating stories about Rabbi Naftali that indicate his greatness and ability to perform miracles.
Rabbi Naftali’s ethical will for his children and family members is a classic. It is filled with essential moral and ethical teachings. Over the centuries, his will has endeared itself to Jewish communities throughout the world and has been reprinted many times in Hebrew and (partially) translated into Yiddish. Volume 2 of the work contains the first translation into English of the entire will, accompanied by extensive annotation. In addition, for the first time the original Hebrew is presented with full vowelization.
Rabbi Naftali’s grandson, Rabbi Shimshon Katz, wrote: “This will is a way of life, reproving discipline, words that break the heart of man and arouse him to repentance” and “whoever fulfills [the words of this will] is assured that he will be destined for the World to Come.”
About the author
Rabbi Raphael Benchimol is the founding rabbi and spiritual leader of the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation, located on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. He is also the executive director of an affiliated outreach organization, the Aleph Learning Center. He is a shaliach (emissary) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory.
Rabbi Benchimol is the author of Bet Aharon, a series of Torah essays in memory of his beloved father, Aharon ben Avraham z”l. To date, three volumes of such essays have been published.
In March 2012, Rabbi Benchimol was awarded the medal of Knight of the Order of the Throne by the king of Morocco, His Majesty Mohammed VI.
Rabbi Benchimol lives in New York City with his wife, Rachel, and their children