#397 (s5765-40/ 15 Sivan 5765)

How to See Israel

After a year of seclusion, Rabbi Avraham-Dov of Avritch invited the Jews of Tsfat to a feast of thanksgiving.



How to See Israel

How to See the Residents of the Holy Land

When Rabbi Avraham Dov of Avritch settled in the holy city of Safed, he was already elderly. But although he had waited many years for the opportunity to bask in the spiritual light of the Land of Israel, once there he found life in the Holy Land too difficult to bear. The hardships were all too apparent, while the holiness of the land was hard to discern.

When he felt he could endure no more, Rabbi Avraham Dov began to think of returning to his home in Avritch. "After all," he reasoned, "I left my relatives and my students behind in order to live in the land, but it's all to no avail, for I am suffering so bitterly. Let me return to Avritch, and they will be happy to see me, and I will be glad as well."

When Rabbi Avraham Dov reached the decision to return home the rainy season in Israel was approaching. One day, as he was walking to the synagogue for the afternoon prayer, he heard noises coming from the surrounding rooftops. He couldn't identify the strange sounds, and he asked the people he passed, "What is happening? Where are these noises coming from?"

The people were amused that he didn't know. Here, in Safed," they explained, "we have the custom of performing household chores on our flat roofs. We also use the roofs for storing food and other household supplies. The noise you hear is caused by the women scurrying about, removing all these things from the roofs."

"But why are they doing that?" Rabbi Avraham Dov asked.

"Why so that nothing gets ruined by the rain, of course," was the incredulous reply. But Rabbi Avraham Dov was still confused. He looked up at a sky as blue as the sea when there are no waves in sight.
"It certainly doesn't look like rain," he said, hoping for some further explanation.

"Surely you remember that tonight is the 7th of Cheshvan, when we start adding to our prayers a petition for rain. We beseech G-d to remember us and send benign rains to water our crops and provide water for us. Since we are sure that our Father in Heaven will hear our prayers and will heed our request, we take precautions so that our possessions won't be ruined when the rains come."

The unquestioning faith of the people affected the rabbi deeply. Suddenly his eyes were opened and he saw the sublime heights of faith achieved by the simple Jews of the Holy Land. His pain and disappointment were replaced by a sense of awe at the holiness of the land and its people. At that moment, he abandoned all thoughts of returning to Avritch and began a new leg of his own spiritual journey to the holiness the Holy Land.

Source: Assembled and adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the books Anaf Etz Avot and Safed the Mystical City, and the periodicals HaModia and L'Chaim #527.


How to See the Rocks of the Holy Land


A man who had been sent from Tsfat (Safed), in the Holy Land, to gather funds for his community visited the city of Rabbi Avraham Dov Auerbach, the Rebbe of Avritch (Avrush) and spoke wonders in praise of Eretz Yisrael. He described the air, the landscape, flowers and fruits. In language rich in expression, he pictures the holy places and gravesites of the tzadikim.

His enthusiasm knew no bounds, until he finally bubbled over and said, "Rebbe, what can I say? Why should I go on? Even the rocks of Eretz Yisrael are pearls and precious stones of all sorts!"

After those words, the Rebbe, who was already pining to go up to the Holy Land, could no longer find peace. In 1830 at age 65, he left his city and his flock of chassidim, went up to Israel, and settled in Tsfat.

Sometime afterwards the funds gatherer visited Tsfat. He came before the Rebbe and asked with interest, "Well, then, has the Rebbe found what he hoped to see?"

"The land is, indeed, very, very good," said the Rebbe. "The holy places, the graves of the tzadikim, the Western Wall, the tomb of Rachel, the air -- the air of Eretz Yisrael grants wisdom -- everything is exceptional. But when you said the rocks were pearls, that was an exaggeration."

The man reacted strongly. "Rebbe, whoever is found worthy sees it!" he declared.

The Rebbe rose without a word, and closeted himself in his room. For an entire year he did not leave that room. For an entire year he secluded himself and devoted himself to his Maker, through study and prayer, cut off from the world. When the year drew to a close, he emerged and invited the residents of Tsfat to a feast of thanksgiving.

Everyone participated, they were so filled, filled with curiosity, desirous to hear why the Rebbe had lived in enforced solitude and why he had called upon them to gather for this feast.

The Rebbe proclaimed, "Indeed, the statement is correct. The rocks are jewels; and whoever is found worthy sees it."

Those present did not understand him and so he told them about the collector of funds and what the man had said.

"In all my life," he said, "no one ever spoke to me with such force. I felt that Heaven had put the words on his lips in order to encourage me to reach such a state. I closed myself in my room; I sanctified and purified myself. And, indeed, my eyes were opened. I bear true witness before you. The rocks of Israel are precious stones and shine with the luster of pearls."


Source: Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Haggadah of the Chassidic Masters (Mesorah), as translated by Rabbi Shalom-Meir Wallach from Pri Kodesh Hillulim 111.


Biographical note for both A & B:
Rabbi Avraham Dov Auerbach of Avrush [1765-12 Kislev 1840], a Rebbe in Europe for forty years and in Zefat for ten, was a disciple of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev and the first two Rebbes of the Chernobyl dynasty. One of his disciples was Rabbi Shmuel Heller, the chief rabbi of Zefat. His famous book, Bas Ayin, was written in Europe, but he refused to allow it to be printed until he could ‘expose’ it to the air of the Holy Land and refine it there. His meeting with the philanthropist Sir Moses Montifiore in 1840 led to the beginning of modern Jewish agricultural settlement in Israel.

Editor’s Recommendation:
For the extraordinary and inspiring story of the Bat Ayin Rebbe and the New Year’s Day earthquake, see story 528 in this series.


Yrachmiel Tilles is co-founder and associate director of Ascent-of-Safed, and editor of Ascent Quarterly and the AscentOfSafed.com and KabbalaOnline.org websites. He has hundreds of published stories to his credit.

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