Auerbach of Avritch
was a Rebbe in Europe for forty years and in Safed (Tzfat) for ten. Before that he had been a
disciple of Rabbi
Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev and the first two Rebbe's of the Chernobyl dynasty.
He was a charitable leader and a miracle worker.
- His book,
Bat 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. At the age of 65, that Rabbi Avraham Dov of Avritch settled in
the holy city of Safed. 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.
His book - Bat Ayin
When he felt he could bear no more, Rabbi Avraham Dov began to think of
returning to his home in Avritch, where he had been the Rebbe since 1785. "After
all," he reasoned, "I left my relatives and my students behind in order to live
in the land, but it is to no avail, for I am suffering so bitterly. Let me
return to Avritch; they will be happy to see me, and I will be glad as well."
One day, as he was walking to the synagogue for the afternoon prayer, he
heard noises coming from the surrounding rooftops.
"Here in Tzfat," 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 everything from the roofs."
But Rabbi Avraham Dov was confused. He looked up at the blue sky as with no
clouds in sight. "It certainly doesn't look like rain," he
said, hoping for some further clarification. "Surely you remember that tonight will be the 7th of the month of MarCheshvan,
when we start to say the prayer for rain. We beseech
G-d to be merciful 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 in the Holy Land. Shortly thereafter, he became established as the leader of Tzfat's burgeoning
In the deadly earthquake of 24
Tevet 5597 (January 1, 1837), 5,000 people lost their lives, of whom 4000 were Jews, more
than 80% of the community. It was between the afternoon and evening prayers,
when most of the men were in the synagogue, that the tremors and rumblings suddenly
began. Of all of Tzfat's synagogues, only two remained standing (Ari-Sephardi and
Abuhav), and many hundreds of Jews at prayer perished under the collapsed
debris. In the synagogue of the Avritcher Rebbe panic set in, as elsewhere, and the
congregants began to bolt for the outdoors.
- In 1838 he was kidnapped by the vicious Druze who were then perpetrating a
pogrom in Tzfat, as they had done also in 1834. They ordered him to write a
ransom note to his community, but he refused. The Druze then put him in a sack
and began to beat him. When they thought they heard in the distance the
hoofbeats of approaching Egyptian cavalry they fled, leaving the rabbi tied in
the sack. He was later found and returned to Safed.
"Come to the ark if you wish to be saved!" shouted the Rebbe in a powerful
voice. Immediately everyone crowded around him. The Rebbe threw himself on the
ground, praying and weeping. Local tradition records that although most of the
building collapsed, the part where the men were clustered remained upright and
everyone was saved. A plaque outside the synagogue today testifies to this miracle.
The line between the original structure (over the Ark) and the reconstructed
portion is clearly visible. One source (
Eden Zion) states that while
nearly all the walls collapsed, the domed ceiling miraculously remained aloft,
almost as if it were suspended in the air!
- Rabbi Avraham Dov fell ill in the terrible plague of 1840. Just before
passed away on the 12th
day of the Jewish month of
Kislev, he announced that his would be the last life claimed by this epidemic. And
so it was.
Send your personal prayer to be recited by a member of our staff at his gravesite.