A man who had been sent from Tzefat in the Holy Land, to gather funds for his community visited the city of Rabbi Avraham Dov of Avritch and spoke wonders in praise of the Holy Land of Israel. He described the air, the landscape, flowers and fruits. In language rich in expression, he pictured the holy places and gravesites of the tzadikim.

Even the rocks of the Holy Land are pearls and precious stones...

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 the Holy Land are pearls and precious stones of all sorts!"

The Rebbe who had already previously pined 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 chasidim, went up to Israel, and settled in the holy city of Tzefat.

Sometime afterwards the funds gatherer returned home from his travels. 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 The Land grants wisdom" — everything is exceptional. But when you said the rocks were pearls, that was an exaggeration."

The man reacted strongly and said, "Rebbe, whoever is found worthy sees it!"

For an entire year he secluded himself and devoted himself to his Maker...

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 Tzefat to a feast of thanksgiving.

All sat, 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 pearls; 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."

[Adapted and supplemented by Yerachmiel Tilles from Pri Kodesh Hillulim 111, as translated by Rabbi Shalom Meir Wallach in Haggadah of the Chassidic Masters (Mesorah).]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Avraham Dov Auerbach of Avritch [1765-12 Kislev 1840], a Rebbe in Europe for forty years and in Tzefat 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 Tzefat for half a century. 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.

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