In Safed’s fabled synagogues, myth and reality intertwine

Beautiful houses of worship star in tales, centuries old, of wondrous miracles befalling devout rabbis and faithful congregations

One fateful day in 1837 the Avritch Rabbi brought all of his parishioners into their Safed synagogue. As they worshipped together he suddenly admonished them to run to the Ark, and just before a terrible earthquake shook the building, he cried out, “Hold onto the scrolls and you shall be saved!” Much of the synagogue collapsed in that quake; only the portion which held the Holy Scriptures remained intact.
Fact or fable? Like so many stories about Safed there may be some element of imagination involved. But no one can deny that the synagogue was destroyed — and the Torah scrolls were unharmed.
Anything written about mystical Safed, with its enchanting lanes and unique houses of worship is bound to be laced with folklore, tales of wondrous miracles, and fascinating historical tidbits. Like the story about how the Avritch Rabbi made it to Israel.
One day in the early 19th century, when the rabbi was still living in Europe, a messenger from Safed came to see him. “There is gold in the city’s alleyways,” said the messenger.