A fascinating tapestry of stories and parables is woven
by the classic maggid and then wrapped around the
rebuke and message he wishes to convey. Warmly
receptive to the beauty of the masterful creation it
has received, his audience eagerly imbibes the
The real key, however, to the success of a maggid
is revealed to us by the Dubno Maggid himself. "I once
asked my rebbe and teacher the Vilna Gaon: How can a
tzaddik infuse his people with yiras
Shomayim? How can he ensure that the words he speaks
to his listening congregants will penetrate their
hearts and lead them to true avodas Hashem?"
"The Gaon answered me with a moshol: `A large
pitcher stands in the center, surrounded by numerous
smaller vessels. When the pitcher is filled with wine
to overflowing, automatically the small jugs will fill
with the spillage. Ultimately, the more wine is poured
into the larger vessel, the more will spill over into
the smaller ones,' he began. `However,' he cautioned,
`as long as the center jug is not yet full, the
surrounding ones will receive not a drop.'
"So it is with the Maggid. If he has filled himself to
capacity first with Torah and yiras Shomayim,
then his oratory will automatically overflow to his
audience around him, filling them in turn."
We need only look at the way the stories and parables
of the Dubno Maggid continue to overflow and inspire
thousands, still generations on, to understand that R'
Yaakov Krantz was a vessel well-filled.
In this vein we find written on his matzeivoh,
"His reputation spread throughout the countries. There
was none like him preceding him and after him there
will not arise one like him."
The Vilna Gaon once asked the Maggid of Dubno how he
managed with such speed to find the right moshol
that portrays exactly the nimshol, together with
all the relevant pesukim and ma'amorei
The Maggid replied with a moshol:
A top-ranking nobleman once decided to learn the art of
shooting an arrow. Bow and arrow in hand, he attended
classes and after a few years he had almost mastered
the skill of shooting at a target.
One day on his way home, he passed through a village
where he stopped to rest. There, on the village green,
he saw a series of target boards set up. To his immense
surprise, each one had a arrow pinpointed right in the
His curiosity piqued, he set off to find the villager
who could shoot with such precision while he, a
distinguished nobleman, could not boast of such skill
after a few years of professional training. The
explanation of the villager was as simple as his
appearance. "First I shoot the arrow, and only then do
I draw the circles around it."
"I do the same thing," continued the Maggid. "First I
`shoot,' defining the posuk in its true sense
according to Chazal, and then I `draw' the moshol
around it, thereby always hitting the bull's-eye."
It has even been said in the name of the Kotzker Rebbe,
zt"l of various parables of the Dubno Maggid,
that they were undoubtedly said with ruach
When asked by the Vilna Gaon why he didn't write his
mesholim in the order of Torah, Nevi'im and
Kesuvim, he replied, naturally, with an eye-
A grand repast is in full swing with waiters rushing to
and fro trying to please all the guests. Among those
seated are a rich man and his poor counterpart who,
although both seated at the same meal, are treated
The rich man, having been personally invited, is
ushered to his correct place as soon as he arrives. The
multi-course meal is served to him in order, starting
with hors d'oeuvres, then soup, followed by the main
course with its side dishes, and so on. When he has
tasted of every delicacy, he is served dessert.
In contrast, the poor man, who hasn't been invited,
gets no formal welcome. He finds a forlorn seat in the
corner and picks from the leftovers that remain on the
table, here a slice of meat and there part of the first
course. With a hearty appetite he devours with relish
everything he finds, regardless of order and menu.
Turning to the Gaon, the Maggid explained his
nimshol: "The King of Kings made a festive meal
and invited Rabbenu the Gaon. The distinguished guest
is served in order, starting with Tanach, then
Shas, Shulchan Oruch and the poskim.
"I, however, am the humble beggar who comes uninvited
to the King's meal. Whatever I find I grab and devour,
regardless of the menu. If I think of a parable on the
novi Chavakuk, I say that. Then from Heaven a
chidush flashes into my mind in connection to
parshas Noach, so I promptly give that over."
The night of Shavuos in the kloiz of the Vilna
Gaon was a paradigm of unity in Torah. The Gaon and all
those around him were well into saying Tikkun Leil
Shavuos, which in effect touches all of the Torah,
quoting part of Torah, then part of Nevi'im and
then Kesuvim. It subsequently touches on
Mishnayos and other parts of Torah Shebe'al
Peh, a fitting tikkun for the yom tov
when we took upon ourselves the privilege of having the
Torah, with na'aseh venishma.
Only one person, although swaying with the rest, was
not saying the customary tikkun, but was learning
from a different sefer instead. When this
talmid of the Gra, namely the Maggid of Dubno,
was asked why he was refraining from saying the
tikkun as his Rebbe, he replied — with a
The father-in-law of a newly-wed young man suggested
that the latter try his hand in business so he could
eventually have a steady income. Walking purposefully
through the market, the young man watched the vendors
closely. He noticed that each of them had a display
window with shiny new articles and decided that he
would do likewise. With care, he set up a showcase with
numerous items displayed.
Potential customers lured into the shop by the
attractive window were immediately disappointed to
realize that the shop itself was devoid of merchandise.
After a long day the young man returned home to his
father-in-law, sadly reporting that he had copied the
other vendors to the letter yet had not sold a thing.
After hearing the details, the irate father-in-law
scolded him. "Foolish man. The purpose of the window
display is only to show samples of merchandise in the
shop. You have to first stock the shop with things to
"Likewise," noted the Maggid. "Our great teacher who is
a boki in all the Torah can say the tikkun,
displaying smaller samples of his vast stock of Torah
knowledge. I, however, can't show smaller samples yet,
so I'm trying to learn from this sefer and `fill
my shop with merchandise'!"
Even the Gaon himself would frequently beg the Maggid
to give him mussar, exhorting him to do
teshuva for his failures. Understandably, there
was no point to be found.
Once, however, the Maggid acquiesced and told the Gaon,
"In my opinion it's no chochmah, no great feat,
to be a yirei Shomayim when one is secluded in a
room learning Torah. The real test is when one is on
the streets among people, and then to withstand all the
trials of the yetzer hora."
The Gaon accepted his words, but replied, "You're
right, but I'm not interested in chochomos. My
only desire is to be a true yirei Shomayim and do
the will of our Father in heaven."