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29 Kislev 5773 - December 13, 2012 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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The Dubno Maggid — Rabbi Yaakov Krantz

In honor of his yahrtzeit, 17 Teves

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 mussar too.

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 Chazal.

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 bull's-eye.

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 hakodesh.

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- opening moshol:

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 noticeably differently.

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 moshol:

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 sell."

"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."


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