by Rafael Mahler
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Just as the Gaon of Vilna attempted to breathe the breath of life into the dry bones of halacha through an innovation in the style of learning, so did one of those close to him, the Maggid of Dubno, like a final manifestation of creative energy in the arena of traditional preaching after it withered with old age. The Maggid of Dubno, Rabbi Yaakov Kranz (17401804), a native of Zhetl [trans: currently Dzyatlava] in the area of Vilna, aside from speaking as the speaker of righteousness and preacher of uprightness in Międzyrzec, Żółkiew, Chełm and Zamość, where he died traveled around, delivering his sermons through many communities in Poland and Lithuania. He even reached Germany in his travels. He was known by the people simply as the Maggid of Dubno, after the city in which he had lived for 18 years. This name remained with him forever, in love and honor in the midst of his nation. The special skills of this expert preacher, who was loved by the people more than all the preachers that preceded him or followed him, were natural, both in the form and ideas of his sermons.
A populist, heartwarming charm enveloped all the sermons of this preacher and expositor, the spiritual heir of the best of the masters of lore and Midrash based on the Mishnaic and Talmudic sages, on Rashi and Rabbi Yehuda Hachasid. Unlike the preachers of his generation, whose ideas were immersed in a pile of didactics and sharpness, the Maggid of Dubno was wonderfully straightforward in his preaching and explanations. Even though he was an expert scholar, who swam in the sea of Talmud and Midrash, as well as delving deep into the philosophy of Duties of the Heart, Guide for the Perplexed, HaIkrarim, Akeidat Yitzchak, and the other books of investigation and morality of the Middle Ages, he would explain his teachings in popular language, and in words that emanate from the heart and penetrate the hearts. He was graced with the ethos of a poet, and with deep talent in observing the happenings of life. He used parables, in the pattern of the master of lore of yore. However, despite the fundamentally allegorical parables in the lore of the Talmud and Midrash, therefore restricted in words solely to the essence, requiring an explanation of the referent of the parable; the parables of the Maggid were expressed calmly, broadly, in the manner of a populist story teller who brings enjoyment to his audience and incidentally to himself as well. They were told with full detail of the narrative, in a way that captured the imagination of the audience and won over their hearts. Even though the Maggid was preceded in this regard by the Hassidic parable tellers, some of whom were greater than him with their creative imagination that enthuses the eye with its treasury of colors, such as the Baal Shem Tov and his greatgrandson Rabbi Nachman of Breslov the parables of the populist preacher had a special character, for most were taken from the realities of the world, from the abundant, vibrant, daytoday life. The repertoire of the Maggid was also full of common parables, in which the characters of the king, the son of the king, ministers, and villagers appeared frequently. However, these allegories
were only one in sixty for him in relation to parables taken from the flowing reality and experience. On account of this, the sermons of the Maggid peered upon Jewish life in Poland and Lithuania at the end of the 18th century as if through a lens.
The weltanschauung of the Maggid of Dubno was a definitive outlook of fear of Heaven, still embedded in the roots of the dualism doctrine of the Middle Ages: the purpose of man is to observe the commandments and study the Torah, and to make the good inclination overcome the evil inclination in order to merit life in the World To Come. The true pleasure is the spiritual pleasure and the perfection of man through the perfection of the soul, and purity in the service of the Creator with the heart and with love. However, the most wonderful part of his sermons was specifically the sprouts of ideas of the relationship of obligation and reality of the world of action expressed and emanating as heralds of renewal from the realm of the ancient doctrines of man. The Maggid, of the generation of the founders of the Hassidic movement, also yearned for spirit of optimism. Like them, he too trusted with his full heart in the mercy of the Creator who wishes good upon His creations. Unlike the masters of morality who preceded him, he did not threaten his listeners with the torments of hell, nor did he frighten them with punishment from Heaven, but rather encouraged them through words and strengthened their trust and hope. Like the Hassidim, the Maggid was far from the spirit of selfflagellation prevalent in the Middle Ages. Like them, he made the first breaches in the wall of duplicity that completely nullifies [the value of] this world. The Hassidim attempted to overcome the duplicity by sanctifying physicality and raising it to the level of spirituality, whereas the theory of the Maggid of Dubno was based on compromises with things required for the ways of the world for the proper running of the world without which the worship of the Creator would be impossible. Regarding the verse And you shall be completely happy (Deuteronomy 16:15), he expounds, Indeed, a person cannot rejoice unless his heart is sated with meat and wine, therefore there is a commandment to enjoy Gd through pleasures of good foods, as well as to sacrifice voluntary offerings, but the main joy is to rejoice by being drawn close to: my beloved is mine, and I am his … The Maggid continues and explains why we do not recite a blessing on any good thing that is given, that He gave me bread that He gave us clothing, only on the Holy Torah that He gave us, the Torah of truth for behold, everything that our eyes see in this world that is given to our hands despite all this, it is accepted by us that a person should only use and take from them what is necessary
to complete one's holy work that he must study, teach, observe, perform, and fulfill. Anyone who benefits from this word without a need deducts from his account therefore, we do not recite a blessing on anything that He gave other than the Torah. (Ohel Yaakov, Portion of Re'eh, page 77).
The difference been the Misnagdic Maggid and Hassidism relating to the duality of the reality of this world on the one side, and the service of the Creator on the other side, stands out in particular in his theory regarding the trait of trust. Hassidim, in the wake of the idealistic humanism of its outlook, stresses the trait of trust through all the deeds of man, when he lies down or is awake. This trait shows its value particularly in matters of livelihood. The Maggid placed the trait of trust as a fundamental in his doctrine of Fear of Heaven. However, in his tendency toward realism, he restricted its actual role to areas not related to livelihood. His teaching in this matter is based on a psychologicalsocial outlook, and elaborates on the outlook of the Talmud and Maimonides regarding the deeds of man that are necessary for human society. In the opinion of the Maggid, Trust is not natural in the ways of the soul, but man can plant it into the channels of the heart by choosing good. Thus, it is the wisdom of the Creator to create man in a world that is not based on trust, for it is the desire of the Blessed One to complete it [the world] through human beings who work with their hands, for this is the culmination of the deeds of influence. Even though the vessels of deeds and the means of influence are many, are much better than the deeds of man, and are stronger than them as the heavens give the early and late rains, and the land therefore gives of its fat after the cattle plow, and the like, for these are the things necessary for the influence of life. Nevertheless, the main part and the culmination of the work is from man, for without his efforts and work, the land would remain desolate. The work of man creates civilization, or human society in the language of the Talmud, which is the culmination of the work of creation. The inclination to work is, however, nothing other than the evil inclination, the work of folly, demonstrating a lack in trust in the Creator of the World. However, this inclination is compared to Mephistopheles in Goethe's Faust, whose inclination is toward evil, but nevertheless expresses good. For if trust was naturally fruitful within the soul, man would loathe his work, and would not make the effort. He only makes a strong effort when he understands the weak ability to obtain his food without the agreement of the Supreme Benefactor, may He be blessed. On the contrary, to the extent that the folly, nonsense, and foolishness of man increase in his pursuit of pleasures and excesses of the vanities of this world; so does his role in building civilization increase. From here also arises the social class differentiation in levels in accordance with the level of creativity in obtaining their desires in this world For you will see their efforts in the achievements of this world, for the thoughts and customs of the villager are not far from the truth, for he only desires that which he can obtain to feed his family and till his soil
so he can be sated with bread. Above him is the bourgeoisie, and further above are the largescale businessmen, whose folly is very great in terms of amassing a fortune to conduct business afar. Relying on a statement of Maimonides (in his introduction to the Order of Zeraim) Were it not for the crazy ones, the rest of the world would be destroyed, the Maggid explains his psychological theory, according to which The greater something's supervision and guarding, the greater is its charm in the eyes of people regarding things that exist such as pearls and precious stones. Thus he explains that people are prepared (in accordance with the words of Maimonides, ibid.) to move to faroff countries, to go on a ship, to traverse the paths of the seas to put themselves in danger, to fetch and find precious stones with which they can conduct business… It is desires for excess for unnecessary things planted in the hearts of man at the will of the Creator for the Holy One Blessed Be He did not create anything for naught, and desires the existence of all part of reality for the special benefit of all who are here in the world. This desire is also the primary factor in the development of economy, since it provides work for many workers: and all this is for the needs of human society, that the masses will sustain themselves through their work in helping them conduct their work, and furthermore, the builders build up the ruins as well as halls of pleasure. They also work in gardens and orchards, without which numerous people would be unable to obtain their sustenance and bounty. It shows that the largescale merchants, who were part of the realities of the Maggid to the extent that they served as the most precious topic of his parables, instilled their spirit and world outlook upon him the commercial world of capitalism.
Just as the desires implanted in man lead to the constant advancement of economy and civilization, so too was man created with the insatiable desire to delve into the secrets of wisdom, and through the force of this desire The righteous ones will continually march forward to the perfection desired of him by the Blessed One, without ever ceasing… However, the force of desire is the same, whether in the souls of the righteous or in the souls of the evil ones who divert this force to the vanities of the world, there is no end to their desires, for this force will maintain its nature… and this is the principle… for the soul is never sated. This is how the Maggid expounds the verse in Kohelet [Ecclesiastes] 10:1 a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor. Regarding this, he made a crisp parable: Gd gave a bit of foolishness to people, and on account of this, his soul desires day and night to stand for what he is lacking. Through this, he searches through all the rooms of Torah, so that perhaps he might find something that his heart desires. Through his delving and searching, he succeeds in finding many things, which are wisdom (Kol Yaakov, page 126127). Therefore, the Maggid does not negate secular wisdom out of principle. He is certain and relies on everyone who occupies himself with Torah for its own sake honor will eventually come, for the secrets of Torah and all external wisdom are revealed to him. On the other hand, he derives from the verse external wisdom
sings out about One who is empty of Torah wisdom and occupies himself with external wisdom (Ohel Yaakov, Portion of Shemini, page 22).
The sparks of realism that exemplify the weltanschauung of the Maggid of Dubno are also evident in his grasp of the idea of redemption and the return to Zion. This idea is woven as a scarlet thread in all the sermons of the Maggid. He does not leave any opportunity, such as the Torah portions of the Exodus from Egypt, the sacrifices, the tabernacle, the priestly gifts, and most certainly the reproof and promises of redemption in the Torah to explain in a comprehensive, fundamental manner the concept of exile and the return to Zion. There is no doubt that, similar to the majority of the leaders of the generation, both in the Misnagdic camp and the Hassidic camp, the populist preacher was overtaken by longings for redemption with greater strength in the wake of the disturbances of the stormy era. Several of his sermons were written in the latter years of his life, when new hopes for a speedy redemption were aroused in the hearts of the nation in the wake of the victory of the revolution in the west, and especially after the news spread about the Bonaparte plan to restore the Jewish state in its land. It is superfluous to state that the Maggid regarded the redemption as a salvation from Heaven that is not dependent solely on repentance. He was also effusive in his praise of the redemption as a spiritual redemption, as at the End of Days, when the Holy One Blessed Be He will renew his supernatural actions (Ohel Yaakov, Bamidbar, page 17), and the Jewish person will arrive at spiritual completeness of the soul) (ibid. conclusion of the book, page 124); In the future, Gd will bring joy to us when He gives us a clear spirit, wholesome knowledge, an true wisdom… (ibid., Balak, page 100). Nevertheless, through the expression of these traditional ideas of faith, he always exposed his heart as a leader of the nation, pained by all the tangible tribulations of the exile, which lifted his soul toward the economic and political rectification of his nation in its homeland.
The Maggid, who delved deeply to understand the economy of human society built upon labor, could not avert his eyes from the shaky structure of the livelihood of the Jews in the lands of the Diaspora. A deep aspiration to agricultural work, such as plowing, planting, and harvesting, could be heard from his longings for the return to Zion. He never tired of comparing the life of the nation from the earlier times when we dwelled in the lands of living in the Holy Land, each person under his vine, etc. (Ohel Yaakov, Vayeira, page 97) with the inferior livelihood in the exile. The situation would be rectified when every person would earn their livelihood from their own labor. The body would be sustained through the work of the land with one's body but all this was when we were on our land not so now, for we do not have a known occupation for sustaining the household, neither from the storehouse or from the vineyard, not from the dew of the heaven, nor from the fat of the land. We only have the plowing of the heart from morning
until evening. His heart does not rest even at night, for he only things about business affairs, how can he fetch his livelihood from afar (ibid. Vayeilech, page 120). In the Diaspora, the joy of the festival is also not complete, for we do not now have a field or vineyard with which to rejoice with the gathering of our produce from the field (ibid. Pinchas, page 11). The Maggid repeats over and over the bitter truth that in the Diaspora, the Nation of Israel is only sustained by the leftovers of the nations, for the dew of the heavens and the fat of the earth are not ours, but rather theirs, for the land is theirs they have the inheritance of the field and vineyard. And that which the nations themselves snatch and pillage one from the other, what can we hope from them anymore and this is You turn us away from our adversaries, for our enemies pillage us (Psalms 44), and it is apparently appropriate to state that they pillage us, but the matter is such that it is mitigated by a parable of a proper poor person who goes to the party of a certain wealthy householder. Immediately upon his arrival at the door of the house, as he looks at the gathering of invitees and their activities, he turns back and returns to his house. The householder runs after him and asks him, what did you see that you do not want to sit at the table is it because you did not have a place to sit at the head of invitees? The poor person responds, on the contrary, I am already used to sitting with the poor and lowly but here I saw that the high ones themselves grab and trample one another, so what more can I hope for. Without doubt, nothing will remain for me… (Kol Yaakov, Megillat Eicha, page 99).
In the Diaspora, even wealth is not secure with its owners, for our lives are hanging in the balance, and we are not sure of it for even one hour, and how much more so our money and property This is compared to a person who built a splendid house in the location of a large river covered with heavy ice during the winter, and thought that this was the ground of the world and the sun warmed up, melted the ice and the frost, and the entire building sunk… (ibid. page 75). However, the livelihoods of the Diaspora, aside from not being built firmly, are spoiled bread… the sin of usury and trespassing, and the like. All the toil of man in accordance with his mouth and soul will lead to mourning, for his business and affairs are all thorns in your eyes and sticks in your side and this is what the prophet said (Hosea 4) that there is no truth, etc. rather lies, etc. like most of them, they sin to me, all according to the size of their wealth will their sins increase (Ohel Yaakov, Vayeira, page 97). Regarding this bread that is repugnant by trespassing and by theft, false oaths and dishonest weights Ezekiel prophesied (4:17) thus shall the Children of Israel eat their impure bread among the nations (ibid. 338, page 74).
According to the statement of the Talmud (Brachot 13) the latter tribulations make the earlier ones be forgotten the Maggid explains the reason with his deep psychological understanding, that the Children of Israel in the Diaspora long for the redemption primarily because of the tribulations in the lands of the dispersion; For every person according to his status and his habit thinks about what he lacks. One who is constantly used to meat and wine, if you feed him bread
and water, he will think of this as torture in comparison to what he was formerly accustomed to. Not so someone who is sustained all his life with bread and water he will not consider this as torture, only if he is hungry and thirsty Thus also The order of the exile from the light to the heavy, from oppression to oppression, for at first they will consider it as a land that is not theirs with sufficient disgrace and wrath, but after they get used to it and they do not consider this painful, they will ‘enslave them’ and after they get used to that as well without being sad over it, then they will ‘torture them’ . However, in truth, the essence of the exile is that we left our dwelling and settled on foreign soil… (Kol Yaakov Megillat Eicha, page 76). The pain of the exile is that Gd separated between the joined parts, that is between Israel and the pleasant land, of which there had never been such an honorable match of two things from the day Gd created the land and the heavens. According to a statement in the Yalkut and in the spirit of the opinion of Rabbi Yehuda Halevi, the Maggid expounded the verse He stood and measured the land (Habakkuk 3:6) thus, for the Holy One Blessed Be He measured all the lands and measured all the nations, and gave a dwelling place to every nation and tongue, each one according to the desires of their heart and according to their temperament, for every country is unique in its traits and attributes and Gd weighed the traits, temperament and essence of the Israelite nation , for it only succeeds in honor in accordance with the pure statements of Gd. The proper place for this honorable matter is only above the head, in the chief area of Jerusalem and all its precincts, in the place fitting for prophecy and for attaining the holy spirit and the secrets of the Torah (Ohel Yaakov, Bechukotai, pages 159160). The Land of Israel Is the place of our life, the life of the soul like water is the place of life for all found therein And, when we left it, there is no punishment greater than that, for we are like fish caught in a trap and this is the greatest of all the troubles that have been sent to us in the exile, that which we live on impure land and this is if I do not place Jerusalem as my chief joy demonstrates that even if we have all good and are sated with joy, in any case we should not harden our hearts from remembering Jerusalem, for in truth, what is more dear to us than the preciousness of Jerusalem, and what can be compared to it. (Kol Yaakov, Megillat Eicha, page 83). Israel was also the object of another parable of the Maggid: It is literally like a garment made to measure for a person, which does not fit anyone else unless you dismantle it and changes its measure, both in length and width This is what the author of Lamentations states: Look and see our disgrace, for our inheritance has been turned over to strangers. That is to say, that they ruined it from its former splendor (ibid. page 97). The Maggid similarly explains the longing of the nation for the return to Zion in a popular parable that touches the heart: It is the image of someone who lost a chicken, and went to search for it. Perhaps
he would find it at one of the neighbors. He went to one neighbor and saw the chicken, with its leg tied to one of the legs of the bed. He said to him, this chicken is mine. The man argued with him, It is mine. I bought it from so and so. Then the one who recognized it said, Here is the sign that it is mine. Loosen its bonds from its legs, open the door, and your eyes will see that it will immediately fly to my house and to my land. This is literally the argument of Israel with the Holy One Blessed Be He: For our hands our bound in the places of our dispersion, and this is the sign for us that when the Blessed One will loosen the ropes of the displaced one, we will immediately run after him in joy and gladness of the heart to the place where our Gd was at first. This is Who are these who fly as a cloud, like doves to their dovecote? (Isaiah 60:8) (Ohel Yaakov, Tavo, page 100).
With the completion of the benefit of the public, the benefit of the individual will also be completed (Ohel Yaakov, Vayeilech, page 117). Each Israelite person will only be saved through the solidarity of the entire nation. And this is literally like a brand of fire that fell in a house between other houses. If every homeowner leaves his own house and they assist together in putting out the fire, they will succeed, because the fire will be easily extinguished… It will not be so if everyone works on their own to empty their house of belongings . Therefore, We have been compared to a worm ‘do not fear oh worm of Jacob’ (Isaiah 41:14) for… if a worm is alone, it is nothing… If, heaven forbid, everyone's goal is for themselves, this will be the reason for the prolonging of the exile. (Kol Yaakov, Megillat Eicha, page 84). Rather than every person of Israel praying for their own soul, for their own livelihood, they should rather request the redemption of the nation for the city that is destroyed and desolate, for the Holy of Holies, for the ingathering of the exile, for the rule of the House of David. The nation in exile is compared to a sick person, and The most severe sign of the sick person, testifying to the danger and the severe blemish, is when the sick person does not sense his pain. (Ohel Yaakov, Vayeilech, page 117). Regarding the efforts of the nation to arrive from the Diaspora to the resting place, the Maggid states the following parable: Orphans had a great inheritance with many rooms, lower story, second story, and third story, and someone was living in the house, whereas they were living in the house of a stranger. Eventually a fire broke out in the city. They began to make efforts to save the house in which they lived. One wise person said to them: Why are you toiling so much over the inheritance of a strange person. How do you abandon your honor? How have you forgotten that you are supposed to toil to save the house of your fathers, for it is an eternal bequest to you. (Ohel Yaakov, Shlach, page 74). In contrast with the smallmindedness of those Who love the dispersion, saying that only at their (the nation's) hands will they obtain
their livelihood, and the livelihood of their house So what connection do they still have with the inheritance of Gd in the Holy Land, what connection do they still have to Zion and Jerusalem? (Ohel Yaakov, Shlach, page 71). The Maggid arouses the nation to national pride with a parable that penetrates the heart: It is compared to a king who was angry with his son, and sent him away from his house and his city. The lad went and wandered about for bread until he was forced to knock on the door of a lowly person, for perhaps he will at least have a place for him to sleep. The person rose to his voice and brought him in to his house to serve him and perform his work. Several years passed until he forgot his nation and his father's house, and he performed the village work as if he had done so since birth. Eventually, the villager died, and he served his son. However, his son was a wicked, evil man, who worked him with mortar, bricks, and all sorts of hard labor, and also did not give him an appropriate portion of bread. It was very bitter for him, and he wished to die. In those days, the king became saddened over his son, for he had not heard from him for a number of he took council, and went to travel through the land He went on his way along with one of his friends… Every place he went, he commanded that a declaration should be made in the marketplaces and the streets saying: anyone who has a request from the king, to ask for a judgment between friends, or for a servant to his master, all shall come before the king and he will take up their argument The king's son also came to curse his master and he did not recognize his father And it was, when the king saw his beloved son He fell on his neck, kissed him, wept bitterly and said to him: My son, my son, how did you forget your glory and pride, how did you forget that the kingdom was waiting for you, and when you were in my house, several ministers and deputies would bow to your majesty and glory. And how, how have you fallen so low, forgotten all this, and only asked that you find favor in the eyes of a villager to lighten your work, and to add a bit of bread to your allotment. (Ohel Yaakov, Emor, page 115; with a bit of change of text ibid. page 74).
Indeed, the psychological, social realism stood for the Maggid of Dubno, who saw with open eyes the negative factors that prevent the nation from remembering its homeland and pining for the redemption in Zion. He expounded the verse in the book of Lamentations [Eicha]: Judea was exiled from poverty She dwelt among the nations and did not find rest in accordance with the Midrash Had it found a resting place, it would not return the Holy One Blessed Be He exiled us from our Land, and we became accustomed to this as well and found a resting place among the nations, then the Holy One Blessed Be He added to our troubles, with afflictions and poverty. All of this was to arouse our hearts (Kol Yaakov, Megillat Eicha, page 92). When he explains the promise of the Torah When you are in the straits, and all these things overtake you in the latter days, and you return to the Lrd your Gd
(Portion of Vaetchanan, Deuteronomy 4:30), the Maggid gives a sign to recognize the purpose of the afflictions of the nation of Israel: If the Holy One Blessed Be He afflicts us with one punishment the intention is to purge our sins and to thereby save us from the judgment of Gehinnom [Hell]. It is not so with the many troubles that surround us All have gathered around together, and this is a sign and portent that the Holy One Blessed Be He has come to arouse our hearts to ask for mercy and return us to Jerusalem to ingather our exiles from the four corners of the earth. This is literally like someone who is chasing after his slave who escaped from him. If he comes to him and wishes to catch him and blocks his route so that he will come back to his house, there is a field before him to the right and the left. This is not the case if you come and surround him from three sides to that there is no way to turn to the right or left. Then, he must return to his place. Thus, the Holy One Blessed Be He forces us to return to our place by sending us many bad tribulations that surround us from all sides and all corners Then, they are forced to ask about Zion, behold the path is before them (Jeremiah 50:5). One of the Maggid's parables is about the force leading the nation to longing for a return to Zion: A great minister whose son transgresses and, perforce, his father exiles him to a faroff land. Since the mercy of the father toward the son is very great, the father sends him anonymous gifts in overt and covert ways, so that he will not die of hunger As the time moves on, and the minister goes about with a distraught face because he is sad about his son, and it is not honorable to write to him to come to his house. Given the disgraceful things that the son did, how can the father go to appease him? He goes about with a bitter heart, and half his flesh is consumed. One of the ministers sitting before him approaches him and says, My master I will advise you and he will come by himself For my soul knows very well that the livelihood of your son during these times is certainly only from your hand for, from what does he live. Therefore return your hand to your bosom, and, from today, do not send him any livelihood. When he does not find anything, perforce his uncircumcised heart will be subdued, and he will come to you, and appease you, so that he can return to your table. (Ohel Yaakov, Vaetchanan, page 22).
Appropriate to the best of the tradition of the nation that evolved from the visions of the prophets on the matters of the future period, the Maggid of Dubno also sees the redemption during the time of the Messiah as a complete redemption both national and social. This entire way (that is, the division of the world into rich and poor) is only in this world as long as the leaders (the trait of justice and the trait of mercy) set the scales one against the other. However, regarding the future, it is stated And the redeemed of Gd shall return and come to Zion with song, with eternal joy over their heads. They will attain joy and gladness, and agony and sighing will disappear (Isaiah 35:10, 51:11). That is to say, the trait of justice will not rule, to set bad against good. There will only be peace, truth, joy, and gladness from all sides. Agony and sighing will disappear, and one will no longer be against the other. (Ohel
Yaakov, Re'eh page 66). He continues to explain matters through a comparison: And when we delve into the section of land which we are upon, it is not level, but rather has ascents and descents, mountains and valleys, ravines and hills. The intellect indicates that something missing here is extra in another place. About the future it is said (Isaiah 40): Every valley will be raised, and every mountain and hill will be lowered, so the land will be level (ibid. page 67). Indeed, complete social equality is only possible in the future. The world will run in accordance to its custom until the time of the Messiah, and there will be a social division between the rich and the poor, in accordance with the simple explanation of the verse, For there will not cease to be poor in the midst of the land. The social problem, the problem of the reason for the reality of poverty in the world and the obligations of society toward the poor, is one of the themes upon which the sermons of the Maggid were based. He explains in accordance with the same theories that are known from his sermons on the redemption of the nation in Zion. The two pillars with which the Maggid delves into ways of life, and which serve as the primary theme for his parables, the largescale merchants on one side, and the poor on the other side, are also the two poles of the outlook of society. However, at the same time as the Maggid, with his general outlook, displays a positive side of the spirit of capitalistic effort and bourgeoisie individualism, especially regarding the class of large scale merchants; when he approaches the question of poverty, he remains almost completely immersed in the organicfeudal concept of society, and in the traditional religious concept of charity. Even in his doctrines of the ways of the world, in which Gd provides the livelihood of the poor through the wealthy, as well as his claim of that generosity in charity is an obligation and not a kindness, the Maggid of Dubno meets up with the best of the Hassidic preachers of his generation; however, the fundamentals of the populist preacher are exposed here too in the craft of wonderful explanation unique to him, in a manner, through parables that are direct and heartwarming, the secret of which only he knows.
About the Way of the Maggid of Dubno in Parable and His Social Teaching
1. Through Parable
The Maggid was especially involved with the realities of the two classes standing at the two edges of the nations the merchants on one side and the kilns of the poor and beggars on the other side. There merchants and poor people are most prevalent as the heroes of his parables.
Some of the merchants travel to Leipzig alone or in a caravan, and others import merchandise through their emissaries; a merchant who owns many factories, with many people standing to do the work, and one all of whose merchandise had been obtained from a craftsman and worker; a merchant who purchases merchandise with cash, and a merchant who purchases on credit; a largescale merchant who travels with twenty wagons laden with merchandise for distribution; a merchant who travels to the fair and to the market day, a merchant of new clothing, and a merchant whose merchandise
is wornout, used clothing; a merchant of silk, embroidered products, and a merchant of precious stones; merchants who are trustworthy, whose intention and will is to pay, and merchants whose intention is to no longer travel to Leipzig, to no longer appear before the merchant; a merchant in accordance with the law and custom, and a merchant about whom rumors are spread that he deals with forbidden products; a shopkeeper who sells merchandise in a store to a few people, and a traveling peddler who is a representative for a largescale merchant who travels with the merchandise to sell in the towns; the servant of a merchant and the scribe in the shop of the merchant, who received a set annual salary. By nature, the gallery of poor people is not as variegated as that of the merchants, but they too have healthy beggars and blind beggars; a beggar who goes door to door in his city, and a poor person whose livelihood comes from a known wealthy person; a beggar who goes from city to city to collect donations, and poor people who go in a group, and carry a bit of merchandise with them in the manner that poor people carry, such as tzitzit, and mezuzas. If the doctor is mainly an allegorical type, tradesmen appear in the parables in their true essence. These include tradesmen of precious material such as diamond cutters and the like; a butcher, a baker and a tailor who comes with the measuring stick measuring and doing business with the groom before the wedding; a tradesman who is independent, and a tradesman who works for the business of a merchant, who received half the payment; bartenders, middlemen; teachers, the head of the stall, the matchmaker, and the cantor; wagon drivers, and tavern keepers. To fill out the picture, the preacher presents for us, with precious humor in several of his parables, the thieves with their caprices and tricks, as well as characters such as someone who earned his livelihood from news, that is, when he heard good news about someone, he would hurry to tell the subject; or, such as the idlers in the Beis Midrash who were jealous of the servants and representatives of the merchant who went to Leipzig and Danzig, and who received a raise in salary after the strike and they also acted with caprice, gathered all together, went to the wealthy person and advised him with an excuse that he should add to their weekly salary…
Here is one of the examples of the penetrating gaze of Maggid of Dubno into the economicsocial life of his time, which served for him as a complete source of his doctrine. Regarding the verse in the Torah You should not harden your heart, and you should not close your hand from your impoverished brother (Deuteronomy 15:7), he makes the following parable in his introduction to the statement in Pirkei Avot Let your house be opened wide and let there be poor people among your household: A poor person sells fruit in the market and thereby earns his livelihood, but there are no customers where his house is, for he lives in a grove on the slope of the city at the edge of the population. What does he do? He builds a hut among the stores of the wealthy people, next to the house of a wealthy person who sells food and drink. Many people are found there, and there he too can sell the bit of fruit in his hands. In this way, the wealthy person does not give this poor person anything of his own, other than allowing him to set up a place near his house, thereby giving him his livelihood. On the contrary, when he impedes him [i.e. the poor person], even though he does not
take anything from the poor person, he cuts into his livelihood. The referent: the source of livelihood and fortune of the poor person is very difficult, and withheld from him. However, the wealthy person has good fortune from heaven to receive a bounty in a generous fashion. If the wealthy person volunteers to give bread to the poor person every week, the wealthy person does not give anything of his own, for the Holy One Blessed Be He bestows upon him the portion of the poor person as well. This is nothing other than the livelihood of the poor person passing through his hand via his house and this is the meaning of the statement, Let your home be opened wide, for what does it matter to you if a poor person is included in your household. This is the meaning of And let poor people be among your household, and you will not be lacking anything due to them. This is And you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand. It is only that the livelihood of the poor flows through the purity of your heart. Through opening your hand, by including him as well in accounting for the needs of your household, you will be bestowed in a greater fashion, so that there will be enough for him as well, as it says (Proverbs 18), The gift of a person broadens him.
The Maggid, the craftsman of parable, also knew how to dive into the secrets of Jewish folklore and to weave popular stories, full of wisdom, wit, and satire, embroidered as one in his sermons on morality. A parable of this nature also exemplifies his characteristic talent: It is compared to a poor who had a prominent, wealthy relative, and the wealthy person had to make a wedding for his son. This poor person said in his heart, I too will be invited to the table of my uncle, and therefore I will prepare for this by not eating anything in my house. He fasted for two days so he would be hungry, and would then be able to enjoy himself in the meadow of sweet delicacies. Toward the evening of the second day, he felt very faint. He looked out the window to see if the servants had begun to go to the wealthy people to summon them to the feast. He saw that the servants were all passing by the door of his house, neglecting him. He was very bitter, and told his poor wife to give him something to eat from what was in the house. She gave him lots of bread, onions, radishes, and other such bitter and sour foods. Since he was hungry, nothing was left over. After he ate all this, his uncle's servant came to him to tell him that his master has requested his presence on the day of the wedding and joy. He went with a bitter soul. When he sat at the table, they first brought fish, and he did not find any taste in the fish, as he was already full. Then they brought roasted meat in gravy. When he took a spoonful of the gravy to his mouth as it was still hot, his stomach exuded the bitter taste of onions and radishes, and this honorable food tasted bitter and sour. He sat there the entire meal and did not eat one morsel of all these tasty foods. The referent: for in truth, the Holy One Blessed Be He invited us to Torah and the commandments, all of which are beloved, pleasant
and sweeter than honey and honeycombs. Someone who approaches them with a pure soul and a proper spirit will sense their sweetness. Not so with us, who have already sated our souls with the lowliness of the vanities of the evil drives… And this is what was said: woe to those who call evil good, and good evil, etc. They exchange bitter for sweet, and the sweetness is bitter. Our rabbis of blessed memory have already advised in a Midrash (brought in Tosafot, Ketubot 104a, starting with Lo), the Holy One Blessed Be He said: As long as you pray that the words of Torah enter your innards, also request that the words of vanity literally exit your innards, as is written (Ohel Yaakov, Book of Exodus, Portion of Pikudei, Warsaw edition, 1873, pp. 151152).
2. The Philosophy of Poverty in the Teaching of the Maggid
In the opinion of the Maggid, based on Talmud and Midrash, there are two reasons for the existence of poor people in the world, why Gd did not make it that everyone will be wealthy; One is that poor people are trustworthy to worship the Lrd with a full heart (according to Midrash Rabba, Mishpatim, 31, in the commentary of Psalms 61, 8: Had I made My world equal, mercy and truth would not be preserved!) The second is to grant merit to the wealthy through the commandment of charity (according to Bava Batra 10a: So that we will be thereby saved from the judgment of Gehinnom, Ohel Yaakov, Bahar, page 142). However, also according to this theory, according to which Gd provides livelihood to the poor through the wealthy the Maggid expounds a fundamental theory: Gd sustains the poor through the wealthy both in ways that they know, and in ways that they do not know in various ways, and not only through charity: For He prepares pretexts to change things for the wealthy, or the wealthy person will be forced to invite the poor person to his house to help him with some work or task, or the wealthy person will lose something and the poor person will find it, and many other situations of this nature where the bounty of the wealthy transfers to the poor (Ohel Yaakov, Re'eh, page 66). This strange doctrine of philanthropy only serves for the Maggid as a support for the commandment of charity: The poor in any case, only get their sustenance from the hand of the wealthy, for the poor will never cease in your land. The explanation of I will not abandon him to be cast off and abandoned to death by hunger, for if he is not sustained through acts of charity, he will be sustained through causes and reasons, in that a bit of the wealth will roll over to the hand of the poor person. Therefore, the Torah adjures, You shall surely open up your hand to him surely give; the explanation is: Give to him out of the free choice of your good heart, and through your hand for if he gets his livelihood from you without your knowledge, and without your choice, nobody will lose other than you, for it will not be considered for you as charity (ibid).
Furthermore, the statement in the Midrash (Midrash Rabba, Mishpatim, ibid.) regarding the punishment of poverty awaiting the wealthy person who does not support the poor, is explained by the Maggid in accordance with his theory of the two reasons for the existence of poverty in the world.
Regarding the verse A poor and rich person meet, Gd made them all (Proverbs 22:2), the Midrash expounds: If a poor person extends his hand, and the householder does not want to give him, Gd made them both. He Who made this person rich will eventually make him poor, and He Who made that person poor will eventually make him rich. The Maggid explains and adds: If the rich people do not support the poor then this reason is not relevant to the existence of poverty, that is to give merit to the wealthy people for fulfilling commandments. Rather, the first reason applies, That the world cannot exist without poor people. However, in this case, This person does not have to be poor, and that one rich, for the world can exist even if was the opposite (Ohel Yaakov, ibid.)
In the wake of this theory, the Maggid explains and teaches the theory of the Alshich, that The wealthy person does not give anything of himself, for the Holy One Blessed Be He also bestows on him the portion of the poor, and this is nothing other than the livelihood of the poor passing through his household (Ohel Yaakov, Re'eh, page 68). (Compare the aforementioned parable in which the poor person sells fruit in a hut between the stores of the wealthy.) Even in this situation, social differences of the earth are noted, for it has mountains and valleys hills and ravines, for what is missing here is made up for in another place Indeed, and thus we deduce that what the poor are lacking for their needs will be added to the wealthy people, for Heaven forbid should the Holy One Blessed Be He give to the wealthy person that for which he has no need, unless the wealthy person has only what the poor person lacks. It is compared to the dream of Pharaoh, who saw that the bad cows swallowed the good ones. It can be seen that the additional bounty of the seven good years was that which was lacking from the seven bad years. Therefore the command was issued to gather up heaps, and to leave over the excess for the years of famine. The act of charity is nothing other than justice, in the simple sense of the term, in that the wealthy person gives the poor person his portion, and this is literally the statement that there will be no indigent among you, Heaven forbid, that the portion lacking from him will be extra for you, and therefore the wealthy person is obligated to bear the burden of the poor person and to sustain him, for he is giving him that which is his (Ohel Yaakov, Re'eh, page 68). As an additional proof, the Maggid also goes beyond the straightforward meaning of the verse that is the foundation of the justification of the poor person in the world: For the poor will not cease from the midst of the Land that is to say, I did not withhold from the poor by not giving him his share in the land. The Holy One Blessed Be He commands the wealthy person, who continues on with the blessing for himself, to save some of his blessing to give to the poor his portion (ibid. pp 7374).
From this theory, according to which the excess portion in the hands of the wealthy is nothing other than the portion of the poor that has been given to his hand, the Maggid also derives the theory of the decisive connection between the wealth of the wealthy and the poverty of the poor. Already in the Midrash (Shmot Rabba ibid.) the parable is found that the world is compared from a social perspective to the wheel in the garden, the earthenware vessel in which those who are lowly rise up
and those who are above descend empty. However, the Midrash states the parable regarding the exchange of fate between the wealthy and the poor as a wheel that turns (Not everyone who is rich today will be rich tomorrow, and not everyone who is poor today will be poor tomorrow), whereas the Maggid of Dubno uses that parable to prove that, to the extent that the rich person gets richer, the poor person gets poorer. For the poor and the rich are both weighed on a scale, with scales of justice one against the other, for to the extent that the rich person attains wealth, the poverty of the poor person will be deepened. Then, is it not the law that the rich person be given enough to provide for the poor during his time of poverty, as per the following parable: Two people tied their utensils to two ends of the rope on the wheel. When one pulls the rope to raise his items from the pit, it is appropriate for his friend to help him. For as long as he is involved with raising his own, he is also involved with lowering those of the other. The referent: whomever has mercy upon the poor, bears the tribulations of his poverty and provides his needs, justice will have it that he will be wealthy, and he will be granted wealth in relation to the poverty of the other person. However, if the rich person averts his eyes from the poor, why should the poor person bear the burden of poverty on behalf of the wealthy person? Therefore, He Who made this person rich can also make him poor and this is what it means ‘if there will be a poor person among you’, rather than ‘if there will be a poor person with you’ for the poor person is as if cut from a piece of the rich person, for the poverty of the poor will be in accordance with the weight of his wealth.
Since the division of bounty in the world is compared to scales, in the sense of this in comparison to that, we find that someone who enjoys the excess, such as the excess of wealth, is stealing from the poor: for as the wealthy person gets richer, grows greater, rises up, and basks in his wealth, justice forces the poverty of the poor to become heavier (ibid. Bahar, page 142). Even Rabbi Wolf of Zhitomir thunders against the life of excess, and regards such people as stealing directly from the portion of the poor that has been placed in the hand of the rich person. Nevertheless, the reasoning of the Maggid of Dubno has a greater level of social realism, as explained and proved by the following parable: If food is placed on a table, and the food is too meager for those seated around the table, then if one of them eats too much, perforce another will remain hungry. Thus, someone who amasses wealth and greatness is certainly stealing from others. And this is the meaning of: do not steal from the poor, for stealing from the poor, etc. and you should understand (ibid. Kedoshim, page 93). With great psychological understanding, the Maggid explains the custom of the rich to invite poor people to a celebration. It is as if to assuage their guilty conscience: One can say that because of this, when people make a celebration for some good thing, they have the custom of making others happy as well, for the joy is a reason for causing sadness to the poor, based on the scales of placing one against the other. When one person is given more joy, pain and mourning will be added to the other. Therefore, he is obligated to make others happy. This is literally the meaning of the dance of the poor at the wedding of the wealthy person in Anski's Dybbuk…
The Maggid, who was good at observing the way of life of the wealthy people, also knew that not only did they not fulfill the commandment of charity according to its law, to grant the poor person his portion to give him what is his; but they also used every excuse, such as bad business, to restrict their donations or to withhold all support from the poor. Regarding this, the Maggid relates one of his most pointed satirical parables: It is like a wealthy person who did his business over the great waters, and went with a boat laden with a great deal of wares. He also had books with him so that he could study a lesson every day, as well as his tallis and tefillin, and other such things. Once, a windstorm broke out, and they saw that the boat was already sinking too much into the water. The captain called out to him and told him to quickly lighten the weight of the boat, without sparing his merchandise to throw into the water whatever came to his hand, for otherwise, they would all perish and be lost. The merchant was very frightened, so he quickly took his tallis, tefillin, and all his books, and tossed them into the sea The referent: The needs of people are very great, and their expenses through the months of the year amount to a great sum. How many thousands does he spend on himself, his wife, and children for food, drink, clothing, and jewelry. He also gives a minute amount to the poor; however, it is negligible in comparison to the vast sums that he spends on his household. When he sees that fortune is not good to him, it would be fitting to minimize the spending on his household, so as not to disburse money on things that are not necessary. That way, he would be able to have enough money. He does not do this, but rather and your eye becomes mean toward your poor brother, that is, he withholds everything from him.
The continuation of that verse (Deuteronomy 15:9), And he will call out to Gd about you, and you will have a sin is explained by the Maggid with a parable of the realities of the people of his generation: It says ‘and he will call’ and not ‘and he will shout’, for we know that all the prayers of the wealthy are only accepted through the poor. This is the matter of a wealthy person who marries off his daughter to a prominent lad from a splendid family, and he did not sustain him properly with food on his table or fine clothing, and the lad suffered bad things from him. The lad was silent and held his peace. As time went on, he had a large judgment with the minister of the city, as the minister wanted to disrupt and destroy him. He found nobody to intercede on his behalf to beg for his life from the minister, other than the uncle or cousin of his soninlaw. He sent his soninlaw to the home of the redeemer relative to ask him to do this for him. The lad went to his relative to intercede for his fatherinlaw. When the lad came to the house of his uncle, his uncle saw how distraught his face was, with a dark complexion, naked, and barefoot. He asked, Why are you so poor, my son? Those standing around responded that this was from the miserliness of his cruel fatherinlaw, who treats him with the evil eye. When he heard these things, and also heard that he had sent his soninlaw to find someone to intercede for him before the minister, his wrath was kindled greatly, and he said: Now you will see what I will do to him, for briers and thorns will be his, and
I will uproot all his grain. The referent: And I will call out to Gd about you, for now you ask that he call out to Gd on your behalf. Not only will this not arouse mercy, but also it will be a sin for you. For when the memory of the poor person comes before the Blessed One, with his poverty and bitterness, and you prevent kindness for him, the trait of justice will strengthen  (ibid. pp. 6970).
One of the pearls of Jewish folklore on the topic of social satire is the parable that the Maggid uses to explain the verse If your brother becomes poor… (Vayikra, Bahar, 25:35). The Maggid brings a verse from Proverbs (19:17) that the Midrash uses in this context: One who has mercy upon the poor lends to Gd, and He will repay him. He prefaces this with the verse in Isaiah (58:1314): And you shall call the Sabbath a delight, to sanctify for the honorable Gd Then you will delight in Gd . He makes the parable: It is compared to a tycoon who has two sons in faroff places, one rich and the other poor. These brothers had not seen their father for many years. Once, a letter came from the wealthy father that the son of his old age was about to get married, and he asked to celebrate with his other sons on the day of the wedding and rejoicing. He wrote a letter to the wealthy son asking him to come along with his brother to the wedding, and not to worry about the great expense for the honor of their father, for he would pay everything in fine fashion. When the wealthy son received this letter from his father, he went quickly to the store to purchase a great deal of valuable merchandise. He made splendid clothes for his wife and children, and prepared to travel. Before he ascended the vehicle, he reminded himself, and said, Summon my brother quickly, for I need him greatly. They summoned him in haste, and the poor person asked, What do you want? They told him, What are you asking, come with me onto the vehicle. He came aboard and sat down, and they went. As this vehicle approached their destination city, and news reached the home of their father that his sons and daughtersinlaw were approaching, the inlaws went out with the musicians to greet them in joy. The rich person descended from the vehicle dressed in splendid clothing, and the inlaws asked who he was. They said, This is the son of the wealthy man. Then the poor person came down after him, tattered, naked, and barefoot. They asked about him, and they said that he too is a resident in the city of his brother, that they are brothers. They were silent and nodded their heads. They came to the house, the musicians played, the wedding ceremony took place, and they rejoiced greatly. After two or three weeks, the rich son said to his wealthy father, My dear father, I have done everything that you commanded me, to come and rejoice together, and now you know that I am a businessman, and how can I leave my business for this entire month. His father said, Do what you need to, my dear son, and who is stopping you. You can travel to your home in peace. He listened to the words of his father, and it was like
air locked into his bones regarding the great expense that he expended, and that his father had promised to repay sevenfold. Now he sees his father evading this, and he is forced to return back to his home. He says to himself, Why am I silent and holding back. I must ask with my mouth. He went before his father and presented him with the long accounting of all the great expenses that he made. Thus was the cost of the clothing that he made, thus was the clothing that he made for his wife and children, thus were the expenses of the journey. His father said, You made clothing for yourself, use them, wear them out, and then you will get new clothes for yourself. He said to his father, But you promised me that all the expenses will be on your account. He said to him, Don't lie, my son, for this is a lie. He then took out the letter in his father's handwriting, and showed the letter to his father, saying, See my father, that the truth is with me. His father then said, Read out loud the words of the letter. He read to him, that it is written therein that all the expenses that you make in my honor I will pay you. Now see, my son, that if you really did it in my honor, how is it that you did not remember or concern yourself with my honor, in that you took your poor brother with you, naked and barefoot, wearing wornout, torn clothes, and you did not remember to dress him in a fashion that will be honorable to me. See, everything that you spent, and all the great expenses were for you, so what are you demanding of me? The referent: The Holy One Blessed Be He, so to speak, also wrote a long letter to the person that He will repay all the expenses that he makes for the honor of Gd in the enjoyment of the Sabbath and festivals So how can he enter in to the Sabbath day dressed splendidly and eat fine foods, while his poor brother sits as a mourner eating seeds? And this is the sweetness of the adage, if you lend to Gd: who lends to Gd? One who is merciful toward the poor. He will be repaid also
for the expenses that he pays for himself . (Ohel Yaakov, Bahar, pp. 139140).
Charity is giving to the poor what is owed to them. The Maggid warns, It is not that one should be aroused by the pain of the poor, as is said (Proverbs 31), ‘her hand is spread open to the poor’, etc., one should not wait for the poor to extend his hands to request his bread as the pious one of blessed memory writes (in Chovot Halevavot) regarding one who is merciful to the poor to remove his own pain, to push off the pain that afflicts him by seeing the agony of the poor, thereby redeeming himself from great agony through a smaller agony. Then it is only like he is serving the desires of his own heart, as one who hits someone in his anger is serving his own anger… (Ohel Yaakov, Re'eh, page 75). Similarly, the Maggid expounds the verse If your brother becomes poor, you shall support him, and he shall live with you: The explanation is that when you see him tottering, but he has not yet fallen, you must not say, I will wait until he has no support. Rather, before he falls, you should arise and help strengthen him, so he can maintain his status. This is as is written, and you shall strengthen him. You will only have to strengthen him a bit, and he will live with you. That is, his own energy will join in partnership with your power, and hold him up (ibid. page 74).
The social teaching of the Maggid of Dubno is fundamentally similar to that of the Hassidic preachers, especially of Rabbi Binyamin of Zalowice. However, there is something in the sermons of the Hassidic Maggidim, from the perspective of form and content, that does not exist in the sermons of the Misnagdic Maggid, wonderful in their parable: the explicit, sharp social protest directed toward the rabbis and communal heads who commit sacrilege in their roles. This is no surprise: In contrast to the Hassidim, the Maggid of Dubno does not speak in opposition to the communities, and does not desire a change of guard. Therefore, he does not berate, but rather preaches. He does not pillory, but rather convinces with words. He does not protest, but rather explains.
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