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Stories of The Dubno Maggid

The Gaon Rabi Yaakov, known throughout Europe as the Dubno Maggid, was a brilliant orator and scholar. He was never at a loss for words, and he always had a parable or a story from the Torah to fit the occasion. In his younger years he was a merchant and often traveled around the country. It was only when he lost his business and became poverty stricken that he took to the pulpit and wandered from town to town lecturing and telling stories.

The Lost Land

Once, while still a merchant, he reached a small town near Berditchev. It was Erev Shabbos, and he stopped off at a nearby inn to inquire the way to Berditchev.

Seeing an opportunity to secure a customer for Shabbos, the innkeeper said, "I would advise you to stop at my hotel for Shabbos, for the distance is too far to reach town in time for Shabbos."

Realizing he had no choice, Rabbi Yaakov remained at the hotel for Shabbos. After Shabbos he paid the hotelkeeper and departed.

A number of years later when he left the business world and became a maggid, he again visited the same hotel on an Erev Shabbos.

"Tell me, my dear man," he asked, "how far is it to the town of Berditchev? I am a maggid and I have an engagement to lecture at the main synagogue of the town this Shabbos."

The hotelkeeper did not recognize the former merchant and thinking him to be a poor indigent preacher, with little money to pay for lodging and food, he said to him, "The town of Berditchev is very near. If you will hurry, you may just make it in time for Shabbos."

The Dubno Maggid smiled and said, "Now I understand the meaning implied in the sentence of Scriptures (Jeremiah 9:11): 'Why did the land become lost? Because he had forsaken my Torah.' This sentence is puzzling. The land is not lost; it is still in existence. But your behavior explains the sentence.

"Two years ago when I arrived at your hotel on an Erev Shabbos, I was a merchant with money. When I asked you how far it was to the next town, you said that it was very far. But suddenly, now, when I am a maggid, a man of Torah, the distance becomes very near. How did the land in-between suddenly become lost, that from far it became near? Because you have forsaken the Torah - because you do not think too much of Torah, you have forsaken it. Therefore, the land between these two towns has become shorter."

The Troubles At Home

When the Dubno Maggid reached the town of Berditchev, he visited the leader of the community and asked him to arrange the lecture for the coming Shabbos.

"Rebbe," said the official, "I cannot understand why you leave your city and wander from town to town, suffering so many inconveniences and hardships. The people of your city know of you, and they would gladly pay to hear your lecture every Shabbos."

"Let me explain a portion of our Torah," answered the Dubno Maggid. "We are told that our mother Rivka, when pregnant with twins, suffered greatly. When she would pass the Beth midrash of Shem, Yaakov, although unborn, would struggle to get out. When she passed a house of idolatry, Esav would struggle to get out. Thus, she suffered many pains when she passed these places. The question arises, why did she have to leave the house and pass these places and end up suffering so much? Couldn't she have stayed at home?

"But the answer is simple. Staying home was a greater trial to her than walking outside: There were too many troubles at home. So it is with me."

The Stingy Host

Once, during a cold wintry night, while the Dubno Maggid was wandering form town to town, it suddenly became dark. The only house in the vicinity was a small inn, and he had no choice but to enter it. Tired and hungry and nearly half-frozen from the bitter cold, the Dubno Maggid introduced himself to the innkeeper and asked for some food and a night's lodging.

The innkeeper, who considered himself a scholar was known to be very stingy. "It is a pity," he said "but we just finished our last piece of bread. There is absolutely nothing left. However, you are welcome to a place to sleep. You may lie down behind the stove am keep yourself warm during the night"

Having no choice, the Dubno Maggid recited Krias Shema and lay down behind the warm oven. But he found it very difficult sleeping on an empty stomach. He turned from side to side but to no avail. He just couldn't fall asleep.

Meanwhile, the innkeeper, thinking that the Maggid had fallen asleep, called in his household members and they sat down to a sumptuous meal - fish, meat and al the delicacies of a banquet. The Dubno Maggid saw it all but he kept quiet.

In the morning, the Dubno Maggid arose, prayed and prepared to leave. The hotelkeeper approached him and said, "Tam sure that my guest, the Maggid, remembers the words of our Sages, "That a person should never depart from his friend without saying a word of halacha" (Berachot 31a).

"Very well," he answered. "By your behavior last night I began to understand the meaning of the following passage from the Gemara (Baba Metzia 86b): A person should always follow the custom of his host. When Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to Heaven he followed the custom of the angels; he did not eat for 40 days.

"Now the question arises why did our Sages only emphasize eating, why not sleeping, for angels do not sleep? It is more difficult to be without sleeping, more so than eating. For we are taught (Shavuot 25a), if a person swears that he will not sleep for three days, he is to be punished with flogging and he may go to sleep immediately.

"But you answered me last night, when you and your family ate and did not give me anything to eat. For how did Moshe know that the angels did not eat? Perhaps they ate while Moshe slept as you did last night. But this implies that Moshe had to remain awake continuously to watch the angels and then he was sure that they did not eat. I, too, had to remain awake to watch you."

He Wouldn't Part With A Coin

Once, when the Dubno Maggid asked a rich man for a donation, he was turned down and insulted.

"Very well," said the Maggid, "then apparently you must be an illegitimate child of a non-Jew!"

"What!" shouted the rich man. "You dare insult me in this fashion!"

"It isn't I who made this remark," answered the Dubno Maggid, "but our Sages. The Talmud tells us (Baba Metzia 87) that when Isaac was born, all the gossipers whispered that Sarah conceived him from Avimelech and not Abraham. To put this rumor to rest G-d made the face of Isaac the image of Abraham's. Therefore, does it state: Abraham gave birth to Isaac.

"This was all very well to the people who lived in their neighborhood. They could see them, but what about the people who lived in distant places and could not see them? Therefore, we are told that Abraham produced a coin (Bava Kamma 97). On one side of the coin was the picture of an old man and woman (Abraham and Sarah). On the other side was the picture of a young man and woman (Isaac and Rivka). Therefore, when these coins were distributed far and wide, people could see the resemblance for themselves."

The Maggid concluded: "But you, who never part with a penny or any coin can never tell the people your true lineage. Therefore, I assume that you have something to hide. Therefore, I consider you to be an illegitimate child."


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