The gaon R’ Yaakov Krantz, zt”l, known throughout the world as the Dubno Maggid, was a brilliant scholar and an unrivaled orator. Possessed of great eloquence, he illustrated his sermons with unique stories taken from human life. With such parables, he illuminated the most difficult passages in the Torah and Talmud and answered numerous questions in rabbinical law. He was also an eminent rabbinical scholar, and on many occasions was consulted as a halachic authority.
Not surprisingly, the Maggid was a very public figure and his name was known wherever he went. Anonymity was not something he was able to accomplish, although on one occasion he tried, nevertheless. Wishing to travel without being recognized, the Maggid once packed his valise and left his hometown of Dubno early one morning without telling a soul. He traveled in this manner for a full day before reaching a small town with a sizable Jewish population. He immediately headed to the local Jewish inn, where he found the owner and asked him for lodging. The innkeeper was in a rush and told him he did not have time right now to set him up in a room – he should come back in a few hours.
“Why, what is all the rush about?” asked R’ Yaakov. The innkeeper grabbed his hat and coat and ran out the door, calling behind him, “What? Don’t you know? The Dubno Maggid is here in town and he is speaking right now in shul!”
R’ Yaakov was stunned. He was so careful that no one should see him or know where he went; how was it possible that this small town already knew he was here – and that he was about to deliver a lecture? His curiosity piqued, he followed a group of men hurrying in the direction of the main synagogue and entered the packed beis midrash.
Together with the expectant crowd, R’ Yaakov waited for the “Dubno Maggid” to make his appearance. And then, a man with a long white beard walked up to the podium: the Maggid had arrived! R’ Yaakov was more amused than dismayed and decided to listen to the “Maggid” as he delivered a sermon. At first, the man spoke well. He asked and answered questions with logic and a style reminiscent of professional preachers. But after a short time, it became clear to R’ Yaakov that this man was a bad actor. He began to ramble on, his points became jumbled and his parables lacked clarity or any clear message. The more he spoke, R’ Yaakov realized, the more he had no idea what he was saying!
At this point, the real Dubno Maggid jumped up from his seat and shouted, “This man is an imposter! He is not from Dubno and he is certainly not a Maggid! If it is the Dubno Maggid you were hoping for, I am that man!”
Well, one can imagine the bedlam and commotion that broke out in that shul! The imposter screamed that he was the real Maggid while R’ Yaakov maintained that it was him. People took sides and confusion reigned supreme. It took many minutes for the shouting to be quelled and it was decided that the two men would “compete” for the coveted title: whoever could sway the crowd with his oration would be deemed the real Maggid of Dubno; the other would have to leave.
The man with the long beard went first, and no matter how much he tried he could not impress the crowd. Then it was R’ Yaakov’s turn. He looked over at the sea of faces and began, “In this week’s parshah, the Torah tells us that an Amoni or Moavi may not join the Nation of Israel ever. Why? Because they did not offer bread and water to the Jews when they were traveling in the desert. Now, I ask you: The fact that these very same nations tried to kill us and hired Bilaam the evil prophet to curse and destroy us is not a good enough reason to exclude them from joining our holy people? The pasuk even mentions these terrible acts, but in the end, the main reason is because they weren’t kind to us?”
The captivated crowd watched the real Dubno Maggid with bated breath. “The answer, my dear brothers, is that killing and murder is a consequence of one who lacks kindness in his heart. A person who is so self-centered and egotistical that he cannot help men, women, and children with a bit of food and water in the desert is one who will eventually come to kill others. The same goes for a person who craves honor and is willing to take the life and livelihood of another person. That person has no business with good, fine, ehrliche people like yourselves. That man is an imposter who, if not expelled, can cause much more harm, pain, and sorrow!” His words did the trick and the phony Maggid ran away, never to return again.