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May 01, 1987 - Image 2

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-05-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

PURELY COMMENTARY


simmElm
PHILIP SLOMOVITZ

Parable And Legend Regain Inspiration In Image Of The `Maggid'

Parable and legend, proverb and
folklore, had their inerasable power over
Jewish traditional identifications. The
scholars who assumed the roles of
teachers who shared their learning with
the populace and dedicated themselves to
assuring and inspiring Jewish devotion
became itinerant preachers. They created
a fascination that developed into en-
thusiasm. The personality who, in the
past ten centuries, acquired such atten-
tion often developing into fame was the
"Maggid," the wise preacher.
His fame has almost been forgotten.
The importance he has symbolized may
now be regaining its influence, if the im-
portance now attached to the brilliance of
one of them, in our time, has the apparent
significance. The current Maggid appears
on the scene in a magnificent tribute in
a volume entitled The Maggid Speaks:

Favorite Stories and Parables of Rabbi
Sholom Schwadron shlita, Maggid of
Jerusalem.

It's a long title and a necessary one to
indicate that it is another impressive work
published by the spiritually-enthused
Mesorah Publications. This is another of
its ArtScroll series about Orthodox
luminaries.
Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn, who compil-
ed the Maggid inspired stories, indicates
his impressions of the great Maggid who
is lecturing at this time and retains a
thousand-year-old tradition in the late
Twentieth Century. Rabbi Krohn tells the
readers that whoever hears Rabbi
Schwadron will never forget him He ac-
claims "the voice, the style, the contents,
the humor, the tears, the insight." He calls
Rabbi Schwadron "a pulpit virtuoso of the
old breed."
A very important Jewish personality,
the traveling preacher regains his role in

modern Jewish history. A very brief ex-
planation of his role is thus described in
the Junior Jewish Encyclopedia:

Maggid (From the Hebrew,
meaning "to tell"). A preacher The
Maggid was a folk-lecturer who
used Biblical and Midrashic
quotations, parables, and stories,
to preach morality and repen-
tance. Traveling from town to
town, the Maggid attracted great
masses with his chanting oratory.
Although often not too scholarly,
his influence was more
widespread than that of the
scholars and rabbis.
Outstanding among maggidim
were Jacob Kranz (the Maggid of
Dubno) in the eighteenth century;
and Moses Isaac ben Noah Dar-
shan (the Kelm.er Maggid), and
Rabbi Jacob Joseph of New York,
originally the Maggid of Vilna, in
the nineteenth century.

For a fuller understanding of the
eminence of such a preacher and his role
in history, it is necessary to read Rabbi
Krohn's description. To "What is a mag-
gid?" he provides this definition:

Literally the word maggid
means one who narrates an inci-
dent or event. For hundreds of
years, the term maggid has meant
someone who serves the Jewish
community as a preacher. In

many communities he was an ap-
pointed public servant, like the
rav (rabbi) or dayan (religious
judge), whose function was to
chastise and admonish, en-
courage and exhort. An appointed
maggid was known in Hebrew as
the maggid d'massa, or in Yiddish
as the shtodt maggid, both mean-
ing "town preacher" Later the
term maggid came to refer to
itinerant speakers who traveled
from town to town. Whether they
traveled or not, maggidim came to
be known for their exceptional
skills in oratory and their
fearlessness in speaking out
against evils, regardless of how in-
fluential the perpetrator might be.
An itinerant maggid such as the
renowned Eighteenth Century
maggid of Dubno (1740-1804) or the
celebrated Nineteenth Century
maggid of Kelem (1828-1899) would
come into a town, meet with the
community leaders and find out
what aspect of Judaism needed
addressing.
Was the chevra kadisha (burial
society) functioning properly?
Was the bikkur cholim (society to
care for the sick) serving those
who needed it? Was there proper
Sabbath observance? Were people
setting aside time for Torah study?
Were they honest in business? His

information in hand, the maggid
was ready for his drashah. Almost
every man, woman and child
would crowd into the designated
hall, usually the largest syna-
gogue in town, quite often on a
Friday night or Shabbos after-
noon, where the maggid would
address the public.
Unlike the more intricately
reasoned sermons of the ray, the
maggid utilized many stories and
parables to make his point. At
times his heated oratory would
become exuberant and exciting.
But perhaps most memorable of
all were the beautifully haunting
melodies with which the maggid
spiced his drashah. At times his
singsong added a loving warmth
to his words and at times, it in-
jected fire to his fearful rebuke.
Whatever the melody, it was
like a colorful background, on
which the maggid painted the ver-
bal portrait of his drashah.
It is necesssary to delve into Rabbi

Schwadron's wisdom and eloquence. It is
necessary to utilize the texts of his in-
structive addresses. One of them appears
in the revealing Krohn-edited volume
under the title "Mind Over Matter!' Its
text:

In the introductory prayer that
a man recites every morning
before putting on his tefillin, he
declares . . . "Hashem has com-
manded us to put on tefillin upon
the arm . . . opposite the heart .. .
to subjugate the desires and
thoughts of our heart to His ser-
vice . . . and upon the head op-

Continued on Page 32

Jews in Stagecraft Gain Celebrity Hall of Fame Acclaim

Tim Boxer has gained authoritative
status as a columnist who gives
recognition to the achievements on stage,
in the movies and in every phase of the
world of entertainment. His column
appears in numerous Jewish periodicials
and his coverage nears totality to such a
degree that he is virtually the creator of
the Hall of Fame of Jewish entertainers.
He proves it in his collected
biographical sketches and thumbnail
salutes to the vast number of Jews in the
field he has chosen for emphasis, in his

The Jewish Celebrity Hall of Fame

(Shapolsky Publishers).
The subtitle appended to the book, "A
Who's Who of Jewish Entertainers" adds
definitvely to an explanation of this work.
In addition to the biographical texts,
Boxer supplemented his assembled
sketches with interviews with many
included in his interesting collection of
noted characters.
George Burns, Red Buttons, Joel Grey,
Leonard Nimoy, Abe Vigoda, Henny
Youngman, Lauren Bacall, Goldie Hawn,
Beverly Sills, David Steinberg, Barbra
Streisand, Shelley Winters are among the
many unquestionably Jewish who receive
noteworthy attention.
Then there is a long list of the half
Jews in the entertainment world who fit
into this volume. Non-Jewish celebrities
are not ignored.

Boxer doesn't ignore celebrities in
other fields of activities. He displays
temptation to include a number of
notables like former Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger. The reader may be
grateful for such an acknowledgement to
an eminent personality, although no
specific reason is given for listing
Kissinger in an entertainers' hall of fame.
Boxer's The Jewish Celebrity Hall of
Fame drew such wide attention that Bob
Hope wrote a truly exciting foreword, and
Steve Allen authored a long,
complimentary introduction.
The famous "Goy" Bob Hope became
truly enthusiastic and his foreword makes
him the historian of Jewish celebrities
who shared his eminence in the
entertainment world. Here is the Bob
Hope cheering applause for Boxer's book
and some of the famous listed in it:

So what is a nice goy like me
doing in a book like this? Well, for
starters, I was asked. I guess that
Tim Boxer wanted a gypsy's point
of view.
And on the occasion of my
seventy-fifth birthday, Alan King,
on the stage of the Kennedy
Center for the Performing Arts,
made me an honorary member of
the Jewish community, which
entitled me to "twenty-five

Bob Hope:
A goy's foreword.

hundred years of persecution and
guilt."
But most important, I welcome
the honor to be between the

covers with not only some of the
greatest entertainers in the world
but some of the greatest and most
caring people in the world.
My one regret is that Jack
Benny and Fanny Brice are not
alive to be included in this fun-
filled, roots-related entertaining
journal. And what about Al
Jolson and Eddie Cantor Georgie
Jessel and the teams of Willie and
Eugene Howard, Smith and Dale,
and the Marx Brothers, plus
George Gershwin, Flo Ziegfeld,
Arthur Rubinstein and Richard
Tucker — all "talent roots" — and
everyone in entertainment.
lb show you where my mind is:
Up until last week I didn't know
that the three Bs of the arts were
Bach, Brahma and Beethoven. I
always thought they were talking
about Benny, Burns and Berle.
lb my good fortune, I have had
the opportunity to work with
many of the inductees to Tim
Boxer's Jewish Celebrity Hall of
Fame. But I have a tip for Tim: All
of his subjects are candidates to
everybody's Hall of Fame.

Steve Allen's introduction is another
uniquely interesting comment by a non-
Jewish entertainer. It is an additional

Continued on Page 32

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