I’m speaking with Rabbi Paysach Krohn, the legendary “American Maggid” who has inspired thousands … tens of thousands … no, hundreds of thousands … okay, forget numbers — who has undoubtedly inspired, in his decades of writing and speaking, every one of us ….
We’re talking about Rabbi Krohn’s new book, Yamim Noraim with the Maggid. The book opens with a poignant personal story about Rabbi Krohn’s encounter with a famed “vekker” — the man who walks Yerushalayim’s predawn streets, awakening people for Selichos. “Now that Elul is here,” I ask him, “how do we wake ourselves up?”
“Stories inspire,” he says simply. Then he goes on to explain. “When you go through Elul, Selichos, the Yamim Noraim, there is so much davening, and many times people are puzzled by the tefillos and piyutim. What I’ve tried to do is it take segments of Selichos, Avinu Malkeinu, Vidui, and the tefillos and explain them so that people will relate.”
They relate through his commentary — and through stories. “Look at the story about 7,000 Danish Yidden saved during the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah. It’s a fascinating story, and it shows us how we should never give up, an important message to hear at this time of year. There are also many stories of ‘regular people.’ When people read stories of people like you and me, they feel — if this person could do it, I can do it, too. We’re all good Yidden and we all do wonderful things, but we can all raise ourselves up a notch.”
Here’s one more story — not by, but about, Rabbi Krohn. In my many years working in Jewish publishing, I’ve written book cover copy for literally hundreds of titles. When I joined ArtScroll, one of the first books I wrote about was by Rabbi Krohn. Not long afterward, I got a phone call from Rabbi Krohn himself. He’d found out from the office that I had written the copy, and he wanted to thank me for it. Since then, he has called or written to thank me every time I’ve written about one of his books. What a wonderful lesson in gratitude!
Let me take this opportunity, Rabbi Krohn, to thank you for teaching me hakaras hatov in such a meaningful way. Stories inspire — and so do you.