Review of “Illuminations of the Maggid,” by Paysach Krohn (2016), Hardcover: Artscroll. ISBN-10: 1422618226.
This may be Rabbi Paysach Krohn’s best Maggid book. As one reads story after story (it is almost impossible to put it down, so know that you may become sleep deprived), one becomes entranced in the episode, spellbound by his choice of expression and captivated by the penetrating lesson inherent in each story.
With the book coming out just a few weeks before Chanukah, the story about Rav Shraga Shmuel Schnitzler (later known as the Tzchaber Rov) in Bergen Belsen is not only timely but breathtaking. It should be told after the candles are lit this year so that all get an appreciation of the freedom we have and the mesiras nefesh our ancestors had in the most difficult times. Incredibly, the Satmar Rebbe unknowingly becomes an integral part of the story.
The delightful story of Rabbi Moshe Tuvia Leiff on an El-Al flight will make everyone smile. The story “Grandfather of Grandeur” is almost unimaginable except that Rabbi Krohn, as he most often does, spoke to the people involved. It is a lesson on forgiveness on the highest levels. The Ehrlichkeit of a young man in Detroit, Yaakov Meir Roberg, becomes apparent as he returns a bike he bought in Michigan to a college student in Montana. It becomes an incredible Kiddush Hashem.
It is known that Rabbi Krohn travels to many countries where he lectures and gives tours. Over the years, thousands have benefited from these tours and tens of thousands have gained from his memorable speeches. In this book, his ninth Maggid book, he takes us along for the ride. You will experience the gut-wrenching graveside of the children in Tarnov, Poland; you will be amazed as you are on a fascinating Shmittah farm in Israel in a story is cleverly entitled, “The Holy Rest Stop.” You will shake your head in astonishment at an incident in a slum along a highway in Brazil; you will be thrilled in Hamilton, Ontario, moved in Manchester, mesmerized in Miami and absolutely stunned by Rabbi Isaac Halevi Herzog’s visit to Chicago in 1946. A well-known Torah personality who witnessed it had his life redirected because of Rav Herzog. Read the book to find out who this great person is and you will understand his unrelenting drive to accomplish throughout his life. Okay, I’ll tell you, it’s Rabbi Berel Wein.
Rabbi Krohn is a deeply emotional person and this comes through in his dedication of the book to three sterling Teachers of Torah who all passed away this year: Rav Arye Finkel, one of the Roshei Yeshiva in Mir (Israel); Rav Moshe Mordechai Chodosh, Rosh Yeshivas of Yeshivas Ohr Elchonon in Jerusalem; and Rabbi Avrohom Respler, who was in Chinuch for more than 50 years as both Rebbe and Menahel of Yeshivas Toras Emes in Brooklyn.
Perhaps, though, the most startling story is the one that Rabbi Krohn tells about himself. He was only 21 when his father, Rabbi Avrohom Zelig Krohn, z’l, passed away. He had to leave the yeshiva, and support his mother and younger siblings. He had learned Milah from his father and wished to continue his father’s practice in some of the Queens hospitals where his father had been appointed. In the 1960s, many brissen were still being done in hospitals, as there was a bris room separated by a glass partition so the visitors could see the proceedings but still not be close to the infant. Some hospitals even had an assigned caterer for the event. Rabbi Krohn had to get onto the staff of those hospitals his father had been in, in order to support his family. Others tried to thwart him.
Through the efforts of Mr. Chaim Israel, Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote a long, handwritten letter, extolling the virtues of Rabbi Krohn, his revered father and their family. You must read the letter to gain an appreciation of how a Gadol Hador takes the time to write a long letter on behalf of a yossom, almanah and their family.
Go out and get the book. It’s a great investment in Ahavas Hashem, Ahavas Hatorah and Ahavas Yisroel. And oh do we need all three today!
By Ezra Banner