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May 6, 2015 / 17 Iyar, 5775
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The Maggid, The Mohel, And The Message: An Interview With Rabbi Paysach Krohn

Rabbi Paysach Krohn

Rabbi Paysach Krohn

Few writers and speakers inspire like Rabbi Paysach Krohn. Author of 12 books – including his famous “Maggid” series of short stories – Rabbi Krohn travels around the world regaling audiences with tales that stimulate the heart and soul.

Rabbi Krohn is also a fifth-generation mohel and, at 21, was the youngest person ever to be certified by the Brith Milah Board of New York.

His latest book, The Maggid At The Podium, was published by ArtScroll this past November.

The Jewish Press: How did your career as an author begin?

Rabbi Krohn: Ever since I was a little boy I loved writing. My mother was a great writer, and she taught me. We would underline expressions in newspapers, pick up great alliterations, etc. In school, in secular subjects, the writing and literature teachers were always my favorite.

Then, in 1976, ArtScroll came out with its first book – Megillas Esther – and it was written in such a beautiful way. Very quickly almost 100,000 Megillas Esthers were sold and everybody was overwhelmed. They couldn’t believe it. So I went to [ArtScroll co-founder] Rabbi Meir Zlotowitz and said to him, “I would love to be part of your team. Would you mind if I write Koheles?” He said, “We’re going to do the five megillos, but if you want to do anything else, just write it and we’ll edit and print it.”

So I asked if I could do Mishlei. I soon realized, though, that it was going to take over my life. It was just an impossible task because every pasuk is a book by itself. So, after a while, I just stopped. But I loved writing and wanted to do something. So it occurred to me, maybe I can write on bris milah [and that was the genesis of my first book: Bris Milah: Circumcision – The Covenant of Abraham].

How about your popular Maggid books?

Right before my father passed away in 1966, the [famous] Maggid of Yerushalayim, Rav Shalom Schwadron, came to America and stayed in our home for six months. I had never seen a maggid before, but my father had always taught us about the Dubno Maggid and the thing I loved about the Dubno Maggid was that he would take a parable or examples from real life and use them as lessons.

And Rav Shalom Schwadron was fabulous at that. In the same speech, he could make an audience laugh and cry. Rabbi Schwadron was able to talk to people and change them.

Now, I must admit, I had never thought of writing Rabbi Schwadron’s stories, but when my friend Hanoch Teller started writing books with stories, I said to myself, “Wow, that’s a great idea.” So, as I was finishing the bris milah book, I called Rabbi Schwadron….

…and the rest is history.

Well, ArtScroll had never published a book of Jewish short stories. But within a month of The Maggid Speaks coming out, they sold 5,000 copies which was absolutely amazing for them because they had only printed 5,000.

Then, one day, I came to ArtScroll’s offices and met with Rav Nosson Scherman. He said to me, “I just got back from South Africa where I was invited to speak and when I walked into one of the yeshivas there, I saw your book on the desk of one of the rebbeim.” I said, “In South Africa?” He said, “Not only in South Africa…. And this teaches us that you must write another book.”

I said, “What do you mean? What should I write about? Where am I going to get stories? I already used Rabbi Schwadron’s best stories.” He said, “Somehow you have to find stories because if the rebbes are teaching children your stories – which contain mussar, yiras shamayim, ahavas Hashem, and ahavas haTorah – then you have an obligation.”

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


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