When it comes to comparing the greatness of Gedolim, we do not cross generational lines. However when it comes to Darshanim, the Dubno Magid is said to be of the great Darshanim in modern history. How did he do this? He once explained, with a Mashal of course. A man walking in the forest sees a boy not far from a tree with a number of arrows right in middle of the bull’s eye. He asks the boy who shot those arrows? “I did” replied the boy. “And how did a boy your age manage to hit the center every time?” “Simple”, said the boy, “first I shot the arrows then I painted the target.” The Dubno Magid always moved the hardest hearts to tears mixed with awe, never missing the bull’s eye. The center was Hashem, whom he painted a picture around.
Rav Yaakov Krantz, the Dubno Magid, was born in a village near Vilna in 1740. His brilliance mixed with hasmada earned him a glowing reputation. At 18 he moved to Mezeritch where people flocked to hear his drashos and he was appointed the official Magid of the city. After serving in this capacity for two years he then moved to Zelkova. After that he spent 18 years in Dubno and earned his name as the Dubno Magid.
His reputation spread far and wide. Two great gedolim once told him they want to come to his drasha. He warned them not to, because in their frail health they can get sick from crying. They insisted they wouldn’t cry. He did not stop them. The first one started bawling as the Magid walked up to the Bimah. He said that when I looked at his face and his movements, fear and trembling overtook me. The other held out for half an hour. When he started to cry the tears were so bitter that he ended up getting sick for three months.
The Dubno Magid was so sought after that there were many people going around giving Drashos claiming to be the Dubno Magid. There were even stories about the Dubno Magid running into an impostor when arriving in a town and having to prove himself to be authentic.
In 1791, the Vilna Gaon sent a message to the Dubno Magid to please come and revive his weary soul. It is said that the Dubno Magid originally first met the Vilna Gaon years before when he was 18, and the Vilna Gaon set him on his path to become a successful magid. The only letters ever found where the Vilna Gaon wrote terms of endearment and of a longing to see someone, was to the Dubno Magid. The reason for this close relationship between the two, especially considering that “Magidim” did not earn great respect from the Gedolim, was because the Dubno Magid was a great Gaon in torah in Nigla and Nistar. His personality was flawless and he refrained from any worldly pleasures or honors. And he had the unique ability to make a Gaon cry.
His seforim were published after his death by his talmid Rav Berish Flam. Included are seforim on Chumash – Ohel Yaakov, Megilos – Kol Yaakov, Haftorah – Kochav MiYaakov, and Sefer HaMidos. He was niftar on 17 Teves5565/c.1805. Yehi Zichro Boruch!