Itinerant preacher, skilled as a narrator of stories. A preacher of the more scholarly sort was called "darshan" and usually occupied the official position of rabbi. The title of "maggid mesharim" (= "a preacher of uprightness"; abbreviated ) probably dates from the sixteenth century. There always have been two distinct classes of leaders in Israel—the scholar and rabbi, and the preacher or maggid. That the popular prophet was sometimes called "maggid" is maintained by those who translate "maggid mishneh" Zech. ix. 12, by "the maggid repeats" (Löwy, "Beḳoret ha-Talmud," p. 50). Like the Greek sophists, the early maggidim based their preaching on questions addressed to them by the multitude. Thus the Pesiḳta, the first collection of set speeches, usually begins with "yelammedenu rabbenu" (= "let our master teach us"). An excellent example is the Passover Haggadah, which is introduced by four questions; the reciter of the answer is called "maggid." When there were no questions the maggid chose a Biblical text, which was called the "petiḥah" (opening).Popularity of the Maggid.
The greater popularity of the maggid as compared with the darshan is instanced by the fact that the people left the lecture-room of R. Ḥiyya, the darshan, and flocked to hear R. Abbahu, the maggid. To appease the sensitive Ḥiyya, Abbahu modestly declared, "We are like two merchants, one selling diamonds and the other selling trinkets, which are more in demand" (Soṭah 40a).Talmudists like R. Meïr combined the functions of a darshan and a maggid (Sanh. 38b). When R. Isaac Nappaḥa was requested by one in his audience to preach a popular haggadah, and by another a halakic discourse, he answered, "I am like the man who had two wives, one young and one old, and each wishing her husband to resemble her in appearance; the younger pulled out his gray hair while the older pulled out his black hair, with the result that he became entirely bald." R. Isaac thereupon delivered a lecture that embraced both halakah and haggadah (B. Ḳ. 60b).In Geonic Times.
Levi ben Sisi, his son Joshua, and others were at the head of a regular school of rabbinical maggidim. R. Ze'era was opposed to their methods of twisting and distorting the Biblical verses to suit their momentary fancy. In Ze'era's estimation their works were of no more value than books on magic (Yer. Ma'as. iii. 9). In the geonic period and in the Middle Ages the principal of the yeshibah, or the rabbi, delivered a lecture before each festival, giving instructions in the laws governing the days of the festival. The maggid's function was to preach to the common people in the vernacular whenever occasion required, usually on Sabbath afternoon, basing his sermon on the sidra of the week. The wandering, or traveling, maggid then began to appear, and subsequently became a power in Jewry. His mission was to preach morality, to awaken the dormant spirit of Judaism, and to keep alive the Messianic hope in the hearts of the people. The maggidim's deliverances were generally lacking in literary merit, and were composed largely of current phrases, old quotations, and Biblical interpretations which were designed merely for temporary effect; therefore none of the sermons which were delivered by them have been preserved.
Maggidism reached a period of high literary activity in the sixteenth century. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 revealed a master maggid in Isaac Abravanel. His homiletic commentary on the Bible became an inexhaustible source of suggestion for future maggidim. In his method of explaining every chapter, preceded by a number of questions, he followed the early maggidim and sophists. His long argumentations in an easy and fluent style were admirably suited to the purposes of a maggid. Moses Alshech, a maggid in Safed, Palestine, preached every Sabbath before large audiences. In his commentaries he followed closely the method of Abravanel. Alshech also became an authority for the maggidim, who quoted him frequently.Relation to Messianism.
The persecutions of the Jews brought forth a number of maggidim who endeavored to excite the Messianic hope as a balm to the troubled and oppressed Jewry. Asher Lemmlein preached in Germany and Austria, announcing the coming of the Messiah in 1502, and found credence everywhere. Solomon Molko preached, without declaring the date of the advent, in both Italy and Turkey, and as a result was burned at the stake in Mantua in 1533. R. Höschel of Cracow (d. 1663) delighted in the elucidation of difficult passages in the midrash known as the "Midrash Peli'ah" (= "wonderful" or "obscure" midrash). H. Ersohn's biography of Höschel, in his "Ḥanukkat ha-Torah" (Pietrkov, 1900), gives a collection of 227 "sayings" gathered from 227 books by various writers, mostly Höschel's pupils. These sayings became current among the maggidim, who repeated them on every occasion. Some maggidim copied his methods and even created a pseudo-Midrash Peli'ah for the purpose of explaining the original ingeniously in the manner initiated by R. Höschel.The "Shebeṭ Musar."
Elijah b. Solomon Abraham of Smyrna, in the beginning of the eighteenth century, published his "Shebeṭ Musar," which he divided into fifty-two chapters, one for each week. This book caused him to be known as the "Terror Maggid"; he preached moral and religious conduct as a safeguard against the terrible punishments of the day of judgment. Dante could not picture the horrors of hell and the punishments awaiting the wicked more minutely than did the author of the "Shebeṭ Musar." It established a new "fire and brimstone" school of maggidim. Judah Rosanes of Constantinople (d. 1727), in his "Parashat Derakim," combined the darshan with the maggid. He adopted a new method of harmonizing the acts of Biblical personages with the legal views of Talmudic scholars. For instance, Pharaoh, in refusing to release Israel from bondage, acted according to the contention of Abaye, while Moses insisted on Israel's release in accordance with the decision of Rabba. This farfetched pilpulism had many followers, some of whom asserted that Ahasuerus concurred in the decision of Maimonides, and that Vashti coincided with the opinion of RaBaD.The "Dubner Maggid."
Jacob Kranz of Dubno, the "Dubner Maggid" (d. 1804), author of "Ohel Ya'aḳob," adopted the Midrash's method of explaining by parables and the incidents of daily life, such as the relations between the man of the city and the "yeshubnik" (village man), between the bride, the bridegroom, and the "meḥuttanim" (contracting parents), and compared their relations to those between Israel and
The most celebrated maggid during the nineteenth century was Moses Isaac ben Noah Darshan, the "Kelmer Maggid" (b. 1828; d. 1900, in Lida). He was among the "terror" maggidim of the "Shebeṭ Musar" school and preached to crowdedsynagogues for over fifty years in almost every city of Russian Poland. Another prominent maggid was Ḥayyim Ẓedeḳ, known as the "Rumsheshker" (Gersoni, "Sketches of Jewish Life and History," pp. 62-74, New York, 1873). The "philosophical" maggid is one who preaches from Arama's "Aḳedat" and Baḥya's "Ḥobot ha-Lebabot." Enoch Sundl Luria, the author of "Kenaf Renanim," on "Pirḳe Shirah" (Krotoschin, 1842), was a noted philosophical maggid.
Meïr Leibush Malbim (d. 1880), in his voluminous commentaries on the Bible, followed to some extent Abravanel and Alshech, and his conclusions are pointed and logical. Malbim's commentaries are considered to offer the best material for the use of maggidim.
From the "terror," or "Musar," maggid developed the "penitential" maggid, who, especially during the month of Elul and the ten days of penitence between New-Year's Day and Yom Kippur, urged the wicked to repent of their sins and seek God's forgiveness. Jacob Joseph, chief rabbi of the Russian Jews in New York (d. 1902), formerly maggid of Wilna, was one of these. In the middle of his preaching he would pause to recite with the people the "Shema'," the "Ḳolenu," and the "Ashamnu," raising the audience to a high pitch of religious emotion. The maggid usually ends his preaching with the words. "u-ba le-Ẓiyyon goel," etc. (a redeemer shall come to Zion speedily in our days; let us say "Amen"). Some of the wandering maggidim act also as meshullaḥim. The yeshibot in Russia and the charitable institutions of Jerusalem, especially the Wa'ad ha-Kelali, send abroad meshullaḥ-maggidim. The resident maggid who preaches at different synagogues in one city is called the "Stadt Maggid," as in Wilna and other large cities in Russia. The modern, or "maskil," maggid is called "Volksredner" (people's orator), and closely follows the German "Prediger" in his method of preaching. ẓebi Hirsch Dainow (d. 1877) was the first of the modern type of maggid, which soon developed into that of the "national," or "Zionistic," maggid. Hirsch Masliansky and Joseph Zeff, both of New York, are representatives of the latter class. See Homiletics.
- G. Deutsch, The Decline of the Pulpit, in American Hebrew, 1899, No. 17;
- Dor Dor u-Darshanim, in Ha-Yom, 1887, No. 213.