Rabbi Yaakov Kranz (1741–1804), the Maggid (Preacher) of Dubno, was known for his ability to make almost any point by way of a parable.

In fact, he famously explained his ability to do so by utilizing (what else?) a parable:

A man was once walking in the woods when he noticed that many trees had targets drawn on them, each with an arrow planted firmly in its center. Impressed by the marksmanship of whoever had shot these arrows, he was delighted to meet a fellow with a quiver of arrows over his shoulder. “Tell me,” he inquired, “how did you manage to shoot so many perfect bull’s-eyes? What’s your secret?”

“It’s very simple,” the marksman replied with a shrug. “First I shoot the arrow, then I draw the target.”

In the same way, the Maggid explained, “First I decide what point I want to make, then I craft the story around it.”

In honor of the anniversary of his passing on Tevet 17, we present you a collection of his parables and a brief retelling of the lessons he extracted from them:1

1. Shabbat Watch

A businessman once came home from a trip with a gift for his son, a brand-new watch. The father hoped that the timepiece would be a source of joy and pleasure for the boy, a reminder of his father’s love.

However, the young boy fiddled with the watch incessantly, adjusting it this way and that, and the watch soon broke. Instead of bringing the boy happiness, and introducing order into his life, the watch now caused him disappointment and angst, to the point that he began to blame his father for his frustration.

“My dear son,” said the father, “is this what I had in mind when I brought you this special gift? No! I wished only for you to use it correctly and enjoy its benefits!”

In the same way, the Maggid explained, G‑d gives us a special gift called Shabbat, a source of rejuvenation, rest and pleasure—provided that we use it wisely.2

If, however, we attempt to fiddle with Shabbat and use the day for all kinds of inappropriate activities, we soon find ourselves frustrated by the many restrictions that the day brings.

2. The Long Night

A king once had a most trusted and beloved minister, who served him faithfully for many years. In time, his success and favor provoked jealousy from his fellow ministers, who slandered him to the king. Suspecting that there was truth to the ministers’ words, the king ordered that the man be cast into a deep dungeon.

And so it was that in the middle of the night, the minister was yanked out of his bed and taken away by armed guards. Distraught, he begged them to tell him why he was being taken away, but they could not answer because they themselves did not know.

Shortly after he was locked in his dark, quiet cell, the minister grew weary and fell into a deep sleep. Upon awakening at dawn, he forgot about the events that transpired the night before. However, seeing that there was no light at all in the cell, he figured it was still nighttime and went back to sleep. He soon awoke once again, and still not seeing any hint of daylight, went back to sleep, wondering why the night seemed to stretch on for so long.

Meanwhile, the king wondered what was happening to his erstwhile minister and went down to his cell. Standing behind the locked door, he heard the man crying to himself. “Oh, how long is this terrible night! Will day ever come, so that I can leave my bed?”

“Oh, you poor fool,” said the king. “You think you are still in your comfortable mansion and that this night is never-ending. Don’t you realize that the sun has risen and set several times, but you can’t see it because you’re in a dungeon? All you need to do is call out to me, and I will hear your plea!”

In the same way, we, the Jewish people, are the king's favored minister. When we were still at home, settled in the Holy Land with our Holy Temple, there were times of darkness and light. When we did G‑d’s bidding, things were good. And when we needed to be corrected, there would be darkness: the prophets would chide us, the Yom Kippur thread would remain scarlet, or we would get the message in other ways.

But alas, due to our sins against the King, we have been cast into a place of perpetual darkness, where we never see the light shining in times of G‑d’s favor.

As we lay inert, bemoaning our fate, G‑d chides us, “The daylight is already shining. All you need to do is ask Me to see it.”3

3. The Rich Guarantor

In an effort to secure a loan, an aspiring businessman came to a moneylender with two guarantors: a well-known magnate and an honest, but penniless, individual. He assured the lender that if he would default, the loan could be collected from either of the two fellows.

So who should the lender approach if the borrower were to default?

If the lender were wise, he would ignore the pauper and go after the rich man. Not only would the poor man not be able to pay the loan, but going after him could hurt his prospects should he later try to approach the rich man. After all, seeing that the lender was attempting to collect the loan from the poor man, the rich man might say to himself, “Since he is looking to collect from him, this has nothing to do with me.”

Whenever one of us lends money to a poor friend, there are two people from whom we can attempt to collect: the borrower or G‑d, his wealthy guarantor. When we place our trust in humans alone and harass the poor man for money he does not have, we diminish our prospects of getting repaid by G‑d, who holds the keys to fortune in His hand.

However, when we act kindly to our poor debtors, recognizing that fortune comes from G‑d, and He is the one to whom we should turn, He will surely reward us richly.4

4. The Foolish Pauper

A pauper once trudged along a country road, carrying a bundle of his worldly belongings on his back. As the beggar began to tire, a speck of dust appeared in the distance. To his delight, he was soon overtaken by a rich carriage that belonged to a local quire.

“Hop on board,” called the nobleman generously, “and rest your feet until we get to town.”

A few minutes later, the nobleman turned around and saw the beggar sitting with his bundle balanced precariously on his sagging shoulders.

“My dear man,” he asked with a hint of concern, “why don’t you put down your sack and rest up? There is plenty of space . . .”

“Oh kind sir,” came the reply, “it is generous enough of you to give me a ride. I would not trouble your horses, who are surely overtaxed, to carry my poor belongings as well.”

“Silly man,” said the magnate, “don’t you realize that even if you put the pack on your shoulders, it is still being carried by my carriage?”

At times we are like the poor beggar, foolishly carrying our worries and cares on our own shoulders, stubbornly believing that we are actually making a difference.

If we take a moment to recognize that G‑d constantly “carries” the entire world, including our cares and concerns, we can relax our shoulders, confident and secure in our faith.5

5. The Delicate Patient and The Wise Doctor

A young boy once lay feverishly ill. The doctor prescribed vomit-inducing herbs and ordered that the boy be made to expel no less than 10 times.

“Please, doctor,” pleaded the boy’s father. “My son is very delicate, and if he takes even one or two of those herbs, I am sure he will be overcome.”

“I know, I know, after all, I am the doctor,” replied the physician. “But if you do not follow my instructions, the boy will soon die. Quick, get me a quill and paper, and I will write down the herbs and spices that I require. “

The father watched with horror as the doctor filled the page with a fine script, but he had no choice but to dispatch a messenger to the market to bring back the prescribed drugs.

When the messenger returned, laden with bundles, packets and bottles, the doctor asked that a table be brought to the sickroom, upon which he would prepare the remedies.

As the doctor began to cut and grind the pungent drugs, their strong odors entered the boy’s nostrils, and he was nauseated to the point of vomiting, once, twice and again. Undeterred, the doctor continued to work with the herbs, until the boy had expelled 10 times, just as the doctor had wished, and was soon on his way to restored health.

“Now you understand,” said the doctor. “I never expected the boy to ingest these medications, for I knew that he could not stomach them. Furthermore, if I actually wanted him to ingest the medications, I would have never ordered so many. Verily, just one or two would have sufficed. Rather, I intended for their odor to cause him to vomit, and for that I needed many herbs.”

This explains the long litany of horrible punishments the Torah describes to us as awaiting those who disregard G‑d’s commands. Why so many? Not because He intends to administer them all, for surely one our two would have sufficed. Rather, He hopes that when we read the many ways that a person may suffer for his or her sins, their very “odor” will be enough to inspire us to expel the evil from our midst and mend our ways.6

6. Overused Advice

Reuben once borrowed money from Shimon, but had no money with which to repay him. Desperate for a reprieve, he asked his good friend Levi for advice.

“Listen here, dear brother,” replied Levi with a wink. “Next time he comes to you, begin to whistle, shriek and prance about like a man who has lost his mind, and he’ll leave you alone, despairing of ever getting back his money from a person who has clearly become crazy.”

Reuben took Levi’s advice to heart, and it worked like a charm. After seeing Reuben’s antics, Shimon left him alone, writing the loan off as a loss.

Time passed, and Reuben borrowed money from Levi as well. When it came time to collect payment, Levi was dismayed to see Reuben roaring with laughter and speaking nonsense.

“Don’t pull my own trick on me,” said Levi. “I was the one who gave you the idea, after all.”

In the same way, there are times when the troubles of life attempt to extract a terrible toll from us, torturing us with memories of departed loved ones and lost opportunities, as well as visions of what may go wrong.

G‑d gives us a wonderful antidote called forgetfulness. In time, even the sharpest pain is dulled and the most vivid premonitions fade away. Yet, we are cautioned never to allow this forgetfulness to cause us to become lax in our observance of Torah or prevent us from serving G‑d. After all, He was the one who gave it to us in the first place.7

7. The Kind Benefactor

There were once two dear friends, one wealthy and one destitute. In order to help his poor friend, the rich man lent him some money and then advised him to purchase merchandise and sell it to specific merchants who were sure to give him a good price.

Unbeknownst to the poor man, his rich friend had contacted all the merchants and asked them to give his friend a good price, all so that he could turn a handsome profit without knowing that he was receiving a handout.

And so it was.

Flush with success, the grateful man came to his friend to repay his loan. “You know,” he said thoughtfully, “I never knew that business was so easy. Everyone was so eager to take my wares, and they were so generous with their payments!”

“You’re right,” his friend replied, without giving away his secret. “I would have never expected it either. How fortunate you are.”

G‑d is our rich friend, determined to help us as we battle with temptation. And so He stands at our side and helps us overcome the hurdles of life. Yet, even though our success is all due to His largesse, He generously rewards us for our efforts, attributing it to our faith and grit.8