Kranz, Jacob ben Wolf

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KRANZ, JACOB BEN WOLF

KRANZ, JACOB BEN WOLF (known as the Maggid of Dubno ; 1741–1804), preacher. Born in Zietil, in the province of Vilna, Kranz demonstrated his homiletical skill at an early age and was known as preacher to his fellow yeshivah students especially in Mezhirech, where he received his halakhic, and probably his kabbalistic, education. He was barely 20 years old when he became *Darshan in his city. From there he wandered through several other cities, holding the post of preacher in Zilkiew, Wlodawa near Lublin, Kalisz, and Zamosc. But he achieved his fame as preacher in Dubno, where he served for 18 years. As his reputation spread, he came into contact with some of the most prominent rabbis of his time, such as *Elijah b. Solomon Zalman (the Gaon of Vilna). It is told that when Elijah was too ill to study, he asked Kranz to visit his bedside and read him his homiletical interpretations, stories, and parables.

All of Kranz's works were printed posthumously by his son, Isaac, and his pupil, Baer Plahm. His major homiletical work, Ohel Ya'akov ("The Tent of Jacob"), was printed in four parts (Genesis, Yosepov, 1830; Exodus, Zolkiew, 1837; the third and fourth parts in Vienna, 1859–63). In addition, his homilies on the five scrolls, Kol Ya'akov ("The Voice of Jacob"), were printed in Warsaw in 1819. Among his other published homiletical works are an exegesis of the Passover Haggadah (Zolkiew, 1836) and a collection of homilies called Haftarot (Warsaw, 1872).

Baer Plahm edited Kranz's Sefer ha-Middot ("The Book of Ethics," Vilna, 1860), a work consciously modeled after the 11th-century Ḥovot ha-Levavot by Baḥya ibn Paquda. In describing the attitude required of the Jew in his spiritual relationship with God, as well as the observances required in his practical relationship, Kranz discusses such subjects as the fear of God, love of God, knowledge of God, and prayer.

Although he made use of the vast treasure of Jewish ethical, homiletical, halakhic, and kabbalistic material, Kranz succeeded in composing homilies which the Jewish layman could readily understand. The inclusion of many parables, fables, stories, and epigrams captivated the hearts of less scholarly listeners. Yet the homilies are not simplistic, but represent the highest achievement of Hebrew homiletical art at that time. That Kranz integrated folkloristic material into his homilies without vulgarizing them was a significant achievement. His parables were culled from his works and printed separately as Mishlei Ya'akov ("The Parables of Jacob," Cracow, 1886). However, taken out of their homiletical context, the parables lose most of their artistic effect.

bibliography:

H.A. Glatt, He Spoke in Parables (1957); I. Bettan, in: huca, 23 (1950–51), pt. 2, 267–93; A.B. Plahm, introduction to: I. Kranz, Sefer ha-Middot (1860); I. Avigur, in: Yahadut Lita (1960), 346–52; J.L. Maimon, Sefer ha-Gra (1954), 160–75; Zinberg, Sifrut, 3 (1957), 299–303.