Steve Klaper: Cantor. Maggid. Storyteller. Troubadour. Teacher


What is a MAGGID?

Maggid (mah-geed) is the traditional title for a Jewish inspirational speaker or preacher. A maggid (from the Hebrew word, yagid, to tell) is not merely a storyteller, but fills a religious role: to draw people closer to God. Storytelling is only one way to accomplish the maggid’s goal: inspirational speaking, preaching, leading Torah study, and even one-on-one conversations are other means to the same end. So is filling a room with holy melodies.

Maggidim (plural of maggid) were first established during the sixth to eleventh centuries, C.E. Back then, rabbis were teachers and judges for the Jewish community, and the maggidim were itinerant preachers. The rabbis focused mainly on deciding religious law and officiating at life-cycle events — they gave sermons only twice a year: on Shabbat HaGadol (before Passover) and Shabbat Shuvah (before the Day of Atonement). The teachers who aroused the people to renewed devotion and fervor were the maggidim; it was they who gave the sermons, who told the parables and stories. Some of them preached fire and repentance; others were sweet as could be.

Now, under the general rubric of neo-hasidism, programs to train and offer s’micha (ordination) as a maggid are being offered in the United States. Most maggidim carry on in the tradition of traveling inspirational speakers, but many also function as pastoral counselors, and some as leaders of congregations.