An entertaining new player entered the Jewish blogosphere last Yom Kippur. The Maggid of Bergenfeld combines Torah, humor and mussar and aims to teach the lessons of each parsha and holiday through contemporary stories. I’m sure I’m not the only one who looks forward to each weekly drash. I remember Larry’s slapstick humor and creativity from when we went to college together. We even co-wrote a skit that was performed for the Orthodox Jewish student group. He claims not to remember, but I thought it was pretty good. Here is the Maggid’s own story.
What gave you the idea to start a blog?
I had been reading Dave Bogner’s blog Treppenwitz since he made Aliyah, and I had been writing down stories for my kids on the parsha for the Friday night dinner table. So I got the idea to combine the two. I’m not very computer savvy, but this idea appealed to me. I like the idea of creating a folk tradition for the modern Orthodox. Like how you might read something about the shtetl from I.B. Singer or Shalom Aleichem.
Where does the title of the blog come from?
I live in Teaneck, but I grew up in the small town next door, Bergenfield. It’s more of an ethnically mixed blue collar town. I pictured the fictional Maggid sitting in a small house in my old neighborhood telling stories to kids on Shabbat afternoon. That’s just who the Maggid is.
You took on a big commitment. Do you ever wonder if you will finish? Do you feel under pressure? How did you manage to write eight stories for Chanukah?
Writing the stories is fun. I’m having a blast, and everyone I know seems to get in on the effort. I think it’ll work out fine. They say the storyteller’s black hole is coming up (also known as Vayikra), but I say BRING IT ON!!! The only pressure is maintaining my day job while leaning obsessively over my computer, typing frantically. The eight stories for Chanukah were while my wife was away in Israel with one child for a week, so no one was there to say, “Come to sleep already.” I hope to do something similar for Pesach.
Sounds like a good way to get out of Pesach cleaning, if you can get away with it. Are the stories all new, or did you have some material prepared already?
Some of Bereishit was from the stories for my kids from last year, but only one story per week. I knew it was good if I found it in a corner of my bedroom (hand scrawled) and it made me laugh a year later. Everything else is hot off the presses.
Your wife writes some and your children have contributed too. Tell us more about them and how they are involved.
My wife is a professional writer, so the stories come easily to her. She has a degree in science journalism and writes reading books (nonfiction) for children, among other things. If I’m fleshing out a story, she may suggest something, and then I’ll say, “so write it yourself.” And then it becomes a fun project. My two older kids (Judah, age 10, Abby, age 8) will have an idea, and so I have them put it on paper, and when it goes online, that just makes their day. It’s great for their imagination, and it helps them to approach the Torah from a fresh perspective.
What Jewish bloggers do you read? Any comments about the Jblogosphere?
Treppenwitz, MominIsrael (is that a hat tip?), Muqata, Chayyei Sarah, and my guilty pleasure, Dov Bear. I will wander occasionally among others. My new favorite is DavidontheLake. Fun stuff. Sometimes AskShifra makes me laugh. I think this is a great forum for the dissemination of ideas, although I think it shouldn’t be taken so seriously.
How are your sister- and brother-in-law adjusting to Israel? Any chance you will be joining them?
They’re doing great. They made aliyah this past summer to Mitzpeh Netofa in the Gallil. My sister is in Modi’in. No immediate plans for Aliyah. The Maggid of Netanya? I don’t think so.
What is your profession, and does it influence your writing in any way?
I am a pediatrician. In short, I am a large child. I don’t think that anyone who knows me well would dispute that. And does that help with the stories? Well, to quote the Maggid, “It takes one to know one.”
What will you do when the year is over? Can we look forward to a series on the haftarah?
I would continue with the parsha on some level, but I was thinking about the Siddur. We’ll see.
I suggest that you publish your blog as a book when you are done. Remember to give me credit.
Thanks. I’m very liberal with credit. If you want, we can put your picture on the jacket cover.
Great! Thank you very much for your responses. I invite my readers to check out the Maggid and give him some feedback. Comments welcome here too.
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