To many, it appeared that the Maggid of Dubno invented his wonderful parables on the spot, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. In fact, the Maggid worked very hard to find the right parable and apply it to the appropriate message. The following story gives us insight into the creative process involved:
A fellow rabbi once stopped the Maggid. “I listened to your lecture and enjoyed it immensely. You certainly deserve the honor and respect that you receive. But I have a question. We both base our sermons on the same Torah; we both expound on verses from the Torah and statements of the Talmudic sages. We should both expect to receive the same recognition for our efforts. Yet while your talks are greeted with much appreciation, I receive little thanks for my efforts. Why am I so unfortunate?”
The Maggid thought for a moment, and responded, "With all due respect to you, as well as the honor of the Torah, let me compare the two of us to a pair of thieves, each of whom stole a pair of shoes.
“Each pair was worth the same amount – thirty dollars. The first thief immediately re-sold his pair, and got ten dollars for them. He did not make much profit.
“But the second thief had a different method. He took the shoes home and went to work. He opened up all the seams, re-designed the shoes and re-finished them according to his own concept of style and beauty. When he was done, he polished the shoes until they gleamed. When he went to sell them, he asked for fifty dollars – and that's what he got."
The Maggid then explained:
“The same is true of our work. We both took precious merchandise from the same source. But our returns are a function of how much work we put into fashioning that merchandise. The Sages taught, ‘The reward is commensurate with the effort’ (Avot 5:26). The praise and honor we receive for our efforts is in proportion to the time and effort we spent skillfully interpreting the wisdom we have taken from the Torah and preparing our lectures.”
(Adapted from The Maggid and his Parables, pp. 271-272)