Avigdor Miller

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Avigdor HaKohen Miller
Born Victor Miller[1]
(1908-08-28)August 28, 1908
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
Died April 20, 2001(2001-04-20) (aged 92)
Brooklyn, New York, USA
Resting place
Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
Nationality American
Occupation Rabbi
Religion Judaism (Haredi)
Spouse(s) Ettel Miller

Rabbi Avigdor HaKohen Miller (August 28, 1908 – April 20, 2001) was a rabbi, author and lecturer in the United States. He served simultaneously as a communal rabbi, as the mashgiach ruchani ("spiritual advisor/supervisor") of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin and as a teacher in Beis Yaakov.

Biography[edit]

Miller, a kohen by birth, was born in 1908 in Baltimore. He attended public school and went to an afternoon Talmud Torah. Once he had completed the regular Talmud Torah classes, the school arranged for him to learn privately with a Lubavitcher hasid. The Talmud Torah was unable to pay the teacher. Miller never forgot that this rabbi continued to teach him without being paid and spoke about him with appreciation.[2]

Yeshiva University[edit]

At age 17, Miller went to New York and attended and graduated from Yeshiva College and RIETS, attaining a B.A. and rabbinical ordination, respectively.

He was elected the student body president at the time, and was also the baal korei.

Rabbi Moshe Bick, known as the Mezubizher Rav, who arrived in the United States in 1927, was one of Rabbi Miller's early study partners.

At that time in YU, he joined a chavurah together with five other young men (who all later became notable Hareidi rabbis) to study Mussar from the book Mesillas Yesharim under Yaakov Yosef Herman, a builder of Torah Judaism in New York City in the early 20th century. Herman encouraged Rabbi Miller to travel to Europe to learn Torah in the yeshivas there. Rabbi Miller met Rabbi Isaac Sher, the son-in-law of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, who was in New York to collect funds for the Slabodka yeshiva. Although it was during the Depression and he did not raise much money, he later declared this trip to America his most successful, since he was able to recruit and bring a bright student to Slabodka.[citation needed]

Slabodka yeshiva[edit]

In 1932, at the age of 24, Miller arrived in Europe to study at the Slabodka yeshiva in Lithuania. There, he studied under Rabbi Sher. While he was in yeshiva, Rabbi Shulman of Slabodka, son-in-law of Sher, introduced Rabbi Miller to Ettel Lessin, daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Lessin of Slabodka. The two married in 1935.

In the prefaces for all his books and on many of his tapes, he says that everything that is un-sourced should be considered the teachings of Rabbi Isaac Sher, who was his primary rabbi.

Chelsea, Massachusetts[edit]

In 1938, due to the rise of Nazism and the tensions leading up to World War II, Miller sought to return to the United States with his wife and two children. The American consul in Kovno at the time was a Baltimore acquaintance of Miller's, a public high-school classmate, who arranged passage for his wife and children who had not been born in the United States.

Upon his return, he became rabbi of Congregation Agudath Shalom in Chelsea, Massachusetts.[3] Initially, the community was taken aback by Miller's audacious and intense volume of Torah presentations, attempting to restrain his unconventional approach. However, within a few years the community had changed their minds, desiring Miller to stay longer.[citation needed]

Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin[edit]

In 1944, Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, hired Miller to become its mashgiach ruchani, in which position he served until 1964. In 1945, he also assumed the pulpit of the Young Israel of Rugby in Brooklyn, New York. In 1975, with neighborhood demographics changing, Miller established the Bais Yisroel of Rugby Torah Center on Ocean Parkway in Flatbush, which served as his main vehicle of Torah dissemination until his death.

Bais Yaakov[edit]

Miller also lectured at many yeshivas and Beis Yaakov schools throughout the years.

Character and personality[edit]

Miller was known within Orthodox circles as a master orator, having superb command of the English language. His personal magnetism drew students, young and old, from all Jewish backgrounds.[citation needed]

As a student in Slabodka, he wore a coat during the summer to conceal the multitude of overlapping patches that were his trousers.[citation needed]

Though having attended public school at a time when there were no formal yeshivas in Baltimore, he only spoke Yiddish at home, never speaking in English to his family.[citation needed]

Over a span of 50 years, more than 2,500 lectures by Miller in English were published as tape cassettes, as well as several in Yiddish. He gave most of his lectures in his synagogue in Flatbush, dealing with Torah education and self-help, of which several hundred thousand copies were sold. His tapes remain available for purchase at many Jewish book stores, and can be found in many Jewish tape libraries. Additionally, a whole series of books were formed by his prized students from these lectures called "Q&A Thursday Nights With Rabbi Miller." Miller was also the author of several books about Jewish history, Jewish thought, Evolutionary Theory, and other subjects.

Miller was outspoken in his belief that the Holocaust was a divine response to Jewish cultural assimilation in Europe. He wrote:

Hitler was not only sent by Heaven, but was sent as a kindness from Heaven . . . Because assimilation and intermarriage are worse than death . . . and the German Jews and others ignored the Torah-teachers and refused to desist from their mad race into assimilation, the Nazis were sent to prevent them and rescue them before they were swallowed up by the nations.[4]

Miller was a staunch opponent of Zionism, in both its religious and secular forms, and was known to help the Satmar hasidim translate their anti-Zionist ads in The New York Times[citation needed]. He was also a well known opponent of the Theory of Evolution, based on his uncompromising approach of Torah-True Judaism.

Quotes[edit]

Miller has been noted for his ability to summarize ideas into easily digestible soundbites. He once said, "Learning Musar teaches one how to live, but learning Bava Kamma is living."

“Hitler was not only sent by Heaven, but was sent as a kindness from Heaven. Because assimilation and intermarriage are worse than death.”[5]

Awareness of creation's good[edit]

His foundation and biggest principle in this world was to awake his fellow listeners to the plan and purpose of every minute detail of life, and to make them happy and excited about its benefit.[6]

Death[edit]

Miller was taken to Maimonides Medical Center shortly after Passover, 2001. Though his physical health was deteriorating, his mental acuity remained intact until his death on Friday morning, April 20, 2001.[7]

Funeral and burial in Israel[edit]

At a memorial service the following Sunday, Miller was eulogized by Rabbi Yosef Rosenblum, the rosh yeshiva of Beth Hamedrash Shaarei Yosher, Rabbi Shmuel Berenbaum, rosh yeshiva of Mir yeshiva and Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, rosh yeshiva of Torah Ore, who was in America on a visit from Jerusalem. Rabbi Miller's son-in-law, Rabbi Shmuel Brog.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, a grandson-in-law of Miller, noted that Miller's descendants married into the esteemed families of Torah scholars such as Rabbi Shmuel Ehrenfeld, the Mattersdorfer Rav (& Cohen's grandfather); Rabbi Reuven Grozovsky; Rabbi Aaron Kotler and Rabbi Baruch Sorotzkin, rosh yeshiva of Telshe. An estimated 30,000 people attended Rabbi Miller's funeral.[8]

His body was transported to Israel, where a funeral was held at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem with a crowd of 25,000 people in attendance. He was eulogized by Rabbi Noson Tzvi Finkel (the Mirrer rosh yeshiva), Rabbi Moishe Sternbuch and others. Rabbi Matisyohu Salomon was in Israel at the time and he also delivered a moving eulogy. He was buried on the Mount of Olives in chelkat Tashach.

At a later event at the end of the week of mourning, Rabbi Yaakov Perlow, the Novominsker Rebbe, head of Agudath Israel and a pupil, remembered Rabbi Miller’s first days as mashgiach at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin.

After his death, a synagogue, Nitei Avigdor (Hebrew: נטעי אביגדור‎), was founded in Miller's name in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The synagogue includes a library of Miller's tapes. The founder and rabbi of the synagogue is Rabbi Avrohom Shlomo Yabo, known as the Lemberger Rov, who also gives lectures based on Miller's teachings.

Bibliography[edit]

Miller's prolific writings, which have influenced generations of students, include:

Year Title ISBN
1962 Rejoice O Youth! ISBN 1-60796-296-9
1968 Behold A People ASIN B00147BDGI
1971 Torah Nation ASIN B001N1HBJS
1973 Sing You Righteous ASIN B0032CITKG
1980 Awake My Glory ASIN B000HWDAVW
1987 The Beginning ASIN B00279K63I
1991 Exalted People ASIN B0006YP7EE
1991 A Nation is Born ASIN B002BA11DC
1994 A Kingdom of Priests
1995 The Universe Testifies ASIN B0032CJ32O
1996 Ohr Olam" (Hebrew 10 vol.) (adapted from Rabbi Miller's tapes)
1997 Journey into Greatness ASIN B001CDB5DU
2000 Career of Happiness ASIN B0032CDSZM
2001 A Fortunate Nation ASIN B0032C93L0
2002 Lev Avigdor (לב אביגדור)
2003 Praise My Soul ISBN 1-931681-48-1
2003 The Path of Life (Rabbi Y. Denese)
2006 The Making of a Nation Haggadah (Rabbi Betzalel Miller)
2012 Purim with Rabbi Avigdor Miller - צהלה ושמחה
2011 Q&A Thursday nights With Rabbi Avigdor Miller vol. 1
2013 Q&A Thursday nights With Rabbi Avigdor Miller vol. 2
2014 Q&A Thursday nights With Rabbi Avigdor Miller vol. 3

References[edit]

  1. ^ Levine, Yitzchok. "Correspondence from a Gadol-in-the-Making". The Jewish Observer (January/February 2006). p. 48. 
  2. ^ Rav Avigdor Miller: The Later Years[dead link]
  3. ^ Levine, Yitzchok. "The Walnut Street Shul". Hamodia Magazine (8/20/2004). pp. 10–11. 
  4. ^ Awake My Glory (Brooklyn, 1980), p. 146.
  5. ^ http://forward.com/articles/195467/a-visit-to-germany-reawakens-fears-of-an-ultra-ort/?p=3
  6. ^ Montage of him speaking about the Apple on YouTube.
  7. ^ 27 Nisan 5761
  8. ^ "A Giant Departs - The Death of Rav Avigdor Miller, ZT"L". Retrieved 16 January 2006. [dead link]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]