Avigdor Miller

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Rabbi Avigdor HaKohen Miller
Position Rabbi
Synagogue Bais Yisroel of Rugby Torah Center
Position Mashgiach ruchani
Yeshiva Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin
Personal details
Birth name Victor Miller[1]
Born (1908-08-28)August 28, 1908
Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Died April 20, 2001(2001-04-20) (aged 92)
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Yahrtzeit 27 Nisan
Buried Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel
Nationality United States
Denomination Haredi Judaism
Spouse Ettel
Alma mater Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael (Slabodka)
Semicha Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary

Avigdor HaKohen Miller (August 28, 1908 – April 20, 2001) was an American Haredi rabbi, author, and lecturer. He served simultaneously as a communal rabbi, mashgiach ruchani of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, and as a teacher in Beis Yaakov.

Life and career[edit]

Avigdor Miller was born Victor Miller in Baltimore, Maryland. Miller was a kohen by birth. Although he attended public school, only Yiddish was spoken at home. After school, he went to learn in an afternoon Talmud Torah. When he finished his regular classes at the Talmud Torah, the school arranged for him to learn privately with a Lubavitcher hasid. The Talmud Torah was unable to pay the teacher, but he continued to teach Miller anyway. Miller would never forget 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 City to attend Yeshiva College. He was elected student body president, and was also the baal korei. He graduated from both YU and RIETS, attaining a B.A. and rabbinical ordination, respectively.

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.

While a student at YU, Miller joined a chavurah together with five other young men (who were all to become notable Hareidi rabbis) to study Mussar from the sefer Mesillas Yesharim. The organizer of the chavurah was Yaakov Yosef Herman, a builder of Orthodox Judaism in New York City of the early 20th-century. Herman encouraged Miller to travel to Europe to learn Torah in the yeshivas there. Miller met Rabbi Isaac Sher, the son-in-law of Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel, who was in New York collecting funds for the Slabodka yeshiva at the time. Sher did not raise much money, since this was during the Great Depression. But Sher would later declare this to be his most successful trip to America, since he was able to recruit and bring such a bright student to Slabodka.[citation needed]

Slabodke, Lithuania[edit]

In 1932, at the age of 24, Miller arrived in Europe to study at the Slabodka yeshiva in Slabodke, Lithuania. While there, he studied under Rabbi Sher. As a student in Slabodka, Miller was compelled to wear a coat during the summer, in order to conceal the multitude of overlapping patches that were his trousers.[citation needed]

Rabbi Shulman of Slabodka, a son-in-law of Sher, introduced Miller to Ettel Lessin, daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Lessin of Slabodka. They were married in 1935.

In the preface to all his books, and on many of his tapes, Miller stated that everything that is un-sourced should be considered the teachings of Rabbi Sher, whom he considered 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 public high-school classmate and acquaintance of Miller's from Baltimore. He arranged passage for Miller's wife and children, who were not United States citizens.

Upon returning to the U.S., Miller became rabbi of Congregation Agudath Shalom in Chelsea, Massachusetts.[3] Initially, the community was taken aback by Miller's audacious pedagogy, and the sheer volume of his Torah presentations, attempting in vain to restrain his unconventional approach. Within a few years however, the community had changed their minds, desiring for Miller to stay longer.[citation needed]

Brooklyn, New York[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 East Flatbush, Brooklyn. In 1975, with neighborhood demographics changing, Miller established the Bais Yisroel of Rugby Torah Center on Ocean Parkway in Midwood, Brooklyn, which served as the main vehicle of his Torah dissemination until his death.

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

Legacy[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]

Miller authored several books about Jewish history, Jewish thought, Evolutionary Theory, and other subjects.

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, of which several hundred thousand copies were sold. He gave most of his lectures in his Midwood synagogue. Topics covered are Torah education, ideology, and self-help. A range of sefarim were compiled by his students from these lectures, called Q&A Thursday Nights With Rabbi Miller.

Miller sought to awaken his audiences to the fundamental principle that there is a plan and purpose to every minute detail of life in this world, and he wished to make them happy and excited about its benefits.[4]

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

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 knowledge of the sciences and the Torah.

At his funeral in Jerusalem, his son said that he had instructed all his descendants to speak only Yiddish with their families.[citation needed]

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."

Death and burial[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]

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; Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, rosh yeshiva of Torah Ore, who was in America on a visit from Jerusalem; and 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]

Miller's 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.

Miller 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/ASIN
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 Rav Avigdor Miller on Emunah and Bitachon (Rabbi Yaakov Astor) ASIN: B008560RXQ
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

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Levine, Yitzchok. "Correspondence from a Gadol-in-the-Making" (PDF). The Jewish Observer (January/February 2006). p. 48. 
  2. ^ Rav Avigdor Miller: The Later Years Archived May 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Levine, Yitzchok. "The Walnut Street Shul" (PDF). Hamodia Magazine (8/20/2004). pp. 10–11. 
  4. ^ Montage of him speaking about the Apple on YouTube.
  5. ^ Awake My Glory (Brooklyn, 1980), p. 146.
  6. ^ http://forward.com/articles/195467/a-visit-to-germany-reawakens-fears-of-an-ultra-ort/?p=3
  7. ^ 27 Nisan 5761
  8. ^ "A Giant Departs - The Death of Rav Avigdor Miller, ZT"L". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved 16 January 2006. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]