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 (spiritual supervisor) of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, and as a teacher in Beis Yaakov.
August 28, 1908
|Died||April 20, 2001 (aged 92)|
|Alma mater||Yeshivas Knesses Yisrael (Slabodka)|
|Synagogue||Bais Yisroel of Rugby Torah Center|
|Yeshiva||Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin|
|Buried||Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, Israel|
|Semicha||Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary|
Life and careerEdit
Avigdor Miller was born Victor Miller in Baltimore, Maryland. Miller was a kohen. 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 Avrohom Eliyahu Axelrod, a Lubavitcher Hasid. The Talmud Torah was unable to pay Axelrod, but he continued to teach Miller anyway. Miller would never forget that Axelrod continued to teach him without being paid, and spoke about him with appreciation.[verification needed]
At age 14, Miller went to New York City to attend Yeshivas Rabbenu Yitzchok Elchonon, the only high school offering high-level Jewish learning at the time. After this he enrolled in Yeshiva College. He was elected student body president, and was also the baal korei (Torah reader). He graduated from both Yeshiva University (YU) and Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), attaining a B.A. and rabbinical ordination, respectively. Moshe Bick, known as the Mezubizher Rav, who arrived in the United States in 1927, was one of Miller's early study partners.
While a student at YU, Miller joined a chavurah (study group) together with a few other young men to study Mussar from the sefer Mesillas Yesharim. The organizer of the chavurah, which met clandestinely in Miller's dormitory room, was Yaakov Yosef Herman, a builder of Orthodox Judaism in New York City of the early 20th-century. Some of the men in this group, which included Nosson Meir Wachtfogel, Yehuda Davis and Mordechai Gifter, would go on to become notable Haredi rabbis in their own right.
Herman encouraged Miller to travel to Europe to learn Torah in the yeshivas there. Miller met Isaac Sher, the son-in-law of 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.
In 1932, at the age of 24, Miller arrived in Europe to study at the Slabodka yeshiva in Slabodke, Lithuania, where he was greeted personally by Avraham Grodzinski, the mashgiach ruchani (spiritual supervisor). While there, he studied under Sher. As a student in Slabodka, Miller was so diligent in his studies that he wore out his shirtsleeves over the lectern he was using. He was compelled to wear a coat during the summer, in order to conceal the multitude of overlapping patches that were his trousers.
Rabbi Shulman of Slabodka, a son-in-law of Sher, introduced Miller to Ettel Lessin, daughter of Yaakov Moshe HaCohen Lessin of Slabodka (later mashgiach in RIETS). 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 Sher, whom he considered his primary rabbi.
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 sons. 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. 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. Miller received special dispensation to refrain from sending his young sons to public school. Instead, he had them tutored privately in secular subjects, and taught them Jewish studies himself. His sons still needed to appear at the public school twice a year for testing. This arrangement seemed to Miller to not be ideal, so he began to look for a community with a stronger Jewish presence.
Brooklyn, New YorkEdit
In 1944, Yitzchok Hutner, rosh yeshiva (dean) of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, hired Miller to become its mashgiach ruchani, in which position he served until 1964. In 1945, he 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.
Death and burialEdit
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 April 20, 2001.
At a memorial service the following Sunday, Miller was eulogized by Yosef Rosenblum, the rosh yeshiva of Beth Hamedrash Shaarei Yosher; Shmuel Berenbaum, rosh yeshiva of Mir yeshiva; Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, rosh yeshiva of Torah Ore, who was in America on a visit from Jerusalem; and Miller's son-in-law, Shmuel Brog. Miller's body was transported to Israel, where a funeral was held at the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem. He was eulogized by Noson Tzvi Finkel (the Mirrer rosh yeshiva), Moishe Sternbuch and others. Matisyohu Salomon was in Israel at the time, and he also delivered a eulogy. Miller was buried in the chelkat Tashach section of the Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery in Jerusalem.
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. 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.
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.||”|
Miller's books include:
|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|
- Levine, Yitzchok. "Correspondence from a Gadol-in-the-Making" (PDF). The Jewish Observer (January/February 2006). p. 48.
- Rav Avigdor Miller: The Later Years Archived May 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- Samsonowitz, M. "The Rov Who Turned Baalebatim Into Bnei Yeshiva". chareidi.org. Dei'ah VeDibur. Retrieved September 15, 2019.
- Levine, Yitzchok. "The Walnut Street Shul" (PDF). Hamodia Magazine (8/20/2004). pp. 10–11.
- 27 Nisan 5761
- on YouTube.
- Awake My Glory (Brooklyn, 1980), p. 146.
- Rav Avigdor Miller on the Jewish Action Ruining the Jewish People