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

Rabbi Miller's Books

Biography

Rabbi Miller 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 chassid. The Talmud Torah was unable to pay the gentleman. Rabbi Miller never forgot that this rabbi continued to teach him without being paid and spoke about him with warmth and gratitude. Despite this difficult arrangement, he became one of the Torah giants of his time.

Yeshiva University

At age 17, Rabbi 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 chavura together with five other young men (who all later became notable Hareidi rabbis) to study Mussar from the book Mesillas Yesharim under Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman, a pioneer in Orthodox Judaism in America in the early 20th century. Herman encouraged Rabbi Miller to travel to Europe to learn Torah in the prestigious 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 such a bright student to Slabodka.

Slabodka yeshiva

In 1932, at the age of 24, Rabbi Miller arrived in Europe to study at the famous 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 all 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

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

Upon his return, he became the rabbi of a synagogue in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Initially, the community was taken aback by Rabbi Miller's audacious and intense volume of Torah presentations, attempting to restrain his unconventional approach. However, within a few years the community had radically changed their minds, and indeed besought Rabbi Miller to stay longer.

Mesivta Chaim Berlin

In 1944, Rabbi Yitzchok Hutner, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, persuaded Rabbi 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 City. In 1975, with neighborhood demographics changing, Rabbi 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 passing.

Yeshiva Gedola Bais Yisroel

In 1986, Rabbi Shmuel Miller, Rabbi Avigdor's son, opened Yeshiva Gedola Bais Yisroel in Flatbush, where his father served as mashgiach and rosh yeshiva. He was also a revered and honored lecturer at many yeshivas and Beis Yaakov schools throughout the years, cherished by his students.

Character and personality

Rabbi Miller was a master orator, having superb command of the English language. His personal magnetism drew students, young and old, from all Jewish backgrounds.

He also trained himself to demand very little physically. For more than sixty years, he slept on a board. As a student in Slabodka, he wore a coat during the summer to conceal the multitude of overlapping patches that were his trousers.

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.

Over a span of 50 years, more than 2,500 lectures by Rabbi Miller in English were published as tape cassettes, as well as several in Yiddish. He gave most of his lectures in his modest synagogue in Flatbush, dealing with Torah education and self-help, of which several hundred thousand copies were sold. His tapes remain available for purchase through the yeshiva he established, and at many Jewish book stores, and can be found in many Jewish tape libraries. Rabbi Miller was also the author of several books about Jewish history, Jewish thought, Evolutionary Theory, and other subjects. His tapes remain very popular after his death.

Rabbi Miller was also a staunch opponent of Zionism, in both its religious and secular forms. He was also an opponent of the Theory of Evolution.

He was also known for his uncompromising approach to other streams of Judaism.

To Rabbi Miller, time was very precious and he would always be careful never to waste it. In the 1980s, he told Dr. Yitzchak Levine that he wanted to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe and ask about his schedule; he wanted to know whether or not he should continue giving shiurim as they took away previous time from his learning. However when he learned that the appointments with the Rebbe were typically late at night, he canceled to prevent further disruption of his strict schedule.

Controversy

Rabbi Miller has also trivialized domestic abuse. In Career of Happiness he wrote that if a man slapped his wife, while he shouldn't do so, he should just buy her a diamond. He doesn't even have to say anything, she will usually accept it.

In Career of Happiness he advocates beating children in order to properly discipline them.

Quotes

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

Awareness of creation's good

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

Death

Rabbi 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.

Funeral and burial in Israel

At a memorial service the following Sunday, Rabbi 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 and his son Rabbi Shmuel also delivered eulogies.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim Cohen, a grandson-in-law of Rabbi Miller, noted that Rabbi Miller's descendants married into the esteemed families of Torah scholars such as Rabbi Shmuel Ehrenfeld, the Mattersdorfer Rav (& Rabbi 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.

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 Millerís first days as mashgiach at Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin.

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

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