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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.