Rav Avigdor Miller zt”l, On His Yahrtzeit, Today, 27 Nissan


rav-millerBy Rabbi Shmuel Brog

The Torah begins with the words “Bereishis bara Elokim – In the beginning G-d created.” Rashi explains the word “Bereishis” to indicate “bishvil reishis for the sake of reishis, G-d created….” He identifies “reishis” as referring to the Torah and to Bnei Yisroel.

The very word “Bereishis,” then, implies that Hashem, who constantly creates the world ex nihilo, is the Author. Hence Torah, known as “reishis darko,” must always be studied with the excitement of one about to begin a journey with G-d. But only the Jewish People are capable of this mission because they alone are called reishis tevuasa – the first crop of grain, whose essence is growth. These three – Hashem, Torah and Bnei Yisrael – are intertwined with the eternal message that the Jewish People must immerse themselves in the Creator’s Torah, the Blueprint of Creation, to forever maintain their identity as the Children of Israel, a people who are constantly beginning afresh.

Walking in the ways of the Creator, Rabbi Avigdor Miller zt’l served His people as a launcher of beginnings par excellence.

I. His Life Story

Mind Over Matter

How did a child born in Baltimore at the turn of the century, when most American Jews felt it impossible to fight the tide of assimilation, grow to such spiritual heights?

An explanation can possibly be gleaned from a comment made by Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz, zt’l, Mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva in Europe. Over seventy years ago, Reb Yerucham said, “The American bachurim who come to learn in Europe are the Rabbi Akiva Eigers of our times.” Rabbi Yerucham surely did not mean that those American students were more accomplished in their studies than their teachers. Before his death, Rabbi Akiva Eiger zt’l had stipulated that he would permit only one of his achievements to be mentioned at his funeral: his demonstration that the delight of Torah can elevate a man beyond the world of affliction. Throughout his life, Rabbi Akiva Eiger was beset with severe physical pain. Yet his complete immersion in Torah engendered a kedusha that enabled him to overcome his pain.

The material world can threaten Torah in only two ways, either with the threat of pain and destruction or with the lure of wealth and pleasure. Much as Rabbi Akiva Eiger overcame pain, these American bachurim managed to overcome the lure of wealth and pleasure, by leaving the comforts of America to live under the Spartan conditions of the Eastern European yeshivos. This raised them to an exalted level – a level that would later enable them to have a profound influence on thousands of Jews.


Avigdor Miller was born to Yisroel and Hoda Riva Miller in Baltimore, Maryland, on the second day of Rosh Chodesh Ellul, 5668 (August 29, 1908). Shy and reserved as a child, Avigdor displayed a keen interest in learning and a prodigious memory. First he attended his grandfather’s Talmud Torah. When he was a bit older, his father engaged a Gemora teacher for him. During this period he closeted himself for long hours, studying in the local shul.

His love of learning led him to a second galus. At age 17, after graduating high school, he left Baltimore for Yeshivas Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan in New York, the only yeshiva in America at that time with a beis midrash. When he arrived in 1925, he found the yeshiva, located on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, with physical amenities that were far from luxurious. The yeshiva served day-old bread, collected from local bakeries. On Shabbos, the main course often consisted of sardines or hard-boiled eggs. Nevertheless, young Avigdor’s hasmada did not diminish. Having received a scholarship to attend the yeshiva, he became President of the Student Council. His erudition was quickly recognized, and one of his chiddushim (innovative Torah discussions) was in the school journal alongside the Torah insights of Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik zt’l, the Rosh Yeshiva.

While in the Yeshiva, he arranged for bachurim to attend a private shiur (lecture) on the mussar classic Mesillas Yesharim given by Reb Yaakov Yosef Herman zt’l (of All For The Boss fame).

In 1932, Rabbi Izak Sher, zt’l, Rosh Yeshiva of the Slobodka Yeshiva in Lithuania, and son-in-law of the yeshiva’s founder, the Alter of Slabodka (Rabbi Nosson Tzvi Finkel) zt’l, came to America to raise money for the Yeshiva. While in the United States, Rabbi Sher delivered several shmuessen in the Broadway Central Hotel where he was staying. Young Avigdor Miller was impressed with the mussar system he espoused, and felt drawn to Slabodka. He had one problem: he was learning with great diligence, utilizing every spare moment; what more would he accomplish in Slabodka? He consulted Rabbi Yehuda Davis, an old friend of his from Baltimore, who had already been to Slabodka and was going back. He advised him, “What it takes four hours to learn here, you can learn in one hour in Slabodka.” The decision was made.

Rabbi Sher’s visit was during the Depression, and he did not come back with much money for his yeshiva, but he did succeed in returning with goods far more precious: dedicated American bachurim, who would eventually be instrumental in changing the face of American Jewry.

Slabodka Years

Reb Avigdor arrived in Slabodka before Shavuos. In Slabodka, his hasmada (diligence) became even more intense. During the first three hours of the day he wouldn’t talk to anyone, even if they wished to discuss the Gemora. If approached, he would motion “Later” with his hand.

The yeshiva only provided one meal a day. The $10 monthly that his parents sent him went for rent and food, leaving little for clothing. Later, when the dollar was devalued and $10 was worth only $5, he often went hungry. No sacrifice was too big for the sake of enhanced Torah learning.

In 1935, he married Etel Lesin, the daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Moshe Lesin, zt’l, Rav of Neustadt-Zugind, a prize student of the Alter of Slabodka. Rabbi Mordechai Shulman, zt’l, his rebbi‘s son-in-law and later Rosh Yeshiva of Slabodka, was the shadchan, and was later involved in helping him obtain a position in Yeshivas Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin.

In 1938, when the United States Government advised all American citizens to return home because of the imminent war, he was faced with a major problem. His wife had an eye infection, thus ineligible for a visa. Out of desperation, he personally pleaded with the American consul in Kovno, who – to his surprise – came from Baltimore and had attended the same high school as he, albeit at a different time. The consul, feeling an affinity for his fellow Baltimorian, arranged for their visas to be issued. Reb Avigdor used the opportunity to persuade the consul to also issue visas to America for Rabbi and Rebbetzin Shmuel Leib Svei, and their children (including today’s Philadelphia Rosh Hayeshiva).

Rabbi of Chelsea, Mass.

Nine months after his return to Baltimore, he became Rav in Chelsea, Massachusetts. Immediately upon his arrival there, he took two important steps. He paid what was then an exorbitant sum of $100 for the right to say the daily daf, despite the fact that that sum could cover 4 to 5 months’ rental for a four-bedroom apartment in a fashionable neighborhood! He also announced on Shabbos morning that he would personally teach any older child free of charge. Only one person came forward. The next day – accompanied by his mother – was a young man, two years Rabbi Miller’s senior, attired in a bloodstained butcher’s apron. Rabbi Miller began teaching Mr. Kaufman, z’l, who became a dedicated worker on behalf of Klal Yisroel. He was later instrumental in sending a number of Chelsea boys to yeshivos, and ultimately took over the afternoon yeshiva high school that “the Rabbi” had started.

When Rabbi Miller announced his plan to establish an afternoon yeshiva, he encountered great opposition. Permission had been granted for the yeshiva’s checks to be made out to the shul, but once the funds were raised, the shul‘s Board refused to release them. Only after Rabbi Miller appeared before the Board and, with tears in his eyes, begged them to reconsider, did they relinquish the money. Eventually, the force of Rabbi Miller’s conviction and perseverance turned back the tide of opposition. When the yeshiva opened, even those who had initially opposed it welcomed it with a special celebration.

Rabbi Miller soon realized that he could not raise his children in Chelsea. For one year, he had a home tutor for his oldest son. The following year, he sent his son to a day school in Boston, while his oldest daughter attended a public school kindergarten in Chelsea. He did not feel comfortable with these arrangements, so he resigned from his position without having another one. Shortly thereafter, Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner, zt’l, Rosh Hayeshiva of Mesivta Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin, offered him the position of Mashgiach in the yeshiva. Years later, Rabbi Miller would jokingly say, “I thought hard for about thirty seconds – and then said yes.”

Mashgiach and Rav

When Rabbi Miller became the Mashgiach of Mesivta Rabbeinu Chaim Berlin in 1944, Rabbi Hutner proposed that he would say the shiurim while Rabbi Miller would say the shmuessen. Rabbi Miller deferred to the Rosh Yeshiva, and concentrated on seeing that the bachurim were keeping the sedorim (schedule) and learning.

Soon after his arrival in New York, Rabbi Miller also assumed the position of Rav of the Young Israel of Rugby, in East Flatbush. He in fact became Mashgiach and Rebbi, as well, constantly teaching and delivering shiurim. His “sermons” were shmuessen, and he was ready to lend a listening ear and helping hand to all who sought his advice and assistance.

In a few short years, Rabbi Miller had achieved a virtual miracle. He had changed the face of a small shul, with mostly religious Zionist members, at a time when keeping one’s store closed on Shabbos was the sign of a tzaddik, transforming it into a place of serious Torah study with emphasis on personal spiritual growth. Perhaps his unstinting efforts coupled with his supreme bitachon were the catalyst for the vast Siyata Dishmaya he ultimately had in influencing an entire generation.

As Rav, he withstood numerous trials and staunch opposition. The shul‘s first banquet ever was in honor of the president, whose wife was president of the sisterhood. Rabbi Miller stipulated that there be no social dancing – a radical request at that time. The shul agreed. Two weeks before the banquet, however, the president informed Rabbi Miller that his children could not fathom a grand affair without dancing. Rabbi Miller responded firmly, “If there will be dancing, I will not come, and the shul will not sponsor it.” The president, who was then the main financial supporter, left the shul! Hashem sent others to take his place and the shul survived.

The women’s section of the shul was separated from the men’s by a very low mechitza. Rabbi Miller knew that a proposal to raise the mechitza would be defeated. So late one evening, he and the new president raised it themselves. When the deed was discovered, many were upset… some left, but others remained.

Several years later, there was another major incident. One of the prominent members was making an aufruf for his son. After davening, the gabbai welcomed the guests as usual, singling out one of the chassan‘s uncles – president of a Conservative Temple. He only mentioned the Hebrew title of the temple, but Rabbi Miller was not fooled. At the mention of the temple, Rabbi Miller stood up and stated firmly, “This is an Orthodox shul and we cannot mention that name from our bima!”

When the Rav finished, the gabbai, who was then the most prominent member of the shul, smiled, said Gut Shabbos and sat down. For the next few days, Rabbi Miller spent time appeasing the gabbai, explaining that his curt comment on Shabbos had not been a personal affront; rather, K’vod Shamayim required it. The gabbai remained a loyal member of the shul for the rest of his life. His children are all builders of Torah in their communities, and his grandchildren are outstanding talmidei chachamim.

In the 1970’s, due to the decline of the East Flatbush neighborhood, Rabbi Miller moved the shul to Flatbush, where it was called Beis Yisroel. From that small unassuming building (he did not even permit the congregants to put up a sign with the shul‘s name) on Ocean Parkway, he delivered his Torah classes and his masterful lectures that influenced an entire generation.

Reaching Out To Klal Yisroel

Rabbi Miller sincerely loved all Yidden from all walks of life, frum or not-yet-frum, and therefore his influence extended to all – and even more, was accepted by all. People the world over thought of Rabbi Miller as their Rebbi, through his tapes, his books or his speeches.

On a visit to Seattle, a neighbor of the Miller family was among a group of people watching an air show. He noticed an individual who seemed to be new to Yiddishkeit, and greeted the person, exchanging personal information. When he heard that the individual had been a lawyer in Oklahoma, he responded, “I’m also a trial lawyer, but I live in Brooklyn.”

“My rabbi also lives in Brooklyn!” the man exclaimed.

“Really? And who is your rabbi?”

“Rabbi Miller,” was the reply.

The surprised neighbor asked how he got to know Rabbi Miller, to which the fellow responded, “I was a very open-minded person and loved to investigate all kinds of religions. Once an acquaintance gave me one of Rabbi Miller’s tapes. Although I did not understand everything he said, I was fascinated. I could easily tell that those tapes spoke truth. I obtained some more tapes, and finally came to the realization that an Orthodox Jew could not live in Oklahoma, so I moved to Seattle where there is a kollel, and I am able to attend classes.”

This story is not unique. An American-born Jew, Rabbi Miller understood the American psyche and had the uncanny ability of presenting the truth of Yiddishkeit in a manner that appeals to thousands of unaffiliated Jews.

A rebbi in the Yeshiva High School of South Fallsburg NY related that he had a boy in his beginners’ Gemora shiur who had been successfully tested on 26 pages of Gemora. This boy had begun life in North Carolina, and his family had moved to live in an observant community as a result of the influence of Rabbi Miller’s tapes. (His father is an administrator in one of the local hospitals.)

Another Rabbi, from a small town in the Catskills, related the story of a brilliant high school student from Calhoun, New York, whom he had lent a copy of Sing, You Righteous. When the boy came to return the book, he was dressed in Shabbos clothes. “Rabbi,” he said, “this book has changed my entire life.”

He derived such inspiration from the book that, despite having been offered scholarships to the finest universities, he chose to attend Ohr Somayach in Eretz Yisroel, and ultimately considered transferring to the Mirrer Yeshiva.

Then there was the young Sefardi man who became extremely close with the family through Rabbi Miller’s tapes. In fact, Rabbi Miller started a lecture series with ten members of the Sephardic community, eventually having a profound influence on a large number of them.

And the Satmar Chassid who would never miss Rabbi Miller’s Thursday night lecture, despite the fact that he was a shochet (ritual slaughterer) who left his home in Monsey at 4:00 a.m. every morning to travel to work in Vineland, New Jersey. It did not matter to him that the shiur prevented him from getting to sleep before midnight!

Through his books alone, he became Mashgiach to countless bnei Torah throughout the world by discussing – and refuting – secular concepts that were assaulting basic Torah concepts, in a format too open-ended for the standard “beis midrash shmuess.”

He devised a program that was a forerunner of Partners in Torah: The Telephone Torah Program, whereby one individual would learn portions of Chumash and then would repeat them over the telephone to a partner on a weekly basis. After beginning with Parshas Bereishis and Noach, the program was expanded to include Pirkei Avos and Gemora.

His inimitable sense of humor and uncanny way with words enabled Rabbi Miller to give mussar without the recipient feeling as if he had been taken to task.

After one of his Thursday night lectures, when he would answer questions on any subject, a young man asked him, “I am dating a frum girl who is pretty and has fine character traits, but somehow I just don’t feel that we ‘click. ‘”

To this Rabbi Miller responded, “My friend, you have to fix your ‘clicker.'”

On another occasion, Rabbi Miller noticed some bachurim sitting in the Beis Midrash talking rather than learning. With a smile on his face and a gentle, yet determined air, he walked over and said, “What will it be gentlemen, scotch or rye?”


Despite having grown up in America of the early 1900’s, Rabbi Miller came to appreciate the world through the Chovos Halevavos. His knowledge of science helped him expound on the Shaar Habechina to encompass every aspect of life. He had the uncanny ability to derive hashkafa from what would otherwise have seemed to be the most mundane items and occurrences in the world around him.

Rabbi Miller constantly taught us to be thankful for every aspect of life. When it rained, he would encourage people to thank Hashem for the bountiful fruits and vegetables which were, in potential, pouring down from the heavens. He would explain the beauty in countless creations of Hashem, pointing out how their very shape, color, or size was uniquely suited to the purpose of the creation. “If we truly think, Hashem‘s wisdom can be seen everywhere. Simply study the apple, the peach, your eye, your hand, and you will surely find a wisdom that can only be Hashem‘s. For this we must give thanks; that is what life is all about.” He would point out that rather than create a world of black and white, Hakadosh Baruch Hu filled the world with color and beauty to make it more attractive and pleasurable for people.

A grandchild once watched him sit down to eat an apple. Before making the beracha, he examined the apple and exclaimed, “Ribbono Shel Olam, look at this magnificent apple that You created! The wisdom in its waterproof enclosure, the beauty of the deep, tantalizing red color, and the temptingly delicious aroma with which it is perfumed. How can I even begin to thank You for the tree it grew on? And to think that You made it all for me!!”

With that said, he enunciated the beracha clearly and distinctly, as if the Ribbono Shel Olam Himself were sitting there before him.


During the week, one of his grandchildren came to visit and found Rabbi Miller with his face submerged in the kitchen sink. Several moments later, Rabbi Miller lifted his head from the water, took a deep breath and exclaimed, “Ah, how wonderful is the air!”

Puzzled, the child asked him, “Zeide, why did you put your face under water for so long?”

Rabbi Miller responded, “When I was outside, a certain individual came over to me complaining about the polluted air. Not wanting this to affect my appreciation of Hashem‘s air, I had to prove to myself that air is good. And truth to tell, after submerging my head in water and not being able to breathe for a few seconds, there is nothing more wonderful than air!”

He not only derived lessons from the good things in life, he even gleaned positive lessons from adverse situations. A woman once called to complain about her troubled marriage. Rabbi Miller encouraged her saying, “Look at it this way. Every difficult marriage is an opportunity for greatness and ultimate happiness.” Dealing with difficult situations is an opportunity for developing good middos.

After undergoing heart surgery followed by implanting of a pacemaker, he was being wheeled back to his room. At that moment, he told his grandson of “at least” two things that he had just learned. “Please look out the window,” he requested. “Do you see that bridge? [He was pointing to the George Washington Bridge.] Do you have any idea how it was made? No? You should know that just as you cannot fathom how that bridge was made, so too can you not possibly understand the world of my youth. When I was young, I prayed that I should be blessed with at least one frum child! When I passed by my three daughters just now and saw them crying and saying Tehillim, I realized how much kindness Hashem has done with me throughout my life. Yes, my tefillos were accepted and Hashem has blessed me with children and grandchildren who are all Bnei Torah. I was therefore worried that I had used up all of my zechusim. Now that Hashem has sent me some measure of suffering, perhaps I’ll merit some Olam Habba!”

Rabbi Miller assisted his son, Rabbi Shmuel Miller in founding the Yeshiva Gedola Bais Yisroel in 1983, and served as Menahel Ruchani there. He also helped raise the funds for the yeshiva, said shmuessen in Yiddish weekly, and taught Ketzos Hachoshen to a group there once a week.

During this time, Rabbi Miller let it be known that he would be available to deliver a private vaad (discussion group on a mussar topic) once a month if a minimum of ten men would express interest. These sessions convened regularly for the past nineteen years, during which his presentations were transcribed in Hebrew. They are now being prepared for publication.

II. The Makings of a Torah Personality

Living His Lessons

In addition to influencing the world around him through his books, tapes and speeches, Rabbi Miller himself was a living embodiment of all that he taught. He more than taught Chovos Halevavos; he personified its lessons. Everything he suggested, he practiced and adhered to. He constantly strove to improve his middos, and only after implementing his “improvements,” did he recommend them to others. Indeed, the secret to his success was neither his mastery of the English language nor his humor; it was the fact that he practiced what he preached.

In one of his tapes (#706), Rabbi Miller delineates ten steps to greatness that should be practiced every day.

1) Say at least once (in private), “I love you Hashem.”

2) Spend thirty seconds thinking about Olam Habba.

3) At least one time during the day, for example during meal times, acknowledge that your actions are L’Shem Shamayim.

4) When saying the beracha of “Malbish Arumim – He clothes the naked,” spend thirty seconds contemplating the great gift of garments, i.e., pockets, buttons, shoelaces, etc.

5) Spend one minute thinking over yesterday (cheshbon hanefesh).

6) When reciting the words, “If I forget you, Yerushalayim…,” sit down on the floor in privacy, for one second to think about the loss of Yerushalayim.

(The following four relate specifically to bein adam le’chaveiro – interpersonal relations.)

7) Do one act of kindness a day that no one, other than Hashem, knows about.

8) Encourage somebody – thereby imitating Hashem, Who lifts up the humble.

9) Once a day, when looking at another person, think, “I’m seeing a tzellem Elokim.”

10) Just like Hashem‘s image shines on us, SMILE!

* * *

He recommended doing the above exercises for thirty days. “If you feel exhausted, take a break and come back slowly. To become great, you have to be extreme.”

If Rabbi Miller recommended these exercises, it is obvious that he must have perfected them!

Servant of Hashem

Rabbi Miller’s humility was exemplary. He managed to cloak his greatness beneath layers of seeming simplicity. When complimented on his accomplishments, he would shrug off the comment. Once told of an individual in Minneapolis who had been considering suicide until he heard Rabbi Miller’s tapes, he (as always) did not react, giving the impression that he had had nothing to do with it. On another occasion, he was accosted while leaving his Thursday night class by a family from Texas, who thanked him, saying, “We are all religious because of you.” He responded, “Thanks for making an old man happy,” and continued to go up to his apartment.

This attitude can be understood by his comment at one of his vaadim (discussion groups). He said that if a person enjoys being praised for a mitzva, then he did not do it completely l’Shem Shamayim, and the mitzva is therefore less than perfect.

His physical appearance was an outer manifestation of his inner harmony and continual growth. His regal appearance was the epitome of seder (order). His pants were always pressed; his white shirt, black kapotte, and shoes were spotless. He considered himself a servant who lived for his master, and “a servant of a King must appear neat and orderly.”

In his everyday life, he displayed greatness, in the guise of normalcy and reason. For over sixty years he slept on a board, with everyone assuming that it was because of his weak back. His eating was completely for the sake of Heaven, and therefore he only ate and drank what he felt was needed for nourishment. He only drank water, no coffee, tea or soda. When he was young, he enjoyed partaking of a piece of cake, until he decided that it was not necessary. At that point he made a nedder (vow) not to eat cake from Pesach to Succos; he then renewed the nedder from Succos to Pesach, and continued the cycle until he no longer had any interest in cake. He stopped eating meat after returning from Europe in 1938, and he would only eat chicken “koshered” by his wife, until she was no longer able to “kosher” chicken. He would not dream of being stringent if it would burden her.

Not only was his very life dedicated to self-improvement and serving Hashem, he was insistent that he not be beholden to any being other than his Creator. He lived the dictum of “sonei matanos yichye,” and despised gifts of any sort. He never accepted gifts from wealthy members of his shul, nor would he ever ask for a raise in salary. At one point, the shul even asked him to take a cut in salary because of their financial problems, and when they wanted to restore his salary to its previous level, he declined, stating that the shul needed the money more than he did. Even when he performed Rabbinic duties – which often have a fee, such as selling the chometz – he would not take any remuneration. In later years, he refused to sell chometz for people who were not members of his shul, because he did not want to infringe on the livelihood of other rabbis in the neighborhood.

He had iron bitachon that Hashem would give him the livelihood he needed, when he required it. This conviction was proven time and again. After all, he only received a small salary from his shul, and whatever he was supposed to receive from the yeshiva was not always on time or even forthcoming. When marrying off his children, he would promise a certain amount of support, backing it up with a shtar (a written contract). And of course, Hashem never let him down; just when he needed it, the shul raised his salary in the exact amount that he had promised!

When writing and printing his books, he put his faith completely in Hashem. He had no distributors, and personally packaged and mailed each one. And, the books were quickly snapped up and purchased. The same held true for his tapes. Again, by virtue of Hashem‘s will, the tapes too circulated around the world.

It is interesting to note that Rabbi Miller did not find it beneath his dignity or a waste of his precious time to personally cover each book. Rather than delegate the job to his children or others, he chose to do it himself, and considered it an honor. He would say, “Every mother enjoys diapering her babies.”1

Ahavas Yisroel

He exuded a genuine warmth and enthusiasm for all Jews. His love for them was such that when he would meet other Jews, even those whom he did not know, he simply could not refrain from blessing them.

One particular young man from a large Torah family recalls his mother gathering the children every Friday afternoon in order to walk around the corner and get a beracha from Rabbi Miller who passed by at the same time each week.

Once, a woman (whom he knew) was speaking on a public telephone to her recently engaged sister when he passed by. “Rabbi Miller, would you please bless my sister?” With a sincere smile, he took the phone and bestowed his heartfelt blessings on the kalla.

His abundant love for Yidden brought him to bless each house with a mezuza on the door that he encountered in his walks. Similarly, when he passed a yeshiva, he would shower the Roshei Yeshiva, their talmidim and their families with berachos.


From a young age, and throughout his life, Rabbi Miller had a phenomenal memory as well as an almost unnatural ability to sit and learn for hours on end. With this melding of personal strengths, he reviewed Shas constantly. Rabbi Mordechai Weinberg, zt’l, late Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Gedola of Montreal, once commented, “I don’t agree with everything Rabbi Miller says, but it is hard to argue with a man who reviews Shas every year!”

Besides delving into Gemora, he put supreme effort into mastering Tanach and dikduk. His learning and hasmada, when he was but a child in Baltimore, must have been extraordinary because another Baltimorian several years his junior was indelibly influenced by the sight of the older boy learning. He would watch him “rock back and forth with his elbows on the shtender,” and based on this example set by Rabbi Miller, he chose to dedicate his life to learning. That younger boy grew up to be the late, revered Rosh Yeshiva of Telshe, Rabbi Mordechai Gifter zt’l.

Even his five-minute walks to shul were occupied with Torah learning. Once a young man asked permission to accompany Rabbi Miller to shul on Friday night. Rabbi Miller responded, “I have a seder twenty-four hours a day. On my way to shul, I contemplate pesukim of Tehillim. If you wish to listen to my thoughts, you are welcome to join me.”

His petira  brought people from all walks of life to fill his small shul, spilling out, crowding the surrounding streets, to pay their last respects to him. Indeed, the thousands who came to his funeral were living testimony to how much he is missed. And the tens of thousands of people all over the world who continue to listen to his tapes, and read, learn and gain knowledge and direction from his printed word are a testimony to how he is still very much with us.

{The Jewish Observer/Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. During the time that I was attending Yeshiva Gedola – Merkaz HaTorah -Tiferes Mordechai in Montreal, the yeshiva held a Tzaischem L’Shalom – a going away gathering – for one of the Chavrei HaKollel who was going to a teaching position in a community in the Southwest US. In his speech at the event, the rosh yeshiva, who was then Rav Mordechai Weinberg, ZT’L, related the following:

    “I once asked Rav Avigdor Miller: ‘How, did you do it?'”

    [In other words, Rav Miller had worked with a typical American Jewish congregation, which was formed of typical American Jewish people, who were adherents of the typical American Jewish philosophy of the mid-twentieth century. The tenants of this philosophy were: a.) mostly the Reform or Conservative (with, maybe, a little bit of a greatly weakened Orthodox — called “Modern Orthodox”) style of religious observance, b.) a virtual worship of the modern day secular State of Israel, c.) full intergration and assimilation with the non-Jewish American society, and d.) full partaking of the worlds of American sports and entertainment.

    So Rav Miller came into a congregation of people of this mindset; to these people, he openly and bluntly condemned the faith of atheism that is taught by modern science with its Theory of Evolution, he openly and bluntly condemned the wickedness of the modern day secular State of Israel, he openly and bluntly condemned the corruption and decedance of modern secular society and its filthy entertainment world, and he strongly exhorted them to adhere to the highest levels of true Torah observance and to acheive the highest levels of true Torah study.

    Rav Miller was totally successful in all of this. He remained in his position of Rav of the shul for many decades, right up to his recent passing. And the “typical American Jewish” congregants were transformed into true Bnei Torah with true Torah hashkafos!

    So Rav Mordechai Weinberg asked Rav Avigdor Miller: “How, did you do it?”

    So Rav Miller replied to him: “Every time I got up to speak (and was planning to say things that were strongly against the secular anti-religious beliefs of the contemporary secular anti-religious society) I (decided in my mind that I was still going to say those things that had to be said and) was ready for them to throw me out!”

    I myself well remember hearing him once openly admit: “I know that what I say — is not going to be popular!”

  2. While Rav Miller certainly had and exhibited great love of his fellow Jews, he also had and expressed great concern about the welfare of the general population. Countless times in his Thursday night Shiur, he discussed the numerous problems facing contemporary society. He repeatedly lamented the dangerous downward spiral that the modern world is racing in with its throwing away of the Divine values and standards of basic human decency.

    He further stated that we must have great HaKores HaTov – great appreciation – to our country of the United States for its giving us the freedom to be able to fully keep our Torah.

  3. Hmmm… Comment #3 says R. Miller felt we are to show hakaras hatov to the USA for allowing us the freedom to fully keep the Torah. Comment #2 says he openly and bluntly condemned the wickedness of the modern day secular State of Israel.

    Pray tell, in what way is the State of Israel worse than the USA as far as religious freedom is concerned?

  4. “Pray tell, in what way is the State of Israel worse than the USA as far as religious freedom is concerned?”

    In every way. You see how the zionist state oppresses the practice of Judaism. And violently suppresses Torah abiding Jews.

  5. #5 —

    Indeed. And yet we persevere despite the challenging conditions the zionists place upon us.

    Just as we did with living in the anti-semitic countries we lived in previously.