Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

15 Sivan 5761 - June 6, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







HaRav Avigdor Miller: The Rov Who Turned Baalebatim Into Bnei Yeshiva

by M. Samsonowitz

Part II

Family Chiding

It was not a simple thing to take away so much time from home and leisure and devote it to the mindbreaking study of Talmud. Each of the men also had parents, brothers and sisters who were rebuking them for neglecting their families.

"My family asked me disapprovingly: `What? Every night you leave your wife alone and go learn? What will she do if she needs to reach you?' " recalls one of the students. When Rav Miller's gemora shiur students helped support their married children in kollel, the family chiding changed to: "What will your son do when he leaves Lakewood?"

The wives, too, were taken somewhat by surprise by the new developments.

Mrs. S. said, "We used to joke that we were `gemora widows' and had been left alone by our husbands. We didn't have the life we had before our husbands started to study. But we were pleased too because R. Miller explained to us what a wonderful thing it is to have our husbands learn. Not only would we get 50% of their reward, but they were learning lesheim Shomayim, which was a very great mitzva. We were proud of our husbands.

"And at the shul's banquet which we held every year, every woman whose husband had attended the gemora shiur and had given Rav Miller a tape in which he explained a chapter of gemora by himself, received a big beautiful bouquet."

When asked for his secret of how he induced a group of middle-aged men to tackle gemora study for the first time, Rav Miller found nothing surprising about it. He said, "It was simply a matter of: `Boy meets gemora and falls in love.' "

From the bimah in shul on Shabbos, Rav Miller would frequently announce that so-and-so had completed studying an entire chapter or masechta of gemora. His constant praise and encouragement for those who would undertake to study gemora generated a jealousy for learning that infected the entire congregation.

When the third year of the gemora shiur finished with the great success of completing an entire masechta, Rav Miller challenged the group to lift up their vistas. Now they were going to take on all of Shas!

The men were stunned when they heard his words. A mere three years ago, they had been a bunch of ignoramuses -- and now they were going to finish all of the Talmud! It was mad! It was impossible! But they all resolved it was going to happen!

The group, which gradually grew to 40-50 students, persisted in their daily gemora studies. Finally, 14 years later, in 1984, the group did finish Shas. This great event was celebrated with a gala siyum -- and the next day the group started Shas again. The gemora shiurim met altogether over 24 years (so far), with Rav Miller teaching up until the week of his petirah, and with many of the original students still participating. They finished Shas almost 3 times within this period.

Some of the students were dumbfounded when, after they finished studying 500 dapim, Rav Miller announced that from here on in they were to use the title of "Rabbi." "Any person who has studied this amount of gemora is deserving of this title," Rav Miller insisted. When the son of one such student was getting married, Rav Miller insisted that the invitation specify that "Rabbi" and Mrs. S. are honored to invite you . . .

Another congregation rabbi who had years before worked with Rav Miller in Yeshivas Chaim Berlin once commented, "I can bring people to my shul and make them shul Jews, but Rav Miller makes them into angels!"

Wide Range of Shiurim

The gemora shiurim going on in the Young Israel of Rugby was already more than what was available in almost every other shul. But Rav Miller was teaching far more than gemora shiurim. Over the years he developed a prolific program of studies that turned his shul into a virtual yeshiva.

On Friday night he gave shiurim in Chovos Halevovos, spending two winters over Shaar Habechina from which he only reluctantly agreed to move on. Before mincha on Shabbos, Rabbi Miller gave his famous Ein Yaakov shiur on Agadeto for both men and women. Between mincha and ma'ariv during the week, he ran a series on Orchos Tzadikim and Hilchos Tshuva of the Rambam. Gemora shiurim were running throughout Sunday and during every weekday morning and night. This was in addition to private study sessions through the day which he held with small groups of devoted students and private chavrusas.

The shul gradually opened gemora study sessions in the late morning, after shacharis, running from 9:30 until 11:00. Some of the participants were businessmen who chose to attend the morning shiurim and spend less hours at work. Some had to give up their yearly vacations to attend.

Once, a class was set to begin learning masechta Menochos one night. That night a wedding of a young lady who davened in the shul was held, and many congregants skipped the shiur to attend the wedding. Rav Miller minced no words about the attendance in shul being unsatisfactory. The following week the Rav began the masechta over again, with a much improved attendance.

Another time, Rav Miller was beginning masechta Kerisus one Shabbos morning. He announced previously to the congregation, "Don't miss another boat!" -- and the shul was filled for the shiur.

The congregants didn't realize themselves how they were changing due to the constant emphasis on Torah study. They became more meticulous in their observance. They adopted practices they hadn't known about or had thought were optional. They insisted on sending their children to better quality yeshivos. They junked their TVs, then their newspapers, and finally their radios. The changes took place not so much because of Rav Miller's exhortations but because the Torah's truth pierced their minds and everything else automatically followed.

Of the 175-190 families affiliated with the shul, all have at least one child who spent at least some time in kollel. Very few of their children have attended college. Even one congregant who decided to go to medical school chose to become an allergist so it wouldn't interfere with his Torah study sessions.

This writer received sketchy, vague responses when asking about the sisterhood, holiday parties, financial arrangements, and other activities. The only area in which congregants couldn't stop speaking was about the plethora of shiurim and the high level of studies going on around the clock in the shul. Indeed, the spirit and excitement felt by the congregants about learning Torah came to expression when the shul moved in 1975 and renamed itself "Beis Yisroel Torah Center."

A member of the shul who joined in 1970 recalls, "I was looking for a shul where I would be challenged. I knew that if I joined Rav Miller's shul I would have to learn. But I had learned in yeshiva and I wanted to get back into it."

Setting an Example

Rav Miller's constant emphasis on his congregants' studying Talmud was a reflection of the far greater demands that he made on himself. There was nothing he told other people to do that he hadn't done himself.

His own devotion to gemora study was legendary. When he wasn't teaching his congregants or discharging any other rabbinical duties, he was inevitably studying himself, often into the late hours of the night. He not only hammered on endlessly about the primacy of learning, he was a prime example of this himself.

One of his most frequent sayings was the statement in the gemora: "Ashrei mi shebo lekan vetalmudo beyodo" -- Happy is the one who comes to the Next World proficient in his Torah studies.

Because he was so preoccupied with his Torah studies he never took vacations, and didn't even attend weddings -- even of his own congregants. Even to his own grandchildren's weddings he only went for a short time and even then only if they took place in New York. When he arrived at an affair he held his coat in his hand and wouldn't check it in. People weren't happy about this, but they understood his priorities. Because he was so consistent about it, they accepted it.

Although most of his time was spent studying gemora, he invested many hours in studying the classic mussar seforim, particularly the Chovos Halevovos and the Mesillas Yeshorim. He was an outstanding baal mussar, and his learning and davening were saturated with yiras Shomayim.

A frequent saying of his was "People should think of Hashem all the time, even when they're davening."

He would say with great veneration, "Do you know what Torah is? Torah is a glimpse into the way Hakodosh Boruch Hu thinks."

Rav Miller had finished Shas numerous times, but he never spoke about himself. He was a tzaddik nistar who concealed his personal accomplishments from the public and only revealed what he felt would inspire them to become better Jews themselves.

One of his guiding principles was: "Lo soguru mipenei ish -- fear no man." His stated his pure viewpoints clearly and openly, even though many of them were unpopular at times, particularly his censure of Zionism in the early days of the State and western society's race after materialism.

At many gatherings he spoke about how a Jewish person should appear, and encouraged bnei Torah to grow beards and payos. "A distinguished demeanor is a gift from Hashem, and one does not shave Hashem's gift," he would say.

He was a man of deep emotion. At seuda shelishis time, at the close of Shabbos, those who davened with him saw him shed tears of longing and yearning for Hashem. He spoke to Hashem as a son supplicates his beloved father.

The Yarchei Kallah and Telephone Chavrusa Program

As if the revolution he had implemented in his shul wasn't enough, Rav Miller had big ideas for disseminating Torah further afield. Four years after he had started his gemora shiur, he implemented the idea of Yarchei Kallah when it was unheard of in the U.S.

After Labor Day, when kosher hotels were generally empty, the shul arranged for 30-40 families to go away to a hotel. The men learned in the morning and activities were held for the women. The rov led nature hikes in the afternoon, in which he would expand on the miracles of the world Hashem had created. The men resumed their learning at night.

These special vacations not only tightened the families' ties to the shul, but became amplifiers for spiritual growth. By the second Yarchei Kallah, when word had spread through the mountains that Rav Miller was giving a hashkofoh shiur, people came from all over to hear him.

Another original idea that Rav Miller initiated was a telephone chavrusa program. His shul put advertisements in the Jewish newspaper offering people a chance to learn by phone with chavrusas. The study partners had to agree at a given hour that no family member use their phone so that it would be free for their study period. Dozens of young people began learning about Judaism this way. Some became so religious that they decided they wanted to learn Torah more intensively and went to learn in yeshivas in Israel. If the telephone chavrusa had a hashkofoh question, Rav Miller's congregant told him he would ask his rav and get back to him.

A young lady in the congregation married and went to live out west. She started such a program from Denver, arranging for her friends to become chavrusas with the people who answered her offer for Jewish learning.

Once a year a breakfast was held in New York for all the chavrusas to meet and celebrate together. People came in from Upstate New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to meet their telephone chavrusas. At its peak, there were 40-50 pairs of chavrusas learning together.

Rav Miller pushed his congregants to engage in outreach work before the term was even invented. The shul ran advertisements encouraging Jews from outside to come learn or make their homes kosher. Congregants distributed leaflets near the subways inviting people to enroll their children for bar mitzva lessons with the shul. A significant part of their efforts were directed to Russian Jewish immigrants. Rav Miller's students ran campaigns in which they gave out handbills to Russians inviting them to come to shul.

Shul Activism

It might seem that with all the learning going on in Rav Miller's shul, the shul congregants were a placid, passive lot or were too inwardly-directed to have time for activism. In fact, the opposite was true.

Rav Miller was staunchly independent and not beholden to anyone. While most others were afraid to speak up on unpopular or politically incorrect issues, he resolutely said what he felt was the honest view of Torah even when he knew that it would invite attacks and condemnation. He was outspoken against evolution, Zionism, and the growing decadence of Western society.

In Flatbush, 15 years ago, he organized Jews for Morality. When a certain measure supporting deviants' rights seemed likely to pass the New York City Council, his shul was the only one to send down more than 20 congregants who had taken off from work to demonstrate and protest alongside the representatives of other organizations.

Although Rav Miller was not directly involved in politics, he always told his congregants whom to vote for. Invariably, he supported the candidate who was conservative and moral since he felt that was the primary test of a candidate. He supported candidates from all parties when they were conservative.

One year, Rav Miller told his congregants he had spent erev Yom Kippur writing letters to protest immorality. Another year he had his congregants "donate" numbers of letters they would write to the City Council to prevent the passage of a rights bill for deviants.

Another year he made a special request from his congregants on Yom Kippur -- to vote for Ronald Reagan.

Once the city wanted to open shelters for the homeless in Brooklyn. Rav Miller felt that these shelters would destroy the neighborhood. A meeting to prevent this from happening was held at Brooklyn College. Although Rav Miller on principle would not step foot in such a place, he rented buses, came with the entire congregation and lobbied against the measure in a meeting with city planners. His efforts were crowned with success and the city rescinded its plans.

A number of contemporary Jewish activists were encouraged and guided by Rav Miller to work for the improvement of the wider community. These included Rav Yehuda Levin, Rabbi Hiller Handler and Rabbi Eizik Levy.

Rav Miller became so well-known that every aspiring political candidate, Jewish and non-Jewish, would send a representative to him to win his approval and support.

Devoted to His Community

Aside for his indirect activism and nonstop shiurim, Rav Miller was a faithful shepherd to his flock. Although he rarely went to visit the sick, and only briefly attended funerals (partly because he was a Kohen), he was deeply involved in every aspect of his congregants' lives.

What school should I send the children to? What should I do with my problematic child? Should I let my son serve as a counselor in this summer day camp? Should I invest in this piece of real estate? Some hooligans are threatening my business if I don't pay protection money -- should I pay? These were just a few of the many questions asked him by his congregants.

He engaged in marriage counselling when thorns sprouted in the relationships between husband and wife. In the 45 years Rav Miller led his congregation, only 2 divorces took place among his congregants. It was frequently due to his intervention that couples made up and harmony was restored.

Two years ago, a book was published with his advice for marital success and happiness.

He would call people aside and ask them what was going on in their life. He sensed by himself when something was troubling them. People knew they could call at any hour of the night and Rav Miller would invite them to come over on the spot.

One congregant recalls, "The only advice that the rav once gave me for my livelihood was to buy a certain piece of real estate. I thought to myself, `What does he know about real estate?' and decided not to buy it. I regretted it because a short time later, the value of that lot tripled."

Although Rav Miller was a firm, unbending leader, he was warm and encouraging to his congregants. When he came down the aisle in his shul, he would shake hands with all his congregants. To those who he especially regarded, he would grasp their hand with both of his hands and give a tug.

After ma'ariv on Rosh Hashonoh, he bestowed lavish blessings on all the congregants.

Children had a special relationship with him. He showered them all the time with blessings and attention. The shul distributed candies to the children (like in other shuls) but insisted that only children who could sit next to their fathers and daven properly could attend.

One congregant recalls taking his young children to daven shacharis in shul for an entire week when his wife gave birth. The second day he came, Rav Miller gave each of them a gigantic lollipop. "I told the Rav that he needn't have troubled himself because I would make sure they kept quiet. But Rav Miller replied, `No, I got it for them because I like them.' "

He had an uncanny sense in grasping a situation. His advice was on target. He would sometimes hear of two similar problematic situations but would give opposite advice because he felt the people in each of the cases had different needs.

Many years ago a group of his congregants received his approval to plan a visit to Israel where he would go along and be their "spiritual" tour guide. The steering group made arrangements with an airline, received a free hotel and limousine for Rav Miller, and arranged a cheap deal for all the others joining the tour.

Right before they signed on the dotted line, the organizers approached Rav Miller to show him the itinerary and receive his approval. He asked to see the list of those who were planning to go. After he looked it over, he told the organizer, "We can't go!"

The stunned organizers couldn't comprehend his sudden opposition. But then he explained, "There are many people on this list who can't afford this trip and they're only going because I'm going. I know their financial problems -- they can't afford it." He cancelled the trip and never went to Israel until his funeral.

The Holidays in Shul

Various celebrations were held in the shul throughout the year, but they were all inevitably connected to learning Torah in one way or another. There were the Chanukah parties, particularly in the early years of the shul, where a supply of luscious latkes kept streaming from the kitchen to the party table while the Rav "fed" his listeners with an inspirational talk on the eternity of Am Yisroel.

Rav Miller's Purim parties were famous. The congregants would assemble at Rav Miller's house after they had finished their own holiday meal. A band played and the congregants, dressed in clever costumes, sang. Before Rav Miller would allow you to drink, he asked if you would be driving. If the answer was yes, you had to abstain.

Throughout the party, Rav Miller spoke about his insights into Purim. He explained that many lessons of Purim are concealed. The megilla itself is a hidden document and a person can learn nothing from the simple text itself. The gemora's explanations are essential to understand the entire event. He always reminded his listeners that the purpose of Purim is to honor and thank Hashem.

The shul organized its own groups to bake matzos for Pesach.

Of course, the shul was in its element on Shavuos night. The majority of the shul's congregants stayed up the entire night to daven. It was one of the rare times when the shul divided into two different minyanim. The vosikin minyan that morning was large, and the second minyan, composed of those who weren't able to study through the night, was very sparse.

Rav Miller spoke extensively to the congregants on Rosh Hashonoh and Yom Kippur. He reminded them every year that on Rosh Hashonoh, all the appointments are made with the undertakers.

Yom Kippur was an all-day affair in shul. The small break between musaf and mincha did not allow the congregants to go home, and they davened intensely throughout the day. In 1973 they didn't know a war had broken out on Yom Kippur until they came home after the fast.

One congregant recalls, "On Yom Kippur before Neilah, Rav Miller studied Yonah with his congregation. Once he explained that just as the sailors threw everything overboard, it was up to us to throw away the superfluities of our lives. His explanations were so fascinating, we all regretted him stopping to begin Neilah."

On Simchas Torah, before he would let his congregants begin dancing, Rav Miller insisted that they sit down and learn gemora. Only after you study, he insisted, can you by right dance with the Torah.

His First Book

The hashkofoh shiurim Rav Miller had given his yeshiva students in Chaim Berlin and the energetic efforts he had invested to imbue his own congregation with Torah attitudes had been percolating in his mind. The idea began to take shape to write a book explaining the proper Torah hashkofoh to today's Orthodox Jew.

At first he thought of writing a sefer in Hebrew, but was advised that since there is nothing in English, he should write his book in English. Until then, Rav Miller had only written sporadic articles, although he was an accomplished and experienced speaker with an excellent vocabulary and a powerful delivery.

He began writing Rejoice O Youth in 1963. In 1964, when Yeshivas Chaim Berlin moved to Far Rockaway, Rav Miller decided to resign and devote himself full time to his congregation and his writing.

When he finished writing the book in 1965, he didn't have the $2,000 required to publish it. He contacted a well known Jewish publisher in New York and showed him the book.

The publisher offered to print and distribute the book if Rav Miller would take out a few passages objectionable to most modern Orthodox Jews, such as the critical passages about Zionism. Rav Miller rejected his offer and instead borrowed $200 from ten different people. He published his book privately, making 2,000 copies of the first edition.

This book was the first book ever published in the U.S. that attempted to explain the Torah true world view to the searching and intelligent young Jew. His book made an immediate impact and sold out within a short time. Rav Miller was able to repay his loans within 8 weeks.

The book brought a flood of letters and telephone calls from searching Jews all over the world.

Rejoice O Youth dealt with all the issues that religious Jews were struggling with in those days. Religious Jews mumbled about how they believed that G-d created the world, but some were reluctant to openly deny the "truth" of evolution, which was a "sacred" belief to educated people. At most, Orthodox Jews weakly tried to devise theories to "bridge" the two ideas.

Rav Miller hacked at the theory of evolution in his book at length, arguing that its stupidity was only outdone by the blind, biased trust of the science community in it. Then he took apart the Bible critics. He demonstrated the dark side and intellectual paucity of the eastern religions, psychology, Islam, Catholic and Protestant Christianity, Zionism, and Communism. He explained the phenomenon of antisemitism, the Holocaust, and the self-hating of assimilated Jews. He spoke scathingly about emptiness of western society, with its emphasis on romance, libertarianism, feminism, culture. He spoke about the futility of technology.

His explanations were compelling and sarcastic. As you progressed through the book, you couldn't help but burst out in laughter sometimes at the silliness of many common beliefs.

He was a master at finding the appropriate way to dismiss those who possessed wrong views and show through the veneer of respectability from them. Evolutionists were "theorists"; inventors of other religions, Bible critics, Reform, Maskilim, and Zionists were "falsifiers" "substituters" "imitators" "idolaters" and "usurpers." He explained simply and easily the falseness underlying all these ideologies.

After showing how contemporary dogmas were baloney, he then described numerous beautiful phenomena in the world while stressing how G-d had created all this to give us a beautiful life. He imbued you with positive feelings towards Hashem and challenged you to build a personal relationship with Him. He told you that you are capable of greatness, happiness and a life of deep meaning.

His writings were sprinkled with new terms which you never had heard of before: True Knowledge, real Awareness of Hashem, thinking about Hashem, the "truly great."

He spoke about the past and present greatness of the Jewish nation and the great potential that every Jew has in him. He emphasized the importance of isolating ourselves from the negative influences all around, striving to fulfill our national mission, the love that Hashem possesses for faithful Jews, the importance of serving Hashem with enthusiasm and of obtaining character perfection, trusting in Hashem, how a Jewish home should run, the role of a Jewish mother, and preparing for the Afterlife.

After reading his book, you not only felt you had gained a unique Torah hashkofoh, but generally felt reinforced in your belief in Torah, Hashem, and the wisdom of Judaism.

Other Books

Rejoice O Youth was just the beginning of his prolific writing. He continued over the following 35 years, writing another 13 books each of which was an inspiring masterpiece.

Another two hashkofoh books Sing You Righteous and Awake My Glory (1980) continued to discuss the worldview of a religious Jew and delved more deeply into many of the issues mentioned in Rejoice O Youth.

He wrote a commentary on Chumash based on pshat which was stunningly original. The Beginning on Bereishis was published in 1967, A Nation is Born on Shemos in 1992, Kingdom of Cohanim on Vayikra in 1994, Journey Into Greatness on Bamidbar in 1998, and the last volume on Devorim, Fortunate Nation, was published a mere two months before his death this year.

He wrote a history trilogy which corrected numerous errors in Jewish history promulgated by secular and other historians who were ignorant of the Talmud and other ancient Jewish writings. Behold a People (published in 1967) covered Jewish history until the Destruction of the First Temple, Torah Nation (1972) covered it until the Destruction of the Second Temple, and Exalted People (1984) covered it until the period of the Geonim around 1000 years ago.

His commentary on the Siddur called Praise My Soul was published in 1982.

Rav Miller's books remain popular guide posts for the religious community until today. Rejoice O Youth has undergone 9 printings, and has been translated into Russian, Spanish, French and Hebrew. He allowed his books to be translated for free and, as with the English editions, insisted that the price be low so that it would be accessible to everyone. Behold a People and Praise My Soul have each been printed four times.

His books were so well-received that at some school graduations, one of his books was given out to graduates as a present from the school. His history books have also been used as textbooks.

His disciple who was involved in printing his books once went into a seforim store to buy a book. He saw the clerk trying to convince a woman to buy Rejoice O Youth. He asked the clerk if he knew who wrote the book and the young man said he didn't know.

Then the clerk told him, "I used to be non-religious. I was working in this store for a year and a half, and one day I had nothing to do. So I picked up this book and began reading it. It made such an impression on me that I decided to start keeping mitzvos. I gave the book to my parents and after reading it, they also decided to become religious! I went to study in Or Somayach and became a learned Jew." Today this man is religious and he studies Torah regularly.

Two boys and a girl, all non-religious, came to a Jewish book store to buy Rejoice O Youth. The clerk saw how they were dressed and asked why they wanted to buy the book. The girl explained, "I was going out with a gentile. A friend sent me that book, and after reading it, I broke up with the gentile. Now I have two friends who are going out with gentiles and I want to give them these books so they'll stop too."

A boy in St. Louis went to pick up a girl friend from the home of a religious couple where she had been baby-sitting. When inside the house, he noticed that the only English book in the bookcase was Rejoice O Youth. He picked it up and began reading it. It made such an impact on him that he became religious, moved to New York, and joined Rabbi Miller's shul. Today he is a prominent ben Torah, and all of his children attend yeshivos and are in kollel.

A hippie from Minneapolis once came across Rejoice O Youth and read it. He began to ask questions about Judaism, and eventually became religious.

Just two months ago, when one of Rav Miller's students was leaving Israel, he was met by an Israeli Torah student who asked if he was Rav Miller's son. Then the stranger showed him his copy of Rejoice O Youth in Hebrew and said, "My wife used to translate the English book for me but now I finally have my own copy which I can read."

Over the years, many of the congregants who joined Rav Miller's shul were individuals who had been profoundly influenced by his books and tapes and now wanted to gain directly from Rav Miller himself.

Rav Miller's prolific writings, his original Torah worldview, and the outreach activities which he initiated undoubtedly qualify him for the title of the "Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch" of the U.S.

End of Part II

Rav Miller on Charity Insurance Polices

A student of Rav Miller was thinking of getting a million dollar life insurance policy for himself.

He asked Rav Miller, "What could be better? When I leave this world, I'll leave the Mirrer yeshiva a million dollars!"

But Rav Miller advised him against it. He warned him not to underestimate the prayers of the roshei yeshiva. "If they need money and pray hard and you took out that policy -- you may be doing yourself in," Rav Miller cautioned him. He advised him to pray instead to make enough money so he could give the Mirrer Yeshiva a million dollars himself.

Although he never made that kind of money, the man nevertheless always gave much charity to the Mirrer Yeshiva.

Rav Miller on Batman

Many years ago, one of Rav Miller's students was in charge of a children's minyan in his shul. For Simchas Torah, the man had made Simchas Torah candy bags which the shul gave out to the young children. One year he included in the bags little comic books featuring Mickey Mouse, the Lone Ranger, Superman or Batman. The kids got a kick out of the books and it was a real treat for them.

Another congregant in the shul rebuked him, "How can you give these books out? Look what these kids are reading! You're causing them to sin! You should be giving out Tehillims instead!"

But the man replied, "It will be an even bigger sin if you give them Tehillims because the kids won't treat them respectfully and they'll end up in the garbage." Both men decided to ask Rav Miller what to do.

The student brought Rav Miller six comic books and Rav Miller promised to look them over. The following week he told the man, "Tell the person who said it's a sin to give these books out -- that he's wrong and it's even a mitzva. The books teach law and order to the kids by making sure the hero always overcomes the villain. The heroes even teach humility since they disguise their true identities and keep their good deeds confidential."

Did You Ask Hashem First?

One student asked Rav Miller for a blessing for his wife and the child each time his wife was expecting. He felt he could rely on Rav Miller's blessing.

First Rav Miller ascertained that he was also asking Hakodosh Boruch Hu for His blessing with regularity. Then Rav Miller happily complied and gave his blessing.

No Charity For Lions

One student met Rav Miller on the street on Purim. The Rov asked the student's age and then, subtracting it from 120, wished him that many more happy Purims.

The students' little son, who was wearing a lion suit, stuck out his hand and asked the rav for tzedaka. Rav Miller declined saying that he only gives tzedaka to people but not to lions.

The Year He Stopped Selling Chometz

Rav Miller was perhaps the only rav in New York who didn't take money for selling chometz before Pesach and because of that, many poor families came to him to do this. One year the rebbetzin announced that he would only be selling the chometz of his congregants, but not of outsiders.

Only his close students knew the reason why. A prominent rav had moved into the neighborhood who was poor and needed to supplement his living. Rav Miller decided that he wouldn't arrange the chometz sales for outsiders so they would go to the new rav and he would have an income for the holiday.


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