Rabbi Avigdor Miller is the favorite contemporary rabbi of several friends of mine.
I ask historian Marc B. Shapiro: “How important a rabbi was Avigdor Miller? Would you ever do a class on him?”
Marc replies: “He was not important enough to do classes on. His influence was minimal, even in his lifetime.”
Rabbi Miller was known within Haredi circles as 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 a staunch opponent of Zionism, in both its religious and secular forms, and was known to help the Satmar Hasidim translate their anti Zionist ads in the New York times. He was also a well known, sworn opponent of the Theory of Evolution, which stemmed as a result of his uncompromising approach to any modern 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 precious 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.