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    HaRav Shlomo Eliyohu Miller, shlita


    BioHa Rav Shlomo E. Miller, Shlita is Rosh Kollel of the Kollel Avreichim of Toronto, Canada since its establishment, in 1970, by the Rosh Yeshiva of BMG, HaRav HaGaon Shneur Kotler zt”l, the son and successor of Rav Aharon zt”l. He serves as its Av Beis Din. He is regarded by the yeshvishe Jewish community of Toronto as its foremost posek. His rulings are sought and respected by orthodox Jewry, the world over. . He has been chosen by the Lakewood Yeshiva to head the Beis Din of the Vaad Harabanim (Association of Rabbis) of Lakewood, NJ and heads a Kollel there as well.


    Far-reaching Stimulus

    Going back 45 years, the first shaichos we had with the Rosh Yeshiva was before we even met him.  We came into contact with his talmidim from Lakewood, and we knew already that the Rosh Yeshiva was making hashpo’ah against college, meh darf zitzen learnen[1].

    We were together with some of his talmidim in high school in Baltimore.  The parents back then, and even the schools – hanahalla and the Rebbeim - felt that it was a good thing to learn a little bit, but because you will have to make parnossa, you would have to go to college.  That was the standard thing which was called “good.” 

    The ikar hashpo’ah came from bochurim who had some shaichos to older bochurim. There was a former chavrusa of mine, who’d gone the year before to Lakewood, and his chavrusa, and older brother were sitting and learning in the yeshivah.  That was the hashpo’ah that came indirectly from the Rosh Yeshiva.



    Some Roshei Yeshiva at that time were in some way dealing with p’shoros. They felt they had to be practical and that mostly, their students were going to go college.  They would prefer the boys should sit and learn, but they weren’t speaking out strongly against college.  But everyone knew that the Rosh Yeshiva was demanding that bochurim should sit and learn. However, the Rosh Yeshiva did it not just with a kanois and vildkeit.

    I had personal experience with this. When I was 13, my parents were thinking about sending me out of town to a yeshiva high school.  So the Rosh Yeshiva visited my house.  We spoke in learning, and my mother spoke with me afterwards.  She said actually she would like me to go to college also.

    The Rosh Yeshiva was very outspoken.  He started opening the Gemara, and was very strong, yelling “Meh tor doch nisht”[2]with a whole kanois.  My mother was turned off, she just couldn’t comprehend the sincere message coming with such tekifos.

    So when I first came to Lakewood, my parents weren’t happy.  My mother came to speak to the Rosh Yeshiva, and he spoke very nicely to her, saying, “Los em, er zol besser lernin.[3]He didn’t act in a way that would turn the parents off.  He didn’t compromise, but he spoke to them with a lashon raka.  He sold the parents with a lashon raka sof sof [4].  He wasn’t that way with his talmidim, but with the parents, he understood that he had to have patience. 


    Lakewood - Just the Emes

    This was in the 1950’s.  I finished high school in ’57 in Baltimore, and I spoke to the Rosh Yeshiva then about coming here.  For some reason, I couldn’t go that first year, but when I did come to the yeshiva, I could see the difference between the Rosh Yeshiva and the other ones.  Even though the Rosh Yeshiva had a certain . . . we’ll call it a sense of humor, but it wasn’t games.  There were no stam jokes.  There was a purpose.  He was dedicated to his work, not to himself.  Just the emesTorah was the emes, and that’s where he was uncompromising.  Some people in other places, they were more “practical.”  They were giving lip service to the shitta of Torah , but they were practical minded.  They said, “Most boys are going to go to college, so we have to accept them. But the Rosh Yeshiva felt that the emes- you have to mun for the emes, and the emes is kayam.  And he believed very much in amitah shel Torah[5]. It was a firm belief, and that radiated from him.

    His message was very strong and he was the only one from whom you heard such a message in its full strength.  The kiyum of Klal Yisroel is dependent on un zol bleiben  talmidei chachamim[6].  It’s not just that learning is a good thing. It’s survival.

    That was k’seder the message - there must be Talmidei Chachamim! This is the survival of Klal Yisroel. He knew that without Torah, after a few doros, everything would fall apart.  Just like he put all his kochos into the Vaad Hatzola[S2] [7] to save Yidden from the Churban[8] this too, was saving Klal Yisroel.  It wasn’t just a mitzvah.  This was the strong message that he gave until the end: the kiyum of Klal Yisroel depends on talmidei chachamim.

    He was very strong in this.  There was no such thing as going away for Shabbos.  On Shabbos, you had to be in yeshiva.  You were there full time.  During the zman, I never went away.  But I remember a boy who wanted to go away Shabbos Chanukah for his brother’s bar mitzvah.  The Rosh Yeshiva wouldn’t let him, but he said, “If I don’t go my parents might be upset”. So he let him go, but kodem kol he told him he had to be back at 8:00 Motzai Shabbos for the shiur.  He showed us that the Torah makes demands of us.  It isn’t right to come and go whenever you want.

    It was a small olam back then, and sitting and learning wasn’t the “in style” thing to do. Most of the people came against their parents’ ratzon.  That was the roiv of the yeshiva.

    Rabbi Beane: The question is, what made the boys feel that they had the nerve to go against their parents?

    Rabbi Miller: The truth of the matter is, it was two things.  It’s klor that the ruach min HaShomayim[9] was that the Ribbono Shel Olam wanted the kiyum Torah.  That was one thing.  And the Rosh Yeshiva was the one who kept up that message. There was a ruach min HaShomayim, and the boys were in a certain tekufa in which they knew they had to do what was important and right.  They heard it from others. Everyone knew, the crown of Torah was at Yeshiva This misha’al was filtered down from the Rosh Yeshiva to the bochurim.

    There were only two yeshivas at that time which were exclusively for learning: Lakewood and Bais Medrash Elyon [10].  There was Novardok Yeshiva[11], but that was very small. And Bais Medrash Elyon already lost its Rosh Yeshiva. Reb Reuven[12] zt”l was niftar in Adar 1958.  It was an Erev Shabbos levaya at Torah V’Daas[13].

    Rabbi Beane:  Reb Aharon was by the levaya. Can you remember any anecdotes at Yeshiva in which you were personally involved?

    Rabbi Miller: At certain times in the year, Rosh Hashana and the Yomim Noraim, there was no stam talking about things.  The only talk was about Torah and mussar, very shtark. [u3] 

    So I remember that one time, my brother-in-law got an esrog and he brought it to the Rosh Yeshiva’s house to show him. It was Erev Yom Kippur, and he knocked on the door, and the Rosh Yeshiva came out with tears in his eyes.

    “Please,” he said. “It’s kimat Yom HaDin.  I have to prepare myself for the Yom HaDin.  I can’t look at esrogim now”. You could see his oisgevainte hartz.[14] He was mamesh crying from eimah v’yirah[15].

    Another maaseh is that one Rosh Hashana night, someone made a mistake in the davening and instead of saying “HaMelech HaKadosh[16]” he said, “HaKel HaKadosh[17].”  He came to the Rosh Yeshiva, we were by the Seudah already, and he asked him the shailah - does he have to daven over. The Chayei Adom[18] says you don’t have to, based on the view of R’ Aba  Pasveler[19]. The Rosh Yeshiva brought this view, but he was cholek, and strongly viewed that he had to daven over. 

    And I remember afterwards, this was the only time I ever heard the Rosh Yeshiva saying over maasis on Rosh HaShana.  He started telling over of the gevaldike bekiyus [20]of R’ Aba  Pasveler. He was just speaking, without eimas hadin[21]So I always felt that perhaps he felt that he was pogai’ah the kavod[22] of R’ Aba  Pasveler in the eyes of the bachurim and on Rosh Hashana he was more medakdek  He davka felt that even if your cholek, but for a friedige dor[23] you have to have the derech eretz that we come nowhere near them.  That was a very strong lesson of the Rosh Yeshiva how to look at a kasha in the Gemara, they’re much greater than us.  We have to know that we’re an emes shalsheles[24] of them.


    Minding Personal Needs

    The Rosh Yeshiva cared for every yachid.  He wasn’t just teaching; he took a personal interest in the hischayvus and tzrachim of each bochur.  And he understood them. I remember there was a bochur in yeshiva whose parents weren’t frum.  He had to mamesh fight to go to yeshiva.  His father was niftar soon after. So the Rosh Yeshiva was discussing if he should go home for the Shiva and someone there mentioned if it was appropriate for the boy to sit shiva because his father’s not frum.  The Rosh Yeshiva just looked at him and didn’t answer yes or no.  He just went vaiter.  He understood that it’s proper for a bochur to sit shiva for his father and it wouldn’t be good for the bochur if he didn’t. A person should have a positive image of his parents. The Rosh Yeshiva understood that, although this bochur’s parents were different.  Some parents were really aish lahava[25] against Yeshiva and this one mamesh fought.


    Comforts and Luxuries

    The Rosh Yeshiva did not allow himself much in a material sense. Any money that was spent was for the tzorchei hachzakas HaTorah[26].  That was the most important thing.  For Chanukah, the yeshiva used to have a broken menorah, mamesh a broken piece of junk. For 25 cents a person, the bochurim could buy a new menorah, but for him, money was for Torah, not a shaina menorah.  He had a gevaldigge dachkus in his personal dirah.

    My father-in-law takkeh bought the Rosh Yeshiva an air conditioner for his bedroom.   The Bais Medrash had one also, which was uncommon at that time, but the Rosh Yeshiva said, “We want the bochurim to feel comfortable when they’re learning.”  Where he sat and learned, there was no air conditioner.  Where he sat himself.  But for the bochurim, there was an air conditioner. 

    When my father-in-law originally bought the air conditioner, it wasn’t because of the Rosh Yeshiva’s personal needs, my father just wanted the Rosh Yeshiva to have one.  But the Rosh Yeshiva wanted the bochurim to be comfortable. And really, it wasn’t much comfort; it was very minimal. There was no air conditioning in the dorms.  If someone needed air conditioning, he had to go to the Bais Medrash.

    I remember once, there were no chairs to sit on.  Someone got upset and tried to convince the bochurim to go on strike.  But the Rosh Yeshiva tried with much mesiras nefesh to supply the best necessities for the bochurim.  And at that time, an air conditioner was a big chiddush


    Life-long Lessons

    On Friday nights, the Rosh Yeshiva would say over a shiur that would preview his shiur to the chashuva bochurim.  They would go over to the Bais Medrash after the seudah, and he would say the Shiur for an hour or an hour and a half.  And after all that, it was late already, but then the Rosh Yeshiva would learn alone. So they saw the Rosh Yeshiva, an eltere Yid who portrayed the true leiv tzu lernen[27], that was a big chizzuk

    So many small things I remember.  There was an eltere Yid – a plain, simple Yid – who used to come to the yeshiva for davening.  And he would say his “ma’amados[28]” every day.  So one day, he forgot, and he asked the Rosh Yeshiva, does he say it the next day. It wasn’t a big shailah.  But when he came to the Rosh Yeshiva and asked him, the Rosh Yeshiva didn’t stam answer him.  He told the bachurim to bring him a sefer, it really wasn’t nogeah, but he just wanted to show the person it wasn’t pashut a shailah. He started looking in the sefer, and then he asked “What do we answer this person about the ma’amados?”  He wanted to show that the shailah deserves its chashivus and is something which we must be m’a’ayin in. 

    And the Rosh Yeshiva was very demanding.  I remember one bochur had a chasunah in Minneapolis.  The Rosh Yeshiva said, “Bittul Torah.” He was very makpid on the Bitul TorahHe gave us a strong message that you can’t go away just for a chasunah in the middle of Torah. To take off a day to travel, and then a day to come back - two days for a chasunah?  No such thing. 

    But he wasn’t demanding: “I want it that way.” No.  It was statement of reality. It was meshugeh to take away time from learning.  You couldn’t tracht epes andersht[29]. A person has to have mesorah, a hemshech for the Gedolim, for the doros.  That was the yesod hadavar[30].  Torah is a hemshech.  You have to always be me’en fun the doros[31].  It’s a chain link.  From his rebbes and his rebbes.


    The Petirah

    I personally, I was by his petirah.  The bochurim used to go and sit with him in the hospital.  My shift was four o’clock in the afternoon until twelve at night, and I was there that last day.  It was Rosh Chodesh Kislev

    His face was flushed.  It was bein hashmashos, and he called me over.  I got the last bracha from him.  The last bracha of his life.  His Rebbetzin was not there. He was sick then.  He was dying.  It was no small thing.  It was Erev Shabbos. He couldn’t eat.  There were all kinds of tubes, but they said they he could he put a little candy in his mouth.  He couldn’t eat anything anyway, he was eating through a tube, but he insisted to save the candy for Shabbos

    We had a gevaldigge yirah from the Rosh Yeshiva.  That was the thing.  You’d just look at the Rosh Yeshiva and that was the metzius.  He had a fierdigge religion.  And even though he could be very demanding and things like that, but he could be so eidel when he asked you to do something.  His personal requests were always like that, he was mashpil himself.


    A Goy is a Goy

     He once spoke about the ger tzedek, Potocki [32]. A professor in a university wrote a whole “mymer” that the whole maaseh was nisht geshtoigen nisht gefloigen[33]. What was his main raya that the whole thing was false?  Supposedly, a short time after this maaseh happened, it was printed up in a pamphlet in Johannesburg.  At that time, it was impossible to get messages from Lithuania to Johannesburg so quickly, so therefore, the professor concluded that it had to be a manufactured bubbe maaseh.  But the Rosh Yeshiva said, “Johannesburg was just a plain shtetl. What proof is he bringing from Johannesburg, South Africa?”  He used to make fun of the rayas that they would bring. A goy.


    [1] We must sit and learn

    [2] One is not permitted to do so

    [3] He should rather sit and learn

    [4] In the long run, he got through to the parents in a soft, kind way

    [5] Truth of Torah

    [6] And there must remain Torah scholars

    [7] See Appendix: Vaad Hatzalah

    [8] Lit. destruction - Holocaust

    [9] Divinely spirit 

    [10] See appendix: Bais Medrash Elyon

    [11] See appendix: Novardok

    [12] R’ Reuven Grozovsky zt”l

    [13] See appendix: Torah V’Daas

    [14] From the depths of his crying soul

    [15] Fear and trepidation

    [16] Inserted in the Shemonah Esreh prayer during the Ten Days of Repentance

    [17] Recited all year-long during the Shemonah Esreh prayer

    [18] Rabbinical Authority on Jewish Law

    [19] Rabbi  Avraham Abli Pasveler  ø' àáøäí àáìé ôàñååòìòø  18th century Rov of  Paslev (Pasvalys likely), Lithuania, near Vilna. A renowned  Posek, , among the disciples of the Gaon Elijah of Vilna, and contemporary of the Chayei Odom, Rabbi Avrohom Danziger

    [20] Remarkable proficiency and knowledge

    [21] Fear of judgment

    [22] Slighted the respect

    [23] Previous generation

    [24] Direct link in the chain

    [25] Fierily 

    [26] Needs for supporting Torah

    [27] Heart’s desire for learning

    [28] Recited prior to the Morning Prayers

    [29] Think any differently

    [30] Fundamental basis

    [31] Resemble past generations

    [32] See appendix: Potazki

    [33] Never really occurred (Yiddish)


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