Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for June 25th, 2009|Daily archive page

Quote for the Day

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 9:00 pm

Actions may speak louder than words, but since when did noise bring clarity?

Rabbi Jay Miller ז"ל

In Uncategorized on June 25, 2009 at 2:20 pm

It is with tremendous sadness and not a small amount of regret that I mourn the passing of Rabbi Jay Miller. There are many of us from the golden age of Brovenders who will always bear his exacting brand of Torah study. He was a man unique in his talents and his flaws, but I always felt the two were inextricably tied, and as often is the case, without the other, the one would not exist either.

In the ’70’s when learning Gemara was all but closed to Ba’alei Teshuva, Rabbi Miller developed a method of learning that could achieve in a year what most day schools could not achieve in twenty, or fifty for that matter. The daily first year Mishnah class had a quality of perpetual high drama. Studying Mishnah and Gemara could only be characterized as a gladiator sport where he was always the last man standing. There would be no such thing as a slow day in Miller’s shiur.

Excited, irritated, mystically enveloped in a veil of tobacco smoke, he took Mishnahs we thought we understood, and then after rendering them inscrutable, he helped us relearn them correctly. He admonished us, shrieking, “Don’t think, just do what I do!” Many of us, I’d like to believe the best of us, loved him for it.

The fierce discipline, passion and commitment belied a softer side that would emerge only when he deemed necessary. I remember when we were helping pack up his books prior to his moving from Yerushalayim to New York. At one point, he opened a can of olives to share with us. He then saturated the olives in olive oil because Chazal said that olives cause one to forget, while olive oil helps one to remember. (Horayot 13b) He explained that these are the simple ways we keep the Talmud present in our lives and actions.

I remember thinking that it doesn’t matter whether olives and olive oil contain these properties in fact, but for him it was a simple act of affection and fealty to bring what our Sages had said into the world, reminding us that remembering Torah is important and forgetting any apart of it may even be a sin. Such was his devotion, to and his compulsion for learning.

If everything we contribute emanates from the skills we are given, then Rabbi Miller singularly, selflessly and passionately was the one who taught me, and countless others, everything.