Introduction to the new Rabbi Miller book by Yaakov Astor

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This book is intended for everyone from the most uninitiated to the most advanced student. Indeed, the general topic of emunah and bitachon, “faith and trust,” is for every human being: man and woman, adult and child, Jew and non-Jew. Like a gushing fountain, it’s a never-ending subject, completely replenishing itself with time. The youngest child can attain (and should be taught) some understanding of it while at the same time adults build on that understanding (hopefully) as time goes on.

Rabbi Miller was uniquely qualified to speak on such a subject. He had a special ability to make the most complex subjects sound simple. Of course, no one should mistake this for lack of depth. Indeed, just a perusal of all the sources he drew on, constantly and often just from memory, is testimony to the breadth. His uncanny ability to instantly apply this vast knowledge to every question thrown at him during his thousands of recorded lectures amply demonstrates the depth of this knowledge. (Not that he needed to prove that.)

His same words that struck a chord with the uninitiated caused great excitement to the advanced student. This ability, combined with his vast erudition and depth of knowledge, makes a book by him on the subject of faith something the widest spectrum of people can understand — and not only understand, as Rabbi Miller would say, but to utilize to change and grow; to make oneself a better person.

Although Rabbi Miller authored 12 books on his own, he left thousands of recorded lectures which include many ideas and/or many nuances of ideas that were either not necessarily mentioned in his books or explained in as much detail in those books. Our topic, emunah and bitachon, is implied in and indeed oozes from all his writings and recordings, but none of the books talk about it as explicitly or at least in once concentrated area as we have endeavored here.

This book is based primarily on the following lectures recorded by Rabbi Miller.

  • 1. Singing In The World
  • 23. Forestalling Trouble
  • 241. Bitachon And Hishtadlus
  • 334. Bitachon And Emunah
  • 486. Bitachon: From Nowhere Comes My Help
  • 562. Bitachon I
  • 794. Bitachon And The Calm Mind
  • 946. Three Aspects Of Bitachon
  • S-10. Bitachon 1
  • S-11. Bitachon 2
  • S-12. Bitachon 3
  • S-13. Bitachon 4

As fans of Rabbi Miller know, he concluded almost all of his lectures with an often lively question and answer session. People could ask anything. And ask they did. Rabbi Miller’s particular genius can be seen (and heard) in how deftly he handled those questions again and again… year after year (he began recording in the 1960s, the first Torah scholar to really do so). This book mirrors that style by presenting his thoughts in question and answer format. (Some were actual questions given at those lectures, while others have been arranged in question and answer format, including many where Rabbi Miller asked the question himself before answering it.)

The question and answer style of this book is further designed to enhance the experience for the initiated and advanced alike. Besides the fact that the bulk of the material is based on questions addressed to Rabbi Miller, such a format is designed to make the subject easier to absorb.

Structurally, an attempt was made to group together questions and answers of a similar theme under a single section heading. This was not always possible since sometimes the material in a particular “Q & A” has multiple parts and overlaps with other topics. When that happened a choice had to be made if it fit better in one section or a different section. We did our best to make the most sensible choice. In any event, in most cases the logic of the groupings works. Furthermore, within each section of questions and answers, there was an attempt to sequence them from the basic to the advanced, from something easier to understand to something that requires a little more effort. Again, although not a perfect science this was achieved successfully for the most part.

As an added bonus, at the end of the book we have included (in non- question-and-answer format) some of Rabbi Miller’s lectures on the Shaar HaBitachon (“Gate of Trust”) from the classic, Chovos Halevovos (“Duties of the Hearts”). Every student of Judaism knows the unique place that the Chovos HeLevavos holds in the pantheon of Jewish ethical treatises, and that the Shaar HaBitachon is probably the most sefer’s studied chapter. Indeed, it’s figuratively and literally the textbook of Judaism’s approach to faith and trust in G-d.

On A Personal Note

On a personal note, I must add what an incredible experience it has been putting this book together. Rabbi Miller says that if we would experience in this world one moment of the happiness in the next world every vein in our bodies would literally burst. I did not reach that level, but there were times that I was so deeply immersed in this material and infused with such powerful feelings of emunah that it was as if I was floating the rest of the day.

It was not the happiness of a hearing funny joke or even a good piece of news. Rather it was the joy of a sense of emunah, the feeling that Hashem was deeply involved in my life and that everything that was happening to me and in the world was going according to plan. Indeed it was perfect… absolutely perfect — even if it did not look like it on the outside. I truly felt at those moments that I was engulfed inside a fortress of emunah. A particularly stressful situation ceased bothering me. A regular davening became an experience when it seemed as if the heavens opened up (and later that day external events I had not dared to dream of panned out for the good) — these are just a couple of the benefits I experienced working on this material.

In truth, at times there were passages by Rabbi Miller that I did not comprehend or was fighting against. I listened to it, wrote it, thought about it and even believed it as a tenet of emunah, but it did not necessarily resonate with me. Then, suddenly, days or weeks later, it became perfectly clear. It was as if a trap door in my heart suddenly opened and the material that was on the outside fell in.

I don’t know if it possible to convey how profoundly moved I have been immersing myself in this material, but the point is that it can happen to others too. I am convinced that if a person really takes this material to heart and thinks about it, repeating it and working on it, it can change a person’s life in a major way. I can’t say how long it will take: maybe a second, maybe an hour, maybe a day, maybe a year, maybe many years – but there is real power in the wires of this material. One just has to plug oneself into it and let the process take place. Emunah is nothing less than the very essence of Judaism… of life. This is the material out of which everything else flows.

I have to thank Rabbi Miller, now sitting in the Olam Ha’emes, no doubt radiating in the ziv haShechinah, the Divine Presence, and experiencing it in ways that would burst every vein in one’s body, as he says. This book of his teachings is just a small dosage of the daas, the “True Knowledge,” he shared with the world during his time here. It has been an experience and a privilege to tap into it to whatever degree I have been capable and now sharing it with others. My hope is that you too will share the feeling of being engulfed in a fortress of emunah and allowing its power to flow through the veins of your life, changing it forever in the most profound ways.

7 thoughts on “Introduction to the new Rabbi Miller book by Yaakov Astor

    Barry Graham said:
    March 24, 2012 at 10:24 pm

    I am looking forward to you making this available on Audio Book.

      Yaakov Astor responded:
      March 25, 2012 at 10:59 pm

      Not happening so fast, I’m afraid.

        Barry Graham said:
        April 1, 2012 at 11:30 pm

        Too bad – I already listen to Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss on CD every week and it’s my primary source of learning making good use of commute time! Good luck with the book.

    Barry Graham said:
    April 1, 2012 at 11:31 pm

    Maybe B”N when I catch with with my backlog of Zman magazines I’ll consider buying and reading!

      Henry Green said:
      April 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss….?? Zman magazines..???? Barry! Rabbi Avigdor is is definitely out of your Solar system….

        Barry Graham said:
        April 22, 2012 at 10:37 pm

        I guess so, although at least I do have one sole redeeming good point in that I don’t poke fun at others. By the way, Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss was a Talmid of Rabbi Miller.

        Barry Graham said:
        April 22, 2012 at 10:49 pm

        OK let me take that back and replace it with “that was not necessary”.

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