web analytics
July 29, 2015 / 13 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


‘We Desperately Need To Get Back To Theology': An Interview with Rabbi Chaim Miller


“My particular passion was the teachings of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.” Born to an unobservant family in London, Rabbi Chaim Miller first encountered the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings as a student at Leeds University. “His discourses impressed me in terms of their tremendous intellectual depth and brilliance,” he recalls.

Today, he is dedicated to disseminating these teachings to as wide an audience as possible. His Kol Menachem publishing house, which he founded in 2002 with philanthropist Meyer Gutnik, has already produced a number of popular works with extensive commentary culled from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s public discourses and writings – the Gutnik Chumash, the Kol Menachem Haggadah and two books on the Rambam’s 13 principles of faith.

The Jewish Press recently spoke with Rabbi Miller about his background and Kol Menachem’s latest volume, The 13 Principles of Faith: Principles VI & VII.

The Jewish Press: What inspired you to become observant?

Rabbi Miller: I was searching. I was a spiritual seeker, philosophizing about life. It never struck me that Judaism really had it. Judaism to me was just dry ritual, attending this soul-destroying synagogue and standing up and down when the ark opened. It didn’t strike me that there was anything profound there.

But then at Leeds University I attended a series of lectures on the theological elements of Judaism run by Ohr Sameach. Then, through some Chabad shluchim, I discovered Lubavitch and the chassidic idea, which I found very compelling. It was really this strange discovery that there could be this philosophical depth in Judaism.

Why are you currently writing a series on the Rambam’s 13 principles?

Well, this is getting back to my original passion. You see, I embraced Orthodoxy because of the brilliance of its theology. The first thing all kiruv organizations teach you is theology – the meaning of life, G-d, theodicy, revelation, etc. They get to the essence of Yiddishkeit. But then, after you’re done with those introductory courses, they say, “Now you’ve graduated, go learn Gemara.”

The mainstream Orthodox community is not particularly theologically orientated and [beliefs are] largely retained by social consensus and social pressure, and there was an element of disillusionment when I discovered that. So there’s two things you can do. You can sit and grumble, or you can try to redress the balance.

How would you characterize your contribution? In what way, for instance, is your book different than other books on the Rambam’s principles?

There are two strands of theology. There’s the medieval philosophical tradition – Rambam, Saadia Gaon, Kuzari, etc. – and then you have the kabbalistic, chassidic tradition. I’m interested in both, but they’ve never really been presented together in one whole unit. So half the book is just little passages of classic texts from both the philosophical and the kabbalistic traditions. The other half is lessons, or shiurim, based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

One of the Rebbe’s passions was theology; most of his discourses veer off at some point into a theological discussion. But there’s almost 200 volumes of his teachings, and his theological discussions are scattered all over the place. They were never organized, systematically analyzed, or laid down before.

Professor Marc Shapiro wrote a popular book on the Rambam’s 13 principles, in which he demonstrates that many great rabbis throughout the generations rejected various elements of the Rambam’s principles. Have you read that work, and, if so, what’s your opinion of it?

I think he’s incorrect. In one of his footnotes he quotes the Chasam Sofer, who writes that there is an idea of consensus regarding matters of faith. [Shapiro dismisses the Chasam Sofer as a lone opinion], but I think the Chasam Sofer was essentially presenting the traditional Orthodox view.

There is a process of consensus. Obviously you can’t just decide what the truth is by a vote. But what actually happens is that the arguments get refined over the years. There’s a debate, various viewpoints are put out there, and then it’s thrashed out. So you actually get a consensus through discussion. It becomes clear what the truth is.

So although there are rishonim who held that God has a body, I think it’s universally accepted today that God doesn’t have a body.

About the Author: Elliot Resnick is a Jewish Press staff reporter and author of “Movers and Shakers: Sixty Prominent Personalities Speak Their Mind on Tape” (Brenn Books).


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “‘We Desperately Need To Get Back To Theology': An Interview with Rabbi Chaim Miller”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
The White House will free Pollard but bar him form traveling to Israel for five years.
US Won’t Let Pollard Out of Country for Five Years
Latest Indepth Stories
Pres. Rivlin and PM Netanyahu with the justices of the Supreme Court

In Israel, the judiciary has established itself as superior to ALL other branches of the government.

Roy S. Neuberger

The Fifteenth Day of the month of Av became a day of national rejoicing. The moment that had seemed hopeless became the moment of Redemption.

Harvey Rachlin

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

huckabee oven message

Cavalier analogies to the Holocaust are unacceptable, but Huckabee’s analogy was very appropriate.

Pollard was a Jewish-head-on-a-pike for all American Jews to see and to learn the explicit lesson.

If the Iran deal passes, Obama’s WH becomes world’s leading financier of terrorism against Americans

{Originally posted to the author’s website, FirstOne Through} Some passionate and eloquent liberals have bemoaned the state of inclusiveness among Jews today. Leon Wieseltier, editor of the New Republic penned an angry piece “J Street’s Rejection Is a Scandal” about the exclusion in 2014 of J Street from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. […]

Magnanimity by Moshe Dayan, allowing Muslim control of the Temple Mount, led to today’s situation.

It was modeled upon a similar fund that had been set up by Sephardic Jews in Venice. But Amsterdam’s Dotar was initially more ambitious in scope.

Rav Aharon Margalit is a bestselling author – his book, As Long As I Live, has been translated into four languages – and a standing-room only lecturer. Both religious and non-religious audiences flock to hear him. What makes him so extraordinary? Rav Margalit is a Chasidic Jew who experienced incredible challenges from a very young […]

J Street is the vanguard (Jewish face)in support of Obama’s Vienna Accords Nuclear Deal with Iran

“I hold the woman’s place over that of men in every fundamental aspect of public and private life.”

The US-UNRWA accord is another example of this White House, hostile to Israel, disregarding truth.

On the saddest day on the Jewish calendar, Tisha B’av, a reflection on the dangerous deal with Iran

The Kotel gained significance around 1550. Previously, many Jews prayed on the Temple Mount itself.

All Jews MUST stand together to oppose boycotts against Israel. So why does NIF & JCF support BDS?

More Articles from Elliot Resnick
Harvey Rachlin

I think the melodies in our religious services have a haunting sound to them that just permeates your guts and gets into your soul. If you have any musical inclination, I think they inspire you to compose.

Marc Shapiro

In his day, Rav Kook was the greatest writer of haskamot and pretty much everyone in the Lithuanian Torah world wanted his approbation.

But on the human level, public protest played a very central role. And that’s not my position – it’s the position of historians who are experts in this area.

When words lose meaning, the world becomes an Orwellian dystopia; a veritable Tower of Babel

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

Israel is not the only issue that has drawn Jews closer to conservative Christians in recent decades. The culture wars have played a significant role as well.

What books might people be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/interviews-and-profiles/we-desperately-need-to-get-back-to-theology-an-interview-with-rabbi-chaim-miller/2009/12/02/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: