Memory Lane: Reb Pesach Dovid Miller
Sometime in the 1880’s, a young bachur, Pesach Duvid Miller from Zborov, in Galica, jostled his way under the Shiniever Rav’s tisch. In the Sanzer tradition, chassidus was for married men. Bachurim were expected to learn from morning till night. The Rebbe called out, ‘bucherl, vus zichsti du, what are you looking for here. Pesach Duvid said, “ich vill shirayim.” The Rebbe heard Yir'as Shamayim. So he benched him, az du vilst yir'as Shamayim, zolstu hobben arichus yamim, if you want yiras Shomayim, you should merit a long life.
Pesach Duvid did indeed merit a long life…and the majority of those years would be lived out in America—many of those, in Boro Park— refusing to cave to the winds of the times, and persevered in raising a beautiful family of upstanding Torah Jews.
He was born in Zborov, a picturesque hamlet in Galicia, to his Avraham Abah Miller. He married his cousin, Chana Schonfeld from Hungary where they married in 1901. He became a gabbai tzeddakah for one of the large tzedakos Rabi Meir Ba’al Hanes by which the Yidden of the region would feed their poor brethren in Eretz Yisroel, and this mission took him to America as early as 1911, and he made frequent trips back and forth, with the last one in 1921, and he enrolled his bachurim into the Bobover yeshiva where they are listed among the talmidim.
A original, heartfelt letter from the Shiniever Rebetzin, thanking Reb Pesach Duvid for literally saving them through the funds he had sent them, is cherished by the family to this day.
His stantzia in Boro Park was famed Boro Park naggid and talmid chacham, Reb Dovid Nosson Lesser, who authored Michtam Ldovid, and he served as the ba’al tefillah in Shomrei Shabbos for the Yamim Nora’im.
Reb Mordechai related that his parents moved to Boro Park when he was a boy, and he remembers his grandfather, Pesach Dovid, a beloved patriarch to the entire family. “We lived on 55th street, and we davened with my grandfather in the Shomrei Shabbos shul. "At that time, there were many old Americans in the shul, and little by little the she'eris hapleitah came in and the flavor changed a bit.
Every day he would walk to the Shomrei Shabbos shul where he was from the first to arrive and of the last to leave; Tefillah was special for him.
“He also enjoyed a shot of Slivovitz,” recalls an einikel. And on that note he relates an interesting story about his collecting the pushkes from the homes in Williamsburg and Boro Park. A woman who married into the Miller mishpachah and pointed out the zeide in an album, and said, ‘I know that man, he came to empty our pushkes, and we would be mechabed him with some Slivovitz, which he always appreciated. And that’s she came to meet her future father in law long before her marriage; in the endeavor of tzeddakah.
The Skolya Rebbe, Harav Refoel Goldstein, a son in law of the previous Skolya Rebbe is a grandson of Reb Pesach Dovid, and spent summers with his grandfather. He recalls that when he would ask his grandfather questions in Mishnah and Gemarah he would reply, “I’m a pashuter Yid who learns Chok l’Yisrael… what do I know?’ “But in reality he was a big talmid chacham. He was just very humble.
Another story that the Rebbe relates is one of the sheer willpower and avodas hamiddos that his grandfather exhibited—a trait that surely contributed to his ability to stand steadfast in is Yiddishkeit during those early days, and to raise his family in a similar manner.
“Reb Pesach Duvid was a heavy smoker, for most of his life. One day he came into our room, and placed a half-finished pack of cigarettes on the table and said, ‘it’s enough, I will not smoke anymore.’ And I remember thinking to myself that this would last a day or two at best… But I was wrong, and he never smoked another cigarette again.”
Reb Pesach Dovid passed away on 14 Teves 1974, at the ripe old age of 97, leaving behind a legacy of descendants who follow in the ways of Reb Pesach Duvid Miller who came to Boro Park in 1911, and remained unchanged.