YISROEL-DOVID (YISRAEL-DAVID) MILLER (1839-January 2, 1913)
He was born in a village near Skidl (Skidzieĺ), Grodno district, Russian Poland [now, Skidzieĺ, Belarus]. He studied in religious elementary schools and in the Slonim yeshiva, and he was a teacher of Hebrew in Grodno, where in 1871 he opened a bookshop. Under the impact of the Malbim’s [Meyer Leybush ben Yekhiel Mikhl Wisser, 1809-1879] work, Mashal umelitsa (Allegory and riddle), he began to write items in florid language and became a regular letter-writer among the affluent and the rabbis of Grodno. In 1870 he published in Vilna a pamphlet, Milḥemet sofrim (War of writers), 118 pp., in opposition to A. M. Shatskes’s Mafteaḥ (Key) and thereby acquired a reputation for himself within Orthodox circles. He also wrote hundreds of Orthodox essays for Hamagid (The preacher)—among others, against Yude-Leyb Gordon’s intercession with the Tsarist government concerning an Enlightened censor over “Ḥaye adam” (Human beings) and “Shulḥan arukh” (Set table)—in Hatsofe lehamagid (The spectator to the preacher) and Halevanon (The Lebanon). Miller also published a series of storybooks in Yiddish, the majority of them reworked from Hebrew: Rebe mortkhe mit dem pabst (Rebbe Mortkhe with the Pope) (Vilna, 1887), republished (Lemberg, 1907); Toldes montefyore (Biography of Montefiore) (Vilna, 1890); Der poylisher kenig rebe shoyel vohl (The Polish king, R. Shaul Wohl), “a historical story of all the troubles that Jews have had from the kingdom of Poland until Rabbi Shaul Wohl reigned for a short time, [and] composed Yisrael moharim z”l (Israel our teacher, may his memory be for a blessing)…. It is adapted from various sources of celebrated writings in the finest European libraries,” in two parts (Vilna: Romm, 1899), 53 pp. and 49 pp. (In his Hakdama meet hamatik [Preface from the sage], in which he comes out, incidentally, against the Yiddish novels of that era, Miller explains that in 1899 he was studying in the Vienna library and for his research using primarily Sefer gedolat shaul [Work on the great Shaul] [London, 1952]). Of his translations into Yiddish, there appeared: Toldes haari (Biography of the Ari [R. Isaac Luria]) (Vilna, 1895); Khosn hameylekh (The king’s bridegroom), a historical tale (Warsaw, 1897); Sipurim fun rebe yitskhok ashkenazi lurye haari z”l (Stories of Rabbi Issac Luria Ashkenazi, the Ari, may his memory be for a blessing) (Lemberg, 1904), 92 pp. Many of his stories were published anonymously. He also published his text Sefer toldot menaḥem (Biography of Menaḥem) (Pyetrikov, 1913), 139 pp. in Yiddish—a description of the life of Rabbi Naḥum son of Rabbi Uziel of Grodno—with a postface about Miller’s literary activities. His son, ARYE-LEIB MILLER, a bookseller in Grodno, also published Sidur minḥat yehuda (Gift of Judah prayer book), with a collection of articles on the significance of the prayers in Minḥat yehuda (Grodno, 1925), 356 pp., “gathered and assembled from the best religious works and authors.” The Yiddish texts, by the way, were published according to the new Yiddish orthography.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; M. H. Sinai, “Di amolike grodne” (Grodno of old), in Grodner opklangen (Grodno anthology) (New York, 1951), pp. 5-6.
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