A BJN 4 Questions Interview (with a bonus question) for Rabbi Chaim Miller, guest this Shabbat at Chabad of NW Metro Denver.

4 Questions for Rabbi Miller, Kabbalah of Prayer

This Friday evening (Feb 3) Rabbi Chaim Miller author of the “Gutnick Chumash” and other classic Jewish commentaries will be speaking at Chabad of NW Metro Denver on the Kabalah of Prayer – Closing the G-d Gap.

The Friday night Shabbaton begins at 6:30 pm and will include a delicious three course Shabbat dinner. A children’s program will run simultaneously to the meal and presentation.

On Shabbat morning – February 4th – Rabbi Miller will lead an instructional Shabbat morning services with kabalistic insights and meditations. Services will be followed by a luncheon.

Dinner begins at 6:30 pm lecturer at 7:45 pm. To make a reservation please follow this link or call 303.429.5177. Click here for more info.  Chabad of NW Metro Denver is located in Westminster on 4505 W 112 Ave.

Question: Why is it important for me to know the mystical insights to prayer? I enjoy the social synagogue atmosphere, the rabbi gives a good sermon and the cholent and kiddush is worth the wait. What more could there be to services?
Rabbi Miller: Because we don’t know how to pray, we try to make the Synagogue experience enjoyable with other activities: food, music or a speech. But most of the services are actually about praying so it’s important that we get some direction how to do that. Good, mystically inspired prayer will help you to be more centered, less fragmented and will put you more in touch with your inner self. To pray with devotion may be difficult, but to pray without it is ludicrous.

Question:  The Shabbat program at Chabad will reflect your latest book that you published, a Friday night synagogue prayer book.  What motivated you to begin focusing on prayer after having publishing two very successful works on the Five Books of Moses (the Lifestyle and Gutnick edition among many other books?
Rabbi Miller: People have the false impression that Rabbis and religious people know how to pray, and others do not. In my experience, that’s not true. Almost everybody nowadays is confused when it comes to prayer. The synagogues overemphasize tradition and external behavior and lose touch of the introspective and the metaphysical. Most prayer commentaries do not help much because they read like a history book: When was this prayer introduced? By whom? etc. So I wanted to redress this problem by writing a prayer commentary which is entirely focused on emotional and spiritual insight.

Question: How does your non-religious up-bringing reflect your understanding and appreciation for prayer?
Rabbi Miller: In my childhood I was deeply alienated by the Synagogue experience. I was definitely interested–look, I became a Rabbi in the end—but there was nothing there for me. I relate deeply to why Jews find the Synagogue experience difficult and now I have the knowledge and experience to help alleviate the problem.

Question: Many people don’t care for the synagogue but like to pray privately at home, will your Friday evening presentation offer tools for solo prayer?
Rabbi Miller: Yes, absolutely. Prayer is an art that can only be mastered through repeated practice. Not many people are able to come to the synagogue on a daily basis and it’s important that praying privately is seen as something desirable.

Bonus Question: When I hear suggestions about meditation during prayer I think of some type of voodoo experience. Can you describe briefly what type of prayer meditation you will be suggesting and why you think they are useful?
Rabbi Miller: The Bible describes prayer as a “ladder,” because it’s an experience that you ascend one rung at a time. The Jewish prayer book (siddur) was written to guide you up this ladder, step by step. At each junction, I will offer some guidance as to the type of emotional work you should be doing at this point. I’m also going to convey some the way Kabbalists imagined what is happening spiritually at that point. These ideas are refreshing and mind-expanding. Indirectly, they help to lift us out of the daily rut that we often find ourselves in and help us to foster a broader, more integrated and holistic approach to life.


Rabbi Chaim Miller

Rabbi Chaim Miller is a leading international authority for interpretation of Jewish Bible and mysticism, specifically the Torah-related works of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson (1902-1994). His scholarly achievement, at the tender age of 37, is substantiated by the vast dissemination of his works, as well as the acclaim they have won him among his colleagues and in the educational and religious communities in which the works circulate.

Born and raised in London, England, Miller studied at the prestigious Haberdashers’ Aske’s School for Boys. He began to explore the depth of his religion while at England’s Leeds University through extensive reading and personal introspection. Fascinated by Jewish mystical teachings in particular, he took a year off to learn at a Lubavitcher yeshiva. Five years later he was an ordained rabbi practicing in Leeds, running both a synagogue and a yeshiva, and writing in his spare time what would soon become the “Gutnick Chumash.”

In 2004 Rabbi Miller relocated to the United States with the intention of devoting himself almost entirely to the writing and editing of great Jewish liturgy for Kol Menachem. Since this time he has completed the groundbreaking “Kol Menachem Chumash (Gutnick Edition),” the “Slager Edition Haggadah” — the bestselling work in its genre — and two volumes of a landmark series exploring Rambam’s Thirteen Principles of Faith.

Rabbi Miller’s texts are currently used at some of the nation’s top institutions, including New York University and Yeshiva University. In addition, over 1,000 rabbis in the United States use Rabbi Miller’s texts to teach their students and prepare their sermons.

Rabbi Miller’s publications have received the attention of community leaders and various persons of note. In 2008, President George W. Bush sent the “Slager Edition Haggadah” to the troops in Iraq as a representation of the Jewish faith for the United States military. The Haggadah was a recent recipient of the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award just this past year, and Miller’s “Gutnick Chumash” is on display at the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn, New York. The popular “Dummies” series published “The Torah for Dummies” in 2008, with author Arthur Kurzweil singling out Rabbi Miller’s “Gutnick Chumash” and proclaiming, “If I could have only one translation on a desert island, it would be this one.”

See also
Torah in Ten 

Kol Menachem 

The Huffington Post  


About Rabbi Benjy Brackman

Benjy Brackman is the Rabbi/Executive Director of Chabad of NW Metro Denver in Westminster, Colorado.

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