Rav Avigdor Miller on Arming Ourselves for Self-Defense

Q: Why is it that we find Matisyahu and other tzadikim in the older generations carried swords and today a Rosh Yeshiva would never think about owning a weapon?

The truth is that not only roshei yeshiva, but even bums shouldn’t carry weapons today. Because it’s not necessary. Unless you’re going to go at night through Bedford Stuyvesant, or take a walk through Harlem; but then a sword wouldn’t help you anyway. You’d have to have a shotgun. Or an armored car. Because they also have shotguns, so what will your shotgun help you?

Besides, Matisyahu wasn’t in the habit of carrying a sword. Only that he knew what was going to happen that day, so he put a sword under his cloak. But in general it doesn’t pay to carry weapons today at all. If you’re a man of peace and you’re not armed, you’re more likely to survive. Once you pull a knife, then you cannot tell what the other party will do. He’ll get desperate and who knows what he’ll do!

That’s also why I don’t approve of learning karate for self-defense purposes. What good is it you know the ways and means of tackling an opponent, if the opponent will be standing behind a door ready to jump you as you pass by? And these bums won’t play by the rules of karate. They hurl knives. Some of them have learned how to hurl knives from a distance. And the knife reaches the victim with the point first. They hurl knives and they shoot guns. So what is it going to help if you learn karate? Karate won’t help against the bullet.

So the best karate is to stay home. Don’t go out at night. And if you’re stuck and you’re confronted by bums, the best self-defense is to just keep quiet and empty out your pockets and give them everything. That’s the best karate.

I always say over the Chinese proverb, “The biggest hero is the one who survives. The one who runs away, that’s the hero.”
TAPE # 391 (December 1981)

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  1. Rav Miller, ZTL, paskened for me on many issues related to public safety. I will step out and say, almost forty years since he said this, the attacks on Jews has never been higher. Unprecedented. More than all other groups combined in the last year alone. I am positive that were he alive today, we would hear a very different story.

  2. No reason to believe he would have said anything different today. He was speaking to a tzibur that was suffering under an unprecedented crime wave in New York, when Jews were much more afraid of walking the streets than they are today.

    • No. I had serious cases beyond cyber. In some of them he actually said,

      “Aron, not only do you have to continue to investigate them, you have to prosecute them and when it’s time to lock them up, I want to be there to turn the key.”

      Believe me, you would be surprised (or maybe not) as to who he was talking about. In my job I was called upon to on many occasions to be undercover and Moser. I would refuse until I conferred with Rav Miller. I was cited more than a few times for disobeying orders but when he gave me the go, I went.

  3. @Toras Avigdor

    Times have changed. People walk into places of worship with a gun nowadays and now people down.

    You have no idea what he would say today. What he said was at a time when the political climate was different than it is today.

  4. I am a big fan of Rav Miller. But it’s a shame he is not alive to answer my following question. What did Chazal mean when they said he who comes to kill you arise and kill him first? If a jew should just sit back and let people attack or potentially kill you is there not an obligation of self defense?

  5. @Toras Avigdor

    With all due respect to you guys and the nice work that you do, you honestly do not know what he would say nowadays. Back in the seventies when he was speaking, it was possible to stay home and not enter the crime-infested areas. The crimes that he was referring to were muggings, not the types of attacks that are occurring these days. I am not professing to know what he would say if he were alive today, but just the same, neither should you.

  6. @Toras Avigdor

    If you really want to open up this conversation, there is a tape from Rav Miller ZTL in which he actually praises the JDL, the Jewish Defense League headed by Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Comments are closed.