Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Israel, for one minute in the morning each year, a siren sounds throughout the Land and daily life stops. Cars halt in the middle of the highway, factories go silent, and students cease to study. People utter prayers or personal thoughts memorializing the 6 million Jews murdered at the hands of the Nazis. On this day, places of entertainment are closed by law, TV stations air Holocaust documentaries, and low-key songs are played on the radio. Flags are flown at half-mast and a memorial ceremony is held at Yad VaShem, the Holocaust Memorial, in the presence of the Israeli Prime Minister, President, survivors and their families.
This date is also the yahrtzeit of Rabbi Avigdor Miller (1908-2001), one of America's leading Torah educators. Rabbi Miller was born in Baltimore, and he studied as a young adult in the famed Slobodka Yeshiva in Europe. In the 1960s, he produced a series of groundbreaking books on Jewish thought, at a time when rabbinic works in English were almost unheard of. He was particularly skillful at connecting secular phenomena to the Divine. For example, before eating an apple he exclaimed, "Almighty God, look at this magnificent apple that You created! The wisdom of its waterproof enclosure, the beauty of its tantalizing red color, and the temptingly delicious aroma with which it is perfumed. How can I even begin to thank You!" Rabbi Miller's greatness is preserved on audiotape, in the form of a 2,000-part lecture series on Jewish ethics and history.