Due to the barbarities that the Jewish people endured throughout the Holocaust, many abandoned their faith in God and humanity. Elie Wiesel’s memoir ‘Night’ recounts how as a 15-year-old boy, he and the Jewish people endure the hardships of the Holocaust. Wiesel was a Romanian-born Jew, whose hometown of Sighet was controlled by the Hungarians for most of the Second World War. By May of 1944, all Sighet Jews were forced into cattle wagons and transported to Auschwitz against their will. Upon arrival, Wiesel was separated from his mother and sisters, but stayed near his father. Wiesel and his father were miraculously able to make it to the end of the Holocaust, but his father died shortly before the liberation of the camps. Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, survives through a battle of conscience: first believing wholeheartedly in God, then resisting that faith, and finally rediscovering his faith.
Until the Holocaust, Wiesel believed wholeheartedly in God as he stayed committed to Him, trusted in His protection, and regularly expressed gratitude to Him. From a young age, Wiesel was passionate about his Judaism because of his studies in Jewish mysticism, and the understanding of a strong need for God. In the text, it states, “I was almost thirteen and deeply observant. By day I studied Talmud and by night I would run to the synagogue to weep over the destruction of the Temple” (Wiesel, 1). In the aforementioned quote, Wiesel’s emphatic belief in God is conveyed through his commitment, which shows that he has an extremely devoted faith in God. Wiesel specifically uses the words ‘deeply observant’ and ‘weep’ to show that he takes his prayer-time and the religion of Judaism as an immensely serious matter. Later on in the chapter, when asked why he weeps when he prays, he is uncertain. Wiesel’s ability to subconsciously cry allows the reader to realize that he truly trusts and believes in God. Similarly, Wiesel did not believe Moishe the Beadle's warnings of the cruelty of the Holocaust, due to his strong faith in God and the belief that God would protect him from the horrors of Moishe's stories. Wiesel writes, “Even I did not believe him. I … listened to his tales, trying to understand his grief. But all I felt was pity” (Wiesel, 7). In the antecedent quote, Wiesel’s dedication to God is exuded through his use of euphemism, which shows how Moishe’s true warnings were made to be seen as a hoax. Wiesel explicitly uses the words ‘tales’ and ‘trying to understand’ in an effort to panoply that he could not understand Moishe, and therefore degraded his warnings to tales. Wiesel’s inability to comprehend Moishe’s cautions, allows the reader to picture how firmly rooted Wiesel was in God, and how he could not even think of the worst to come. Likewise, Wiesel’s absolute faith in God was still quite evident as he began to take minute commodities, that would have taken for granted, more seriously. Wiesel states, “I thanked God in an impoverished prayer, for having created mud in His infinite and wonderful universe” (Wiesel, 38). In the prior quote, Wiesel's unambiguous faith in God is portrayed through his optimism that shows how he sees God in the minutest commodities and magnifies Him for the smallest of miracles, in such a brutal situation. Wiesel expressly uses the words ‘I thanked God’ to express his gratitude to Him. Wiesel's gratitude to God amid a tough situation, allows the reader to realize that he felt the need to draw closer to God in an attempt to feel more security over his uncertain future. In this instance, Wiesel and other Jews realize the need to appreciate previously overlooked gifts from God and focus more on what matters in life. In summary, Wiesel’s tribulations of the Holocaust were preluded with a strong faith in God and a battle of conscience.
As Wiesel was battling to survive the Holocaust, he began resisting his faith in God as he could no longer understand God’s silence thus leading him to rebelliously question God, and place man above Him. Wiesel’s faith began to wither as he could not understand how such a preeminent God could allow such cruelty to take place in the world with such silence. Wiesel states, “For the first time, I felt revolt rise up in me ... The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent?” (Wiesel, 33). In the previous quote, Wiesel’s impotence to understand God’s silence is a key sign of him slowly losing his faith, as he finds God’s silence to be immensely troubling. Wiesel specifically uses the words ‘All-Powerful and Terrible’ and ‘silent’ in the same sentence to show that he has begun to notice the omission of God and wonders why there has been no divine intervention. The silence of God and His ineffectiveness to intervene in Wiesel’s situation speedily led to Wiesel rebelling against Him in his thoughts, and it was only a matter of time for a Wiesel’s internal motives to become actions. Furthermore, Wiesel’s religious rebellion escalates, as he cannot find a reason to glorify God amid so much agony. On page 67, Wiesel writes, “Why should I bless him? Every fiber in me rebelled ... How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe… Praised by Thy Holy Name…?”. In the preeminent quote, Wiesel's retrogressive faith in God is divulged through his tedious reiteration and rhetorical questions, to show that he is having a one-sided conversation with God. Wiesel repetitively questions ‘Why should I bless him?’ to emphasize the fact that he no longer wants to praise a God who allows so much evil to occur. Wiesel’s conversation with God allows to reader to realize that Wiesel has begun resisting his faith as his innocent religious questions transform into rebellious ones, leading to rebellious actions. Even though it is Rosh Hashanah, Wiesel feels as if he cannot acclaim a God who has not done anything beneficial to improve on his situation. Wiesel is overwhelmed with the sentiment and feels as if he is the only Jew rebelling among the thousands of Jews in the internment camp. In the same way, Wiesel’s faith continues to deteriorate as he put man on a pedestal higher than that of God. In the text, Wiesel states, “And I, the former mystic was thinking: Yes, man is stronger, greater than God … I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused” (Wiesel, 67-68). In the aforementioned quote, Wiesel's loss of faith is conveyed through a paradox that shows how Wiesel feels like he is more powerful, persistent, and affectionate than God, an omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent being. Wiesel specifically uses the words ‘stronger’ and ‘greater’ to show that he has downgraded God, the Creator of the Universe, to lower than that of a mortal man. Wiesel referring to man as stronger than God is seemingly absurd, as Wiesel cannot get himself out of the situation he is in, but God can. As thousands of Jews are lying prone before God, Wiesel watches them helplessly, comparing God’s eminence with the weakness of the congregated Jews. Comparing God in this way was a sign of Wiesel’s weakened faith, and allows the reader to realize that as Wiesel sets man above God it means that he no longer relies on God. In essence, as Wiesel is managing to survive the Holocaust through a battle of conscience, he begins to doubt God and then eventually loses his faith in Him.
Although the Holocaust scarred Wiesel for life and seemed to annihilate his faith, he was able to retain some of his faith during and even after the experience as he started praying to God again, admitting his faith, and even giving thanks to God. Wiesel gradually begins to recover his faith in God as he prays to Him for the strength to keep himself from abandoning his father. Wiesel states, “... a prayer formed inside me … to this God in whom I no longer believed. ‘Oh God, Master of the Universe, give me strength never to do what Rabbi Eliahu’s son has done’” (Wiesel, 91). In the precursory quote, Wiesel's short prayer to God reflects the incomplete nature of his loss of faith. Wiesel directly uses the words ‘Master of the Universe’ and ‘God in whom I no longer believed’ sequentially, to show that he now reverences God, but hasn’t fully recovered his faith. Wiesel claims that he no longer believes in God, yet he turns to God when he doubts his ability to control himself. Wiesel’s short prayer allows the reader to realize that Wiesel perceives his possibility for weakness, and therefore turns to a higher power for assistance. Moreover, Wiesel recuperates his faith as he gives thanks to God, after having survived the Holocaust. On page 117 (the epilogue), Wiesel writes, “Words of gratitude. First to our common Creator. That is what the Jewish tradition commands us to do”. In the preliminary quote, Wiesel's recuperation of faith is revealed through his gratitude, which shows how he eventually saw God as worthy to be praised. Wiesel categorically uses the word ‘gratitude’ alongside the word ‘commands’ to show that he is thanking God because of what his studies in Judaism instructed him to do, not necessarily because it came from the bottom of his heart. Wiesel’s form of gratitude toward God allows the reader to realize that he’s making effort to reunite with God, but that his new faith is not the same as his old faith. Similarly, Wiesel continues to prove his recovery of faith in God, as he publicly admits his credence. On page 120 (the epilogue), Wiesel writes, “But I have faith. Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and even in his creation. Without it no action would be possible”. In the prior quote, Wiesel's newly transformed faith in God is emanated through his confession that shows how he has now rediscovered God and accepted Him. Wiesel specifically uses the words ‘I have faith … in God’ next to the words ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’ to show that he has new faith, but that the faith seems distant. Wiesel admits that he has faith, but does not mention that he has faith in ‘his own God’, rather he makes mentions the faith that other prophets in the Torah had. Wiesel’s newly emerged faith in God is not fully like the faith he had at the beginning of ‘Night’. Overall, even though Wiesel has been forever changed by his Holocaust experience, he reemerges and manages to get some of his faith back.
In conclusion, Wiesel miraculously survived the Holocaust, and in the process he struggled to maintain the true meaning of his faith. Wiesel conveyed his absolute trust in God through his commitment, gratitude, and belief in God’s protection to show that he had a strong belief in God at the time when his faith was innocent. Wiesel also emanated his loss of faith through the use of his inability to comprehend God’s silence, thus leading him to rebelliously question God, and place man above Him. Wiesel’s loss of faith in God shows how the Holocaust shaped his life into nearly deleting one of his core values. Finally, Wiesel regained his faith and started praying to God, thanking him, and even publicly admitting his faith. However, Wiesel’s newly emerged faith was unlike the faith he had before since it was not as strong. The reader may consider how Wiesel’s account shows us that even the most committed believer in God can have a breaking point in their faith due to the circumstances of life, and even a severed faith in God can be revived.