In the spring of 2005, Elie Wiesel was interviewed and asked a series of questions, most of them predicated on why still after his experience of this traumatic history event he still opt to believe and have faith in God. One of his answers was: “‘I am a person who has problems believing, and yet, in spite of them or perhaps because of them, I do believe’, Wiesel continues. ‘I think the right to doubt is one of the most important rights given to human beings. But I believe in God. In fact, I never stopped believing in God—that’s why I had the problem, the crisis of faith’”.
‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel, is a memoir about a Jewish boy named Eliezer, who lives in Romania during World War II. Elizer and his family are taken away from his home by the Germans and are headed to concentration camps. He, his mother and sisters are split up and over the course of time he is accompanied by his father who near the end of the novel, grows sick and dies. Eliezer survives and is rescued by American forces.
The most significant theme in this memoir was faith. Elizer questioned his faith a lot during the Holocaust, at a point where he even felt like he lost it, years after this experience he counts this as a valuable lesson and it pushed him harder to have faith, he later calls it ‘wounded faith’. This is shown throughout the book. The following will show you the journey he took on his road of faith, and how it was tormented with.
In Elie Wiesel’s memoir ‘Night’, he deeply writes on the topic of faith and belief, this is proved in the beginning of the book when Elie states, “I was almost thirteen and deeply observant”. He was surrounded by Judaism, and would study the Talmud during the day and by night he would go to the synagogue and cry with religious feeling. He wanted his father to find him a master for his studies of Kabbalah. But his father did not want him to at such a young age. His father wanted him to forget the idea of studying the Kabbalah, but despite that Elie ended up finding a master on his own, his master’s name was ‘Moshe the Beadle’. Moshe asked him one day while they were praying, “Why do you cry when you pray?”, Elizer did not know what to say, he responds by saying that he feels the need to cry, because something inside of him feels like that. This also shows how deep his faith in God was and how much faith he had in him, if he feels the need to cry, it shows how much he cares and believes in his God. Him crying also shows how his faith in what he believes is an ‘all good God’. He believes that nothing bad will ever happen, because how can this good God ever let something bad something happen, so he cries because he has so much faith and is probably so thankful for him. “Moishe was not the same. The joy in his eyes was gone. He no longer sang. He no longer mentioned either God or Kabbalah”. Moishe who was a deeply religious man seems to have lost his faith in God. He tries to warn the Jews of the horrors he saw, but none were solicitous, considering their deep faith in an all good God. People thought he had gone mad, and even Elizer did not believe. All he felt for him was pity, even after hearing his discussions on what he saw, he called them ‘tales’.
The Jews were banned from their homes, and on the way to the concentration camps, people discussed this and only saw this as a test of faith from God. “My father was crying. It was the first time I saw him cry” (Wiesel, 19). They were ordered to run. Jews of all ages, were ordered to run. And were forced to run faster and faster, even a little girl with a bag too heavy for her. When they had arrived at their destination they were drenched, but they still continued to pray, they asked for mercy, and still couldn’t believe what was happening to them. “They just want to steal our valuables and jewelry. They know that it has all been buried and that they will have to dig to find it; so much easier to do when the owners are on vacation” (Wiesel, 21). They began to make up reasons for why this was happening. Silly reasons that lifted their moods. Making up situations on why this was happening. Avoiding the fact that God could let something terrible happen to them, they could not even think to put this on God, for their faith was still very strong. “There was so many of us we could hardly breathe” (Wiesel, 22). People had to relieve themselves in a corner because they couldn’t leave. They were shoved in cars packed with people with very little bread and water. Trapped with little to no air, and intolerable heat. Yet they still remained calm and tried to reassure one another. “For the first time, I felt anger rising within me. Why should I sanctify His name? The Almighty, the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe, chose to be silent. What was there to thank Him for?” (Wiesel, 33) They began to separate women and men. Elizer, losing part of his family, same as the others. At the crematorium they saw small children getting thrown in fires, same for the adults. People were in shock that these things can be possible, things like crematoriums, etc. After all of the inhumane things that had happened to them, Elizer began to lose his absolute devotion to God.
“Twenty more steps. If I was going to kill myself, this was the time” (Wiesel, 33). He doesn’t understand how God could let this happen. He thinks back on that first night in camp. The children bodies turning to smoke, the rider there. This was all too frightening for people and for Eliezer, he came to a close encounter with death, because of the fact that he lost his God, he still believed in a God, just not the God he thought he knew. “Some of the men spoke of God: His mysterious ways, the sins of the Jewish people, and the redemption to come. As for me, I had ceased to pray. I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice” (Wiesel, 45). He doesn’t believe that there isn’t a God, but this whole experience opened his eyes. It helped him see how things like this can happen, and that God allows it to happen. That’s what he can’t grasp, the fact that the God he thought he knew so well, the God that wouldn’t let anything bad happen, is allowing it to happen. He lost his faith in a God he thought he knew but not God overall, but he realizes that this is a God he doesn’t want to praise. “Behind me, I heard the same man asking: ‘For God’s sake, where is God?’”. Others are losing faith in their God too, for the obvious reasons. If they believe in an all good God, then how can God do this to them? How can he allow these inhumane, disgusting things, that no person should have to go through, happen? They question their God because they finally realize what’s happening. “And I, the former mystic, was thinking: yes, man is stronger, greater than God. When Adam and Eve deceived You, You chased them from paradise. But look at men whom You have betrayed, allowing them to be tortured, slaughtered, gassed, and burned, what do they do? They praise before You! They praise Your name!”. He used to believe the world depended on his prayer, his good deeds, but now after this traumatic experience, he feels even stronger. He no longer would plead for anything. He compares himself to ashes. Without love, without mercy, without God. He felt lonely, because though he lost his faith in his idea of God, he was surrounded by people who still continued to pray to a God, he no longer believed in, even after all that has happened, they prayed.
In conclusion, Wiesel’s association with God encounters high points and low points, which at last changes his perspectives about God. At the absolute starting point of the book, Wiesel demonstrates his solid commitment to God however as he encounters the Holocaust, Wiesel gets negative of his strict convictions. While Wiesel develops and changes into a man, he all the while reclassifies God’s situation in his life. Wiesel, being a blunt creator, surfeits numerous instances of the psychological and physical impacts of individuals in the Holocaust and all the more explicitly, a young boy. Therefore, ‘Night’ gives a more profound comprehension of the Holocaust so that with a superior comprehension of such an awful occasion, history doesn’t rehash itself.