Eliezer’s Journey in His Faith in God ( Night by Elie Wiesel )
Elie Wiesel’s novel, “Night” recounts the horrors experienced by Jews during the holocaust. Beyond the pained narration of various events and unimaginable episodes of cruelty inflicted on the Jewish people lies a young boy’s transformation in his faith in both God and humanity. This essay will analyze how the main character of the story, Eliezer, lost a most vital part of his being, which is his faith in a powerful God due to the dire experiences he encountered as a holocaust survivor.
Eliezer started out in the novel as a young, idealistic boy with a hunger to learn more about his own religion, as he searched for a mentor who can explain to him the intricacies of the Kabbalah. He found Moishe the Beadle to guide him through the mystical Jewish beliefs. However, his lessons from this mentor were cut short by the expulsion of all foreign Jews from Eliezer’s town, Sighet because Moishe was a foreigner himself. Having taken a chance to escape, Moishe went back to Sighet to warn people of the horrible fate that awaited them if they do not move out because the Germans were coming to invade them and make them suffer their cruelty like he did. He believed it was a miracle that he made it back so he can warn his fellow Jews but no one believed him and dismissed him as a madman. Eliezer found it unthinkable that such cruelty can be inflicted by men on others and chose to keep his faith in humanity.
However, upon witnessing various instances violence against Jews, who were left with no choice but to suffer the pain and humiliation, Eliezer began to question his own faith. When he saw young children and even babies being thrown to the fire to be killed, his anger at God was intensified. He wondered, “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). Everywhere he looked, he saw unspeakable visions of human cruelty that were forever etched in his mind. He then declared, “Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes. Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.” (Wiesel, 34). With these words, he signified the death of his faith in God and in humanity. He learned that subjected to the loss of their dignity with the infliction of inhumane cruelty, people also lose their humanity and turn into animals.
Having been constantly exposed to violence, Eliezer desperately tried to hang on to the last shreds of decency he can muster. He was aware of the great tendency to lose his sense of propriety and yield to the evil within himself in order to survive. He has seen sons attack their fathers in the name of survival and did not want to be like them. He believed they have all been abandoned by God because He allowed all those atrocities to happen to them. His lowest point with regards to his faith was when he watched a young child being hanged to his death and everyone felt helpless. When he heard someone ask where God was in that situation, Eliezer thought, “Where He is? This is where – hanging here from this gallows”. (Wiesel, 65). This signified his acceptance that his faith in God has died along with the innocent child.
Still, even if he admitted that he struggled with his faith, it was evident that he cannot fully remove himself from it. In one instance when he fought against the temptation to embrace evil in order to survive, he turned to God. “And in spite of myself, a prayer formed inside me, a prayer to this God in whom I no longer believed. ‘Oh God, Master of the Universe, give me the strength never to do what Rabbi Eliahus son has done.’” (Wiesel, 91). Perhaps it was a force of habit, but it reflected that there were still embers of faith that remained alive in him. It is what kept him alive all throughout the holocaust.
As a holocaust survivor, Eliezer would never be the same person he was before the war began. He has lived to tell the tales of his terrible experiences of suffering from the cruelty of war. However, the novel never revealed if his faith in God has been restored as a result of his survival. That conclusion is left to his readers.
Wiesel, Elie, Night, New York: Hill and Wang, 2006. Print.