Eliezer’s battle with his faith is a commanding conflict in Elie Wiesel’s Night. In the introduction of the work, his faith in God is unconditional. On page 4, when asked why he prays to God by Moishe the Beadle, Elie answers, “Why did I pray? . . . Why did I live? Why did I breathe?” His belief in a supreme, compassionate God is unconditional, and he cannot imagine living without faith in a divine power. However, this faith is shaken by his experience during the Holocaust. Initially, Eliezer truly believes that god is everything and that nothing could be possible without god, but his faith is challenged by the traumatic events that cross his path during the holocaust. After the hanging of the pipel on page 65 in the end of Segment Four, Wiesel writes:
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“Where is God? Where is He?” someone behind me asked. ..For more than half an hour the child in the noose stayed there, struggling between life and death, dying in slow agony under our eyes. And we had to look him full in the face. He was still alive when I passed in front of him. His tongue was still red, his eyes were not yet extinguished. Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
“Where is God now?”
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
“Where is He? Here He is-He is hanging here on this gallows. . . .”
The Holocaust and its traumatizing images put Elie Wiesel’s faith into question through the end of the novel.
Initially, Eliezer’s faith is a result of his studies in Jewish mysticism, which teach him that God is everywhere in the world, that nothing could exist without God, that in fact everything in the physical world is a reflection of the divine world. In other words, Eliezer has grown up believing that everything on Earth demonstrates God’s divinity and strenth. His faith is put into the idea that God is everywhere, all the time, that his divinity touches every aspect of Eliezer’s daily life. Since God is perfect, his studies teach him, and God is everywhere in the world, the world must therefore be perfect.
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Eliezer’s faith in the goodness of the world is hopelessly destroyed by the cruelty and evil he beholds during the Holocaust. He cannot imagine that the concentration camps’ inconceivable, revolting brutality could possibly reflect divinity. He wonders how a compassionate God could be part of such debauchery and how an all powerful God could permit such savagery to take place. His faith is also shaken by the mercilessness and greed he sees among the prisoners. He might have been able to maintain the belief that humankind is essentially good if he didn’t see that the Holocaust exposes the selfishness, evil, and cruelty which everybody-not only the Nazis, but also his fellow prisoners, his fellow Jews fall victim to. If the world is so wicked, he feels, then God either must be equally wicked, he or must not exist at all.
Though this awareness suggests a massacre his faith, Eliezer manages to retain some of this faith throughout his affairs. In moments during his first night in the camp and during the hanging of the pipel, Eliezer does grapple with his faith, but his struggle should not be confused with a complete desertion of his faith. This struggle does not belittle his belief in God, but it is actually crucial to the entity of that belief. On page 4, When Moshe the Beadle is asked why he prays, he replies, “I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.” Questioning is also crucial to the idea of faith in a higher power. The Holocaust forces Eliezer to ask terrifying questions about the nature of good and evil and about whether God exists, but the very fact that he asks these questions reflects his commitment to God. Only in the lowest points of his faith does he turn his back on God.
Even when Eliezer says that he has given up on God completely, Wiesel’s constant use of religious metaphors undermines what Eliezer says he believes. Eliezer even refers to biblical passages when he denies his faith. When he fears that he might loose his father, he prays to God, and, after his father’s death, he expresses regret that there was no religious memorial. At the end of the book, even though he has been forever changed by his Holocaust experience, Eliezer emerges with his faith intact, so according to Wiesel, without a faith in God, there is no faith present at all. According to him, without God there is no faith and without faith there is no God. I agree with Elie Wiesel completely, because the ideas of God reside in our ability to be good outright people and to make right decisions. We can still do that without a belief or faith in God, but we cannot justify our actions without the faith that in return for our actions we will be rewarded when our time comes. Without that, our lives have little meaning during our lives and no meaning at all after that.
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