In his book Night, Elie Wiesel explores a variety of themes. One of them is the attempts of a person to reconcile one’s experiences with the belief in God. Eliezer, who is the main character of this work, is on the verge of losing his faith in God as a benevolent being. Yet, he manages to retain this faith, even though it was significantly transformed. This essay will focus on Eliezer’s experiences and the changes in his worldview.
At the beginning, Eliezer can be viewed as a very religious person. He studies Talmud and Kabbala, even though his father does not approve of this religiosity. When he is asked why he prays, he cannot fully understand this question, because in his view, God permeates every aspect of human life. This is how he responded to this question, “Why did I pray? A strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?” (Wiesel, 2).
For him, the belief in God is an inherent characteristic of a human being. Yet, the worldview is begins to change. The incarceration of Jews into ghettos and subsequent slaughter are not compatible with his faith in benevolent God. When Eliezer recalls his days in the ghetto, and later at Auschwitz, he says “Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul” (Wiesel, 1).
This sentence suggests that Holocaust experiences turned him into a materialist who denies the existence of God and soul. In this regard, one can certainly mention a moment when a child was hung. For Eliezer and other prisoners, the death of his boy symbolized the death of God.
It should be noted that Elie Wiesel describes the experiences that were common among many people. The crisis of faith was very widespread among people who survived ghettos and concentration camps (Garbarini, 178). However, Eliezer manages to preserve his belief in some way.
First of all, he recollects the story of Job whose faith was tested though suffering and hardships. He even associated himself with this character. In particular, he says, “How I sympathized with Job! I did not deny God’s existence, but I doubted His absolute justice” (Wiesel, 42). Nevertheless, the reference to Job is also important because his story means that true religious faith must not be ruined by any external circumstances (Alford, 10).
Moreover, Eliezer views religion as a way of preserving one’s human nature. For example, he believes that people “should show God that even here, in the enclosed hell they were capable of singing his praises” (Wiesel, 42). Moreover, he regrets that his father did not have a burial according to the traditions of Judaism. Thus, one can say that Eliezer adhered to his religious practices.
Overall, the internal struggle of Eliezer shows that the religious faith of an individual can be shaken, if it is very firm. The main character tries to reconcile the idea of injustice and cruelty with religious faith. At the beginning he views God as an omnipotent and benevolent being. Later, he comes very close to the complete rejection of faith. However, he thinks that faith must not be shattered by hardships and injustice. Nevertheless, his firm conviction God’s justice was shaken and he probably never regained it. This is how Holocaust affected him.
Alford, Fred. After the Holocaust: The Book of Job, Primo Levi, and the Path to Affliction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. Print.
Garbarini, Alexandra. Numbered Days: Diaries and the Holocaust. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006. Print.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. Trans. Stella Rodway. New York: Bantam Books, 1982. Print.