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Wiesel’s understanding of God in the book, Night, is demonstrated through the main character, Eliezer. Eliezer’s faith in God changes throughout the book, as Eliezer experiences the challenges of the Holocaust. Elie Wiesel had experienced the Holocaust while at a concentration camp and chose to narrate his experiences in writing.
The book explains the horrible occurrences of the Holocaust. One of the major conflicts in Night is Eliezer’s struggle with his faith. The events in the book regarding Elizer’s faith are quite sarcastic and dramatic as Eliezer’s faith moves from an intimate relationship with God to denying God’s existence and lastly Eliezer’s unshakable faith in God.
At the beginning of the book, we see Eliezer’s total and unreserved faith in God. He is so passionate about God and His existence. We find this in the way he expresses himself and speaks fondly about God. For example, in one instance, when he is confronted by a question about his passion for prayer, he says, “Why did I pray? […] Why did I live? Why did I breathe?” (Wiesel 2).
Eliezer’s life involved “Daily devotions reading the Talmud and attending evening prayers at the synagogue” (Wiesel 1). At this point, we find that Eliezer’s is not only committed to living a worthy life but is also seeking to gain in-depth knowledge on the teachings of the Cabbala.
His faith is so deep that he even goes against the wishes of his father, who is averse to the idea of his son studying the Cabbala. We are told that Eliezer’s ignores his father’s words and, “found a master for [himself], Moshe the Beadle” (SparkNotes 2). Moshe becomes the man of wisdom that teaches Elie “the revelations and mysteries of the Cabbala. (Sparknotes 3).
Things, however, take a dramatic twist when Eliezer’s goes to the concentration camp. Here Eliezer’s encounters a peculiar and rather shocking situation that shakes his faith in God. Here we are introduced to an Eliezer who has never witnessed the Holocaust before but now has to deal with its horrific and shocking events.
This is where Eliezer’s steadfastness in God suffers the test of time. There are many thoughts that go through Eliezer’s mind while at the concentration camps. Eliezer almost questions God as he wonders why a loving and compassionate God would allow his people to be so humiliated and maimed by merciless people.
Eliezer undoubtedly finds himself in a dilemma as he finds himself in a difficult situation. On the one hand, he is a man who trusts and believes in God, while on the other hand, he is unable to resist the temptation of questioning God. We encounter the first time that he seeks to falter God when he says, “why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank him for?” (Wiesel 31).
Eliezer’s bound with God is not about his existence but related to his personality as the true and righteous judge. Eliezer seems to falter this idea. We are told Eliezer “did not deny God’s existence, but doubted His absolute justice” (Sternlicht 42). Perhaps, the scenario that best illustrates Eliezer’s dilemma is during the hanging of a young man. Eliezer is asked where his God is and answers, “Where is He? Here he is – He is hanging here on this gallows” (Sternlicht 62).
Throughout the book, Eliezer’s faith could be said to be evident even though shaken by inevitable circumstances. His anger towards God as he witnesses the Holocaust could be said to be rational as any believer could react the same way towards God. The fact that he questions God is enough to prove that has faith in God is somewhat shaken.
SparkNotes. Sparknotes 101: Literature.. New York, NY: SparkNotes., 2004. Print.
Sternlicht, Sanford. Student companion to Elie Wiesel. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2003. Print.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006. Print.