Using 5 specific examples from this book, trace the changes in Eliezer’s attitude towards God
Eliezer’s attitude towards God changes significantly throughout his experience. The faith of Eliezer as a young boy is absolute, and he cannot imagine his life without studying religious principles and mysticism. Thus, when Moshe, the Beadle, asks Eliezer about the reason for praying, Eliezer notes, “Why did I pray? Strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?” (Wiesel 4).
Praying is equal to breathing for a boy. However, Eliezer’s visions of God’s power and nature of the world become to change when he sees the first horrors of the concentration camps. Observing the cruelty of burning babies by the Nazis, Eliezer asks, referring to God, “Why should I sanctify His name?” (Wiesel 33). The first night in a camp becomes a challenge for Eliezer’s faith because his God is murdered in his heart, “Never shall I forgot those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes” (Wiesel 34).
Reflecting on his days in the camps, Eliezer describes the eve of Rosh Hashanah, “My eyes had opened, and I was alone, terribly alone in the world without God, without man” (Wiesel 68). Thus, Eliezer lost his faith and belief in the good world and people as well as in God. Eliezer’s final step to the rejection of God is observed when his father dies, and the boy begins to notice the elements of cruelty in his behavior (Wiesel 90). However, Eliezer does not really lose his religion while remembering the significance of religious rituals and continuing to ask questions.
What are 5 examples from the book of how the Jews seem unwilling to believe what was happening to them? Why do you think this was?
The Jews seemed to be unwilling to believe in the horrors and cruelty associated with the power of the Nazis. First, the Jews of Sighet refused to believe in the story of Moshe the Beadle about the cruelty of the Nazis because it was too terrifying (Wiesel 7). Second, the Jews did not discuss the authority of the Nazis as a threat to their life in Sighet. Wiesel notes that “it meant nothing more to us than a change of ministry” (Wiesel 9).
Furthermore, the Jews were not shocked by the German regime because they did not see any horrors immediately, and they asked about the Germans: “Where is their famous cruelty?” (Wiesel 10). It seemed that the Jews tried to be optimistic in any situation, even when they were asked to wear the yellow stars (Wiesel 11). The Jews even welcomed the organization of ghettos because they thought “this was a good thing” (Wiesel 12). The denial of reality was the feature that characterized the Jews of Sighet during that period.
Identify Moshe. What happened to him? What was the most important thing Moshe taught Eliezer?
Moshe the Beadle was the religious teacher who taught Cabbala for Eliezer. Moshe was poor, tried to be always invisible and insignificant, his appearance was awkward, but his eyes were dreamy (Wiesel 3). One day, Moshe was expelled from Sighet as the other foreign Jews. The Jews seemed to travel to Poland, but the Gestapo forced the Jews from the train to the forest where the people had to dig large graves for themselves. The Gestapo killed all the Jews, but Moshe wounded his leg.
The man was left by the Gestapo as dead, and that situation saved his life. It was described by the teacher as a miracle (Wiesel 6). When Moshe came back to Sighet, he was not the same because his eyes were not dreamy or joyful anymore, and he did nosing. Moshe only came to the citizens of Sighet and told about the experienced horrors, but he was not listened to (Wiesel 7). Moshe taught Eliezer the important thing that it is possible to come closer to God while asking questions the answers to which can be found in the heart (Wiesel 5).
Describe 5 specific examples of how the Jewish prisoners treat each other. Why do you think they act this way?
Wiesel describes several specific situations to demonstrate how the Jewish prisoners treated each other, balancing at the edge of humanity and inhumanity. While traveling to the concentration camp, the Jews became panic-stricken, and the screams of Madame Schächter made them angry. Some men began to beat Madame Schächter (Wiesel 26). The Jewish prisoners lost their signs of humanity quickly while concentrating on their basic needs and fears, as for instance, at Auschwitz (Wiesel 30).
The prisoners even ignored Akiba Drumer’s words about praying for him as the dead because they were too concentrated on survival and their own sufferings (Wiesel 45). Thoughts about food and survival became the main ones in the Jewish prisoners’ lives, and previously moral people began to kill their fathers for bread (Wiesel 101). The Jewish people became the victims of circumstances, and they forgot about their morality and the significance of relationships. For instance, Rabbi Eliahou’s son thought about his father’s weakness as the barrier for his own survival (Wiesel 91). The prisoners became cruel and selfish, concentrated only on their needs and sufferings.
Describe Wiesel’s emotional, spiritual, and physical state by the end of the book
On the last page of the book, Wiesel describes his feelings, thoughts, and his emotional, spiritual, and physical state. It is noted that the former prisoners of Buchenwald did not think about revenge or parents. The thoughts of the freemen were also concentrated on food. Eliezer was physically exhausted, and he was suffering from poisoning for several days after becoming free. Moreover, Eliezer was exhausted emotionally and spiritually. While feeling better, Eliezer decided to look at the mirror.
The author notes that “from the depths of the mirror, a corpse was contemplating me” (Wiesel 115). In addition, that corpse had a specific look which Eliezer could not forget, and that look could not leave the man. The extreme physical and emotional exhaustion is described by the author in the image of a corpse. However, it is also important to pay attention to Eliezer’s spiritual state because he forgot about any faith in his heart and concentrated only on satisfying his basic physical needs. Eliezer was ill not only physically but also spiritually because all his vision of the world and God’s grace was denied as a result of observing horrors of the Holocaust.
Wiesel underwent a dramatic faith journey in the book. In this course on World Religions, we will look at the concept of “Religious Experiences.” Describe what kinds of religious experiences have shaped your faith up to this point in time.
Wiesel discusses the striking faith journey in his work, and this journey can be described as not only unique but also dramatic. Wiesel’s religious experiences make him change the attitude to God and faith significantly while changing his vision of the world and himself. I can state that my religious experiences are not as dramatic as Wiesel’s ones, and the people who survive such experiences can be discussed as unique ones. My religious experiences are more associated with the miracles of daily life. Since childhood, I hoped that God’s grace could be found everywhere, and my hopes became a reality.
I remember the moment when I first recognized my trust in relation to God. I was a child when my great-grandmother became seriously ill, and I found that all the members of my family prayed day and night while saying a lot of good words about recovery, happiness, grace, and gratitude. I also joined morning and evening praying while truly believing in the great-grandmother’s recovery and God’s grace. Something miraculous happened because, in spite of the great-grandmother’s age and physical state, her illness ‘fell in sleep’, and our loving great-grandmother could live many happy years. It was the first time when I asked God, and He responded to my praying. Since that period of time, I had no chances to deny my faith.
What was most surprising about Wiesel’s story? What was most disturbing about his story?
The most surprising part of Wiesel’s story is when the Jews of Sighet choose to ignore Moshe’s words about the threat and when they focus only on optimistic aspects of the Nazis’ invasion. The behavior of the Jews can be explained with references to their strong belief in the happy future (Wiesel 7). The Jews reject to accept the truth of Moshe’s story because this ugly truth cannot be explained with the known religious ideals and principles. The faith of the Jews was so strong that they could not admit the fact that God could allow the cruelty described by Moshe.
Similar visions were also shared by Eliezer, who started to lose his faith because of the impossibility to understand the nature of cruelty round him. The most disturbing thing described in the story is Eliezer’s sufferings associated with his faith struggle. Eliezer had to betray all his ideals because the observed horrors made him doubt. The problem of doubt is one of most dramatic in the person’s religious journey, and Eliezer almost lost this struggle while concentrating on his doubts, but the signs of his faith hidden in the soul were revealed in the form of his attention to rituals and God’s Word.
Put yourself in Wiesel’s shoes. What would be your attitude towards God?
While putting myself in Wiesel’s shoes, I hope that I could not change the attitude towards God because of focusing on the idea that all the experiences make us find answers to a lot of questions. Furthermore, Wiesel’s experience can be discussed as one of the most dramatic ordeals. If God allows such cruelty in the world, and if I receive the opportunity to try and test my faith in such a situation, I need to become patient.
However, the border between patience, silence, and ignorance in this situation is almost absent because it is necessary to learn how to perceive all the horrors observed in the camp, how to treat the other prisoners, and how to save the human face, morality, and faith. It is possible to assume that my attitude to God would change as Wiesel’s did, but I hope that I could recognize my role in the situation and God’s will in order to avoid rejecting God. In spite of Eliezer’s true belief and focus on the principle of questions and answers, he could not avoid rejecting God. I hope that faith would be the only thing keeping me alive in that situation.
Why do you think the Jews had to undergo so much suffering? How does the Catholic Church explain the cause of suffering in the world? Can you envision any good purpose coming from Jewish suffering?
It is rather difficult to answer the question of why the Jews underwent so much suffering during the Holocaust. It is possible to refer to the idea that the Jews strayed from God and demonstrated disobedience or to the idea that they were chosen by God to reveal His ideals. However, it is possible to state that the Jewish suffering led to the significant uprising in their spirituality, faith, and humanity. According to the Catholic Church, suffering and evil are opposite things. Thus, the cause of suffering in the world is God’s intention to help people understand their mistakes and focus on the harmony of living with God. Such sufferings could lead to the Jews’ transformation as a spiritual nation. As a result, the suffering experienced by the Jewish people can be discussed from several perspectives.
Elie Wiesel, the author, is at the forefront of a movement to prevent attacks of genocide from ever happening again. Why do you think he does that?
Elie Wiesel works to support the movement on preventing genocide because he really knows the horrors of it. The author can draw the public’s attention to the issues which should be resolved by the world community in the first turn. Wiesel can work to prevent the horrors of the Jewish genocide today because of his dramatic experience. It is important to prevent humiliation and inhumanity in the future. Wiesel, as the person who survived the horrors of the concentration camps, can be discussed as the person who has a specific mission today.
That is why Wiesel’s activity can be oriented to promoting the ideals of peace without any signs of genocide. Wiesel is one of few men in the world who knows the value of human dignity and faith in relation to the situation of living in the concentration camp. Thus, the author can be discussed as having powers to destroy the idea of genocide. Elie Wiesel can perform at the forefront of the anti-genocide movement because of the necessity to balance politics, morality, and religion.
Wiesel, Elie. Night. New York, NY: Hill and Wang, 2006. Print.