The Official Connections Book Review: ‘Night’ by Elie Wiesel
1 year ago The Connections Staff 0
Ethan Benenson// Hunterdon County, NJ
Born in Romania to an Orthodox Jewish family, a profound dedication to Judaism was instilled within Elie Wiesel from birth. However, when the Nazis separated his family and sent him and his father to Auschwitz, Wiesel finds himself questioning his faith as he is suddenly thrown into a world of starvation, brutality and hopelessness. In this powerful memoir, Wiesel describes his personal encounters with depravity and evil, not only in the inhumane world around him, but within himself as well. Through hermetically sealed cattle cars, forced marches during blizzards, back-breaking labor, crippling terror and a dying father to support, living was an act of courage in itself. Wiesel’s vivid and philosophical portraits of humankind at its lowest and highest make this work a fundamental and unparalleled piece of Holocaust literature and a must-read for anyone seeking a more personal portrayal of Auschwitz. G-d, loss-of-innocence, human nature — it is all in this soul-reaching book that is a necessary piece of humanity’s story.
“Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed….Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my G-d and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as G-d Himself. Never.”
When he is deported to Auschwitz, Elie Wiesel is already a teenageer. As an adolescent myself, I was able to connect with this novel on a much deeper level than any other Holocaust book I have read, for mixed in with Wiesel’s powerful emotions is a classic coming-of-age story.
I was moved by Wiesel’s disillusionment with the humanistic values he learned in synagogue as his childhood innocence and grand ambitions are crushed. After witnessing a public hanging of a Jewish child, Wiesel asks himself: “‘For G-d’s sake, where is G-d?’ And from within me, I heard a voice answer: ‘Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows….” Although in our secular world it is of course not as extreme, a wavering of faith is still something every person experiences throughout their lifetime.
Looking at all the blessings in the Siddur, they can seem like a burden and chore to say because in my comfortable environment, faith is arguably just as difficult to maintain as it is for Wiesel in his extreme environment. When looking at it logically — the “Ishmael” way — it makes no sense to pray; I have everything I need, so why should I want anything else? On the other hand, from Wiesel’s perspective, G-d has taken everything away from him, so why should he praise a G-d that brings him nothing but pain?
Night has taught me that G-d is unlimited; that his omniscient presence in the universe should give us hope rather than cause despair, because hope for a better future is what led Elie Wiesel to survive and chronicle his experiences. The struggles Hashem throws us into, physical or mental, should instead be seen as trials that give us a chance to prove ourselves and bring more light into the world.
Hashem inspires us to question our morals and who we are, for as Wiesel’s wise teacher back in Romania used to say, “I pray to the G-d within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.” But what are the right questions? Perhaps we will never gain the strength to know their hard truths, but a great start would be reading the slim, yet profound, humbling and deeply inspiring Night by Elie Wiesel.