“There’s a long road of suffering ahead of you. But don’t lose courage. You’ve already escaped the gravest danger: selection. So now, muster your strength, and don’t lose heart. We shall all see the day of liberation. Have faith in life. Above all else, have faith. Drive out despair, and you will keep death away from yourselves. Hell is not for eternity. And now, a prayer – or rather, a piece of advice: let there be comradeship among you. We are all brothers, and we are all suffering the same fate. The same smoke floats over all our heads. Help one another. It is the only way to survive.” (Wiesel, 1960)
Elie Wiesel’s was brought up in an orthodox Jewish community that gave emphasis to religious observance and faithful understanding of the scriptures. This pre-eminence to God and belief in His benign will would be challenged to the core as Wiesel and other Jews are pushed ever further into the systematized abyss. But, instead of abandoning his faith completely, Wiesel gets new illuminations into his faith. In many ways, the experiences in the ghetto were part of a process of intimate acquaintance and assimilation into the essence of Judaism. Wiesel’s faith in God and the dictates of the covenant are neither weakened nor strengthened, but rather transformed into an understanding that is closer to the truth than what he began with. This is not to say that there were no moments of doubt and confusion in his mind. For example, at one point he asks,
“Blessed be God’s name? Why, but why would I bless Him? Every fiber in me rebelled. Because He caused thousands of children to burn in His mass graves? Because he kept six crematoria working day and night, including Sabbath and the Holy Days? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death?” (Wiesel, 1960)
But these doubts served as precursors to a higher truth, that he was erstwhile not privy to. Hence, Night is a book full of troubling thoughts and questions for the faithful. Just as Elie Wiesel had undergone a severe examination of his faith, the illumination at the end of this process is a great reward. As Wiesel reminds the doubtful, that for all the great turmoil of those who perished and those who survived, there is a purpose not easily accessible to rationality. The survivors also have the responsibility to perpetrate the truths they came to understand through their memories:
“For the survivor who chooses to testify, it is clear: his duty is to bear witness for the dead and for the living. He has no right to deprive future generations of a past that belongs to our collective memory. To forget would be not only dangerous but offensive; to forget the dead would be akin to killing them a second time.” (Wiesel, 1960)
Wiesel, Elie (1960). Night. Hill & Wang, 1960, (translated from the French by Stella Rodway), ISBN 0-553-27253-5.