by Elie Wiesel
Night Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
We continued our march. We were coming closer and closer to the pit, from which an infernal heat was rising. Twenty more steps. If I was going to kill myself, this was the time. Our column had only some fifteen steps to go. I bit my lips so that my father would not hear my teeth chattering. Ten more steps. Eight. Seven. We were walking slowly, as one follows a hearse, our own funeral procession. Only four more steps. Three. There it was now, very close to us, the pit and its flames. I gathered all that remained of my strength in order to throw myself onto the barbed wire. Deep down, I was saying good-bye to my father, to the whole universe, and against my will I found myself whispering the words: "Yisgadal, veyiskadash, shmey raba … May his name be exalted and sanctified …" My heart was about to burst. There, I was face to face with the Angel of Death … (3.64)
As Eliezer draws near to death for the first time in his life, he doubts; yet despite his doubts in God, he finds himself automatically reaching out to the comforting words of Jewish prayers.
Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, that turned my life into one long night seven times sealed.
Never shall I forget that smoke.
Never shall I forget the small faces of the children whose bodies I saw transformed into smoke under a silent sky.
Never shall I forget those flames that consumed my faith forever.
Never shall I forget the nocturnal silence that deprived me for all eternity of the desire to live.
Never shall I forget those moments that murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to ashes.
Never shall I forget those things, even were I condemned to live as long as God Himself.
Eliezer suffers not only because he sees his fellow Jews murdered before his eyes, but also because feels that his God was murdered. The concentration camp experience destroys his innocence and his belief in a just and loving God.
Some of the men spoke of God: His mysterious ways, the sins of the Jewish people, and the redemption to come. As for me, I had ceased to pray. I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice. (3.175)
Eliezer has not become an atheist. When he said earlier that God was murdered, he referred to the God he knew when he was innocent. Eliezer doesn’t doubt that God exists, but this God has a different persona, possibly one indifferent to suffering, and a God that Eliezer does not want to praise.