by Elie Wiesel
Night Religion Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Chapter.Paragraph)
Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing …
And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished.
Behind me, I heard the same man asking:
"For God’s sake, where is God?"
And from within me, I heard a voice answer:
"Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows …" (4.206-211)
Again we see that Eliezer feels that the Germans have murdered his God. With the destruction of Eliezer’s innocence, so died the God that Eliezer believed in as a boy and young man.
What are You, my God? I thought angrily. How do You compare to this stricken mass gathered to affirm to You their faith, their anger, their defiance? What does Your grandeur mean, Master of the Universe, in the face of all this cowardice, this decay, and this misery? Why do you go on troubling these poor people’s wounded minds, their ailing bodies?
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? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces? Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar? (5.4-11)
Again we see that Eliezer is not an atheist. Although the just and loving God he knew as a child is dead to him, Eliezer tries to find out what this new God he discovered is all about, asking, "What are You, my God." But in the face of what Eliezer sees as God’s indifference to suffering, Eliezer seems to determine that God is not a being that he can praise.
And I, the former mystic, was thinking: Yes, man is stronger, greater than God. When Adam and Eve deceived You, You chased them from paradise. When you were displeased with Noah's generation, You brought down the Flood. When Sodom lost your favor, You caused the heavens to rain down fire and damnation. But look at these men whom You have betrayed, allowing them to be tortured, slaughtered, gasses, and burned, what do they do? They pray before You! The praise Your name!
"All of creation bears witness to the Greatness of God!"
In days gone by, Rosh Hashanah had dominated my life. I knew that my sins grieved the Almighty and so I pleaded for forgiveness. In those days, I fully believed that the salvation of the world depended on every one of my deeds, on every one of my prayers.
But now, I no longer pleaded for anything. I was no longer able to lament. On the contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now, but I felt myself to be stronger than this Almighty to whom my life had been bound for so long. In the midst of these men assembled for prayer, I felt like an observer, a stranger. (5.15-18)
Eliezer participates in the Rosh Hashanah service, but it means nothing to him as bitterness against God swells up inside him. God stands accused in his eyes.