Wiesel’s Understanding of God in the “Night” Novel

The Book of Job is probably one of the first theological severe discussions on the well-known philosophical problem of explaining the existence of suffering in the face of an omnipotent and merciful God. In the book, after hearing about the loss of his family, house, and cattle, Job falls to his knees and prays to say: “the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” The moral of the book is that it is not possible to know why there is evil in the world because God is mysterious, and it might all contribute to the harmony of God’s eternal plan.

Although through his religious study, he has learned that in difficult situations, one should act exactly as Job did, Eliezer has tremendous problems coming to terms with the horror of the Holocaust and God’s silence in the face of it. As Seidman puts it, “in the felt absence of divine justice or compassion, silence becomes the agency of an immense, murderous power that permanently transforms the narrator.” Therefore, despite having a firmly set moral framework formed by their religion and ready-made explanations for the situation in which they found themselves, it seems that the Jewish people somehow felt in their hearts that the Holocaust was too great a tragedy to be explained in this way.

The experience of the Holocaust transforms the narrator from a deeply religious young boy fascinated by theological texts into a bitter atheist. The idea that God lets his people suffer so immensely makes it clear to him that there is no God after all, or at least there is none worth worshipping. In the crucial scene where a child is being hanged, one of the men in the crowd constantly asks, “Where is God now?” and the narrator feels that the only appropriate answer is, “He is hanging here on this gallows.” It seems that being in such circumstances, one cannot help but profoundly feel abandonment and helplessness and consequently cease to believe in any sort of merciful and caring God.

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