In Chapter 5 of Night, why didn't Elie fast on Yom Kippur?

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ladyvols1's profile pic

ladyvols1 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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In Elie Wiesel's novella "Night" there were many Jewish Holiday's spent in the Nazi Concentration camps.  The incident you are asking about occurred after he and his father had been moved to Buna.  He states in the novel,

"I did not fast.  First of all, to please my father who had forbidden me to do so.  and then, there was no longer any reason for me to fast.  I no longer accepted God's silence.  As I swallowed my ration of soup, I turned that act into a symbol of rebellion, of protest against Him.  And I nibbled on my crust bread. (pg 69)

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thetall | (Level 3) Educator

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Elie’s arrival at Auschwitz led him to the realization that the holocaust was unfolding before his eyes. He wondered how such heinous crimes were being committed as the world watched. He saw the burning of babies at the crematoria and witnessed the loss of hope among his people. The men were reciting Kaddish for themselves and this angered him because he believed God had turned away from them. These early events forced Elie to question his faith in both God and humanity because the assistance he expected never arrived.

"Yisgadal, veyiskadash, shmey raba…May His name be celebrated and sanctified…" whispered my father. For the first time, I felt anger rising within me. Why should I sanctify His name? The Almighty, the eternal and terrible Master of the Universe, chose to be silent. What was there to thank Him for?

Elie’s first night in the barracks confirmed his loss of faith. He had just been separated from his mother and sister, who were likely burned at the crematoria. Father and son only survived because an older inmate asked them to lie about their age.

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.

In Chapter Five, most of the inmates were fighting for survival. They faced starvation and the idea of fasting during Yom Kippur made no sense because they were starved most of the time while at the camp. It was because of this that Elie’s father asked him not to observe the fast because he wanted his son to survive. On the other hand, Elie had lost his faith in God and by not observing Yom Kippur, he was rebelling against God.

I did not fast. First of all, to please my father who had forbidden me to do so. And then, there was no longer any reason for me to fast. I no longer accepted God's silence. As I swallowed my ration of soup, I turned that act into a symbol of rebellion, of protest against Him.

And I nibbled on my crust of bread.

Deep inside me, I felt a great void opening.

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kipling2448's profile pic

kipling2448 | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter Five of Elie Wiesel's memoir of life in the German concentration camps, especially in Auschwitz, Night, he dedicates a brief passage to the arrival of the Jewish observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when Jews are expected to fast.  Fasting while living under the extremely austere conditions imposed on them by their Nazi captors would, as Wiesel's father acknowledged, be redundant.  They were already being starved to death.  In addition to the illogical nature of fasting under these circumstances, Wiesel eschewed the ritual of fasting out of his despondency regarding God's silence amid all of this human suffering.  As Wiesel wrote in this passage:

"I did not fast. First of all, to please my father who had forbidden
me to do so. And then, there was no longer any reason for me
to fast. I no longer accepted God's silence. As I swallowed my ration
of soup, I turned that act into a symbol of rebellion, of protest
against Him."

Many Jews turned away from their religious beliefs as a result of the Holocaust, arguing that no just God could allow the systematic extermination of six million people solely for their religious beliefs.  Wiesel's decision to forego the Yom Kippur fast was his personal display of rejection of the notion of a just God.

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monzi's profile pic

monzi | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

because he had lost his faith in god, and he thinks it was stupid to fast when they are starving.

thedutchinator's profile pic

thedutchinator | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) eNoter

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because since that elie had lost faith in god he didn't think it was write to obey his relegion and delebritley starve himself when they are suffering at the hands of the SS, so elie decieded to eat and drink to survive

 

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