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Elie Wiesel's story, as presented in Night, begins in the small Transylvanian village of Sighet. The village had a German community and a Jewish segment; Elie's world was in the Jewish part. Daily life included his parents and three siblings, his extended family, and Elie's schooling - by day, the training in the Talmud (the oral traditions interpreting the Torah) and by night, struggling to begin to understand the Kabbalah (the advanced and mystical interpretations of Jewish writings and beliefs). Elie's father did not approve of his desire to study Kabbalah, as he felt Elie was too young and inexperienced to be able to understand and appreciate its content.
You are too young for that. Maimonides tells us that one must be thirty before venturing into the world of mysticism, a world fraught with peril. First you must study the basic subjects, those you are able to comprehend.
However, with the assistance and support of Moishe the Beadle, Elie pressed on with his nightly studies, yearning as they talked and prayed in the synagogue late into the night to answer and understand the questions he wanted to ask God.
When the German occupation forces arrived in Sighet, the Jews at first tried to avoid facing the impending threat.
The Germans were already in our town, the Fascists were already in power, the verdict was already out-and the Jews of Sighet were still smiling.
Moishe the Beadle tried in vain to warn the Jews of what was being done to those who had already been taken away, but no one believed him - not even Elie. Jewish ghettos were created, but this came to be seen as "a good thing." Elie, along with the other Jews, expected "we would remain in the ghetto until the end of the war, until the arrival of the Red Army."
When the news of transportation arrives, Elie and the others are forced to confront the awful reality of their situation. As the only son of a respected leader in the Jewish community, it becomes Elie's role to assist in spreading the word throughout the ghetto, and later to help those who left earlier by secretly bringing water to those in line.
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