In Eli Weisel's Night, is God present to Weisel in his memoir—in other words, how does his faith in God change throughout the novel?
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As Eli Weisel tells his haunting story in Night, we find that faith—at the start of the novel—is very important to Eli as a young man. He is hungry for knowledge and so Eli turns to Moshe the Beadle. Moshe is a very poor man, but through the kindness of the people in town—who are actually quite fond on him, he survives. He is very smart man, and quite knowledgeable about the cabbala (which Eli's father believes his son is too young to study). Eli and Moshe spend a great deal of time together discussing the Jewish tenets. Eli is certain he will find the answers he seeks here.
When the Germans expel foreign Jews from Sighet, Moshe the Beadle is forced to leave. However, months later, he returns to tell the terrifying story of the slaughter of the Jews he traveled with, at Malka. Moshe was wounded and left for dead, and as he traveled back to Sighet to tell his tale, he spread the word to others. When he returns, he is a changed man, and this foreshadows Eli's own personal struggle with his faith at the hands of the Germans.
Moshe had changed. There was no longer any joy in his eyes. He no longer sang. He no longer talked to me of God or of the cabbala, but only of what he had seen.
What is worse is that no one believes him. Moshe can only weep. He believes that he has been spared so he can return home to save those who are dear to him. And no one will listen.
Time moves on, Eli studies the Talmud and the cabbala. When the Germans arrive, still Eli and the people cry out to God, their faith undiminished. However, after the "train ride," things change drastically. Arriving at Auschwitz—the death camp—the smell of burning flesh is everywhere; Eli sees babies and children burned. While his father prays in tears next to him, Eli does not:
For the first time I felt revolt rise up in me. Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent. What had I to thank Him for?
As he and his father approach the crematorium, Eli begins, from habit, to chant his prayers, certain he is about to die. At the last minute, the column of men is turned away from the furnaces toward the barracks. Weisel writes:
Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever...Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul...Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never.
Months later, when the Germans hang three prisoners for having guns, once again Eli reflects on his faith. The youngest is a boy to whom no blame could be attached, but he was hanged—and he did not die quickly; someone behind Eli asks where God was at that moment. Weisel writes:
And I heard a voice within me answer him:
"Where is He? Here He is—He is hanging here on this gallows..."
As time goes on, even though those around him call on God and worship Him, Eli can do nothing but accuse God. He feels...
...terribly alone in a world without God and without man...I had ceased to be anything but ashes.
When the Rabbi's son rids himself of his father, Eli prays to his "forgotten" God, that he will never do the same—he does not.
Throughout the novel, Eli doubts and challenges God. When things are at their worst, somehow he holds on to some part of his beliefs. He becomes angry, "doubts God's justice," but never betrays his faith.