How do paragraphs 15-16 contribute to the development of the text’s central idea?

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I believe you may have miscounted by one, and it is actually paragraphs 16-17 that can be seen to develop the central ideas of Wiesel's Night, as you suggest. I'll quote them, the two brief paragraphs preceding them, and the two following them in full to avoid possible confusion:

Why did I pray? Strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?

"I don't know," I told him [Moishe the Beadle], even more troubled and ill at ease. "I don't know."

From that day on, I saw him often. He explained to me, with great emphasis, that every question possessed a power that was lost in the answer....

Man comes closer to God through the questions he asks Him, he liked to say. Therein lies true dialogue. Man asks and God replies. But we don't understand His replies. We cannot understand them. Because they dwell in the depths of our souls and remain there until we die. The real answers, Eliezer, you will find only within yourself.

"And why do you pray, Moishe?" I asked him.

"I pray to the God within me for the strength to ask Him the real questions." [ p.4-5, trans. Marion Wiesel ]

Moishe's words to Eliezer suggest that it is either pointless to seek "answers"—especially if these are to be the things that "explain life" to us—or that answers are not possible so long as we are still in "this life." God's replies are hidden within us until we die.

In Night and other works dealing with the Holocaust, genocide in general, and other catastrophes, a dual question is nearly always the writer's subtext. First, how can human beings perpetrate such things on other humans; and perhaps more bewilderingly, how is it possible that an omnipotent God would allow such things to happen? Neither of these has an answer. Again and again, once he has arrived at Auschwitz, Eliezer himself and the other victims repeat these questions, both explicitly and implicitly. When Rosh Hashanah comes the thousands of prisoners repeat the words:

"Blessed be the Almighty...."

"Blessed be God's name...."

Eliezer repeats the last invocation as a question, and then asks,

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? [ p.67 ]

The absence of any answer to these questions is like an echo of Moishe's statements that the power of a question is lost in its answer or that the answers are hidden within our souls until we die.

Some would say that such philosophizing, and the attempts to explain human cruelty within the context of religion, are pointless. One of Wiesel's central ideas, however, is arguably that if we cut ourselves off entirely from God, then our survival becomes even more meaningless than the Nazis are making it for their victims. The existence of the unanswerable question is bound up with the concept of a Divinity. Or to put it differently, what would life be if all questions were, in fact, answerable? Would life, in that case, become just as pointless as the inexplicable cruelty of Auschwitz makes it appear to be?

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 2, 2020
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