How does Wiesel’s understanding of God change throughout Night? How did the prisoners, including rabbis, reconcile their agony with their faith?
When the reader meets Elie at the beginning of the memoir, he is not only immersed in his faith, but he wants to learn more about Kabbalah, the mystic level of his faith. Moishe the Beadle is happy to serve as Elie's mentor and teaches him that "Man comes closer to God through the questions he asks Him. . . Man asks and God replies. But we don't understand his replies" (5). When Moishe returns from his horrifying ordeal, however, he has lost his faith in God. Moishe stands as a foil for Elie on his terrifying journey.
Elie mentions in one of the most influential and poetic passages of the book that he would never "forget the night that murdered his God" (34). Throughout his ordeal, the reader sees how Elie's dialogue with God deteriorates. It doesn't happen overnight. At first, many events occur that renew Elie's hope and faith in God. He is able to remain with his father, keep his shoes, avoid the brutality of the sadistic barber, and stay alive while others are sent to immediate death.
The toll of the camp weighs heavily, though, and soon Elie admits he has "ceased to pray," not denying God, but "doubting his absolute justice" (45). His doubts grow stronger as he watches innocent people hang, including a young boy. By Rosh Hashanah, Elie's doubt has turned to anger; he asks, "Where are You, my God?" (66) and wonders why he should even celebrate God at this time. As his ordeal continues, Elie notices even the rabbi losing his faith.
Elie still prays even though he claims to not believe in God. He prays never to falter in his devotion to his father as the rabbi's own son has done. After page 91, Elie does not mention God in his memoir, but there are some hints that he does hang on to remnants of his faith. When his father dies, Elie says his father is "free at last" (112), indicating his belief in some peaceful afterlife. As Elie notes, he was not the same person who physically or mentally left the ghetto, but his faith, while understandably damaged, still holds a spot in his heart.
When the novel begins Eliezer is a strong believer in God but, through his ordeal in the concentration camps, his faith begins to crack. He does not totally reject God, but by the end of the war he says he cannot accept "God's silence". He "had ceased to be anything but ashes, yet I felt myself to be stronger than the Almighty." He says he is now determined to live just as a man and to survive. He does not want to die because, "survive—something within me revolted against death." He no longer believes that God is just and merciful but he is also determined to survive because the believes the concentration camps are "madness". His experience has made him question his faith, and in the end he survives but feels like he is a corpse "just waking up from the long night."