How would you describe Wiesel's community at the beginning of Night? How does young Elie view the world and his place in it?
Elie Wiesel lived in the Jewish community within the town of Sighet, Hungary. It was not a completely closed community, as there was some interaction with the non-Jewish residents of Sighet, especially since Elie's father was a recognized leader among the Jews but also had contacts with "the upper levels of the Hungarian police." For Elie, however, the world revolved around his studies, the synagogue, his parents' shop, and the Jewish mysticism he studied with Moishe the Beadle. His desire to delve more deeply into the Jewish faith was at odds with his father's directions that he needed to spend more time with "the basic subjects" of the world and his faith, but Elie persisted and felt himself learning and growing as he did so.
Within that circle of influence, Elie and the others felt secure, isolated by distance from the rising threat of the Nazis in Germany and protected by the passage of time. As 1941 went by, then 1942 and 1943 and into 1944, the confidence grew. "Germany would be defeated. It was only a matter of time, months or weeks, perhaps."
Elie Wiesel was a Jew from Sighet, Hungary where he spent his childhood. Elie speaks of his townspeople regarding their attitude towards poor people and he states that although they help the poor they really don’t like them. This was with regard to Moishe the Beadle who was a poor foreign Jew; for Moishe to earn his place within the community he had to render himself insignificant. This comes out clearly when the Jews of Sighet disregard his warning because of his status within the community even after he escapes death at the hands of the Gestapo. Elie’s father was an esteemed member of the Jewish community in Sighet and highly sought after for advice on a variety of issues. Elie’s understanding of his place in the world was influenced by his need to achieve a higher understanding of his religion as seen in his interest in the Kaballah. The Jewish community is unperturbed by the imminent danger posed by the war even when warnings are delivered about the impeding destruction.
At the beginning of Night, Elie is part of Sighet’s Jewish community. Wiesel writes little about Sighet the place, but his descriptions suggest that the Jewish people there are a very close-knit group, their social life centered around the synagogue.
In Night’s first chapter, Elie grows from a boy of twelve to a young man of fifteen. He is deeply religious, and studies the Torah every day. At night he goes to the synagogue to pray. Through his prayer and study, Elie attempts to understand God and be a good only son.
Yet even Elie has a rebellious streak. When his father tells him that he should not study Jewish mysticism, Elie enlists the help of Moshe the Beadle to teach him the Kabbalah. Through these secret sessions, Elie believes that he will finally understand the mysteries of existence.
Wiesel resided with his family in the town of Sighet, which was recently annexed by Hungary but had been traditionally a part of Romania. Wiesel's immediate community was an insular, though not isolated, group of Jews who formed a tight-knit community in which they prospered prior to their dissolution by the gestapo and relocation to ghettos. Wiesel saw the world favorably as any child who is cared and provided for is apt to do. He felt a calling toward the deeper studies of his religious beliefs, seeking to plumb the depths of Kabbalah. His mother encouraged his religious studies while his father promoted secular education; both worked to create an educated child who saw it as his place in the world to acquire knowledge and understanding.