In Night, cultural understanding in the form of religion is essential to Eliezer's growth within the Jewish community.
Night highlights the important role that religion plays in the Jewish community's culture. The narrative's opening shows this through Eliezer's relationship with Moshe the Beadle. Moshe serves as Eliezer's spiritual teacher. He guides Eliezer to understanding the importance of religion in the Jewish culture:
There are a thousand and one gates allowing entry into the orchard of mystical truth. Every human being has his own gate. He must not err and wish to enter the orchard through a gate other than his own. That would present a danger not only for the one entering but also for those who are already inside.
These words have a profound impact on Eliezer:
And Moishe the Beadle, the poorest of the poor of Sighet, spoke to me for hours on end about the Kabbalah's revelations and its mysteries. Thus began my initiation. Together we would read, over and over again, the same page of the Zohar. Not to learn it by heart but to discover within the very essence of divinity.
Religion defines Eliezer's culture in Night. They help to carve out Eliezer's place in the community. While people like his father embrace commerce and less spiritual notions of the good, Eliezer is content with the place that religious worship affords him in the culture of the Jewish community of Sighet. Eliezer's growth is based on religious understanding. At thirteen years old, Eliezer sought to better understand how "question and answer would become one." Religion was the cultural lens through which Eliezer's growth in the community took place.
The force of religion on Eliezer's growth can be seen as he endures the Holocaust. His experiences in the camp compel him to change his view of religion. He begins to ask questions to God, demanding to know where he is as Eliezer and his community suffer. Eliezer is unwilling to see questions and answers as one. He is not able to embrace the divine's mystical complexities. Instead, he wants answers about the pain he and his community experience in the Holocaust:
What are You, my God? I thought angrily... 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? Because in His great might, He had created Auschwitz, Birkenau, Buna, and so many other factories of death? How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces? Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?
Eliezer's cultural understanding through religion plays a critical part in his transformation. Initially, he embraces a profoundly personal view of spirituality. He is content with his place that religion affords him in the culture of the Sighet community. Through Moshe's guidance, he believes that individuals must find their path to universal truth through the "orchard of mystical truth." However, as a result of his experiences in the Holocaust, his view of religion changes. He becomes angry and insists on answers. He is unable to reconcile the cultural view of God as merciful with what he sees in places like Auschwitz, Birkenau, and Buna. He is no longer able to participate in community services such as Rosh Hashanah and Passover fasting. These quotes show the role that cultural understanding in the form of religion plays in Eliezer's development within the community. They show how he changes from one who is an active participant in the cultural lifeline of the community to one who is estranged from it.