In Night, why did Yehiel, Sigheter rebbe's brother, throw his arms around Elie?

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In Elie Wiesel's novel, Night, which describes his experiences with the Holocaust, Eliezer has been through an unimaginable ordeal. Separated from his mother and sisters, he has been brought to Birkenau, a camp where families are separated, where the ovens are used to kill. At one point, they pass a place and watch babies and children thrown into the fire. The truth of the horror of their existence comes swiftly upon them, and Elie finds he cannot tell sometimes whether he is awake or asleep.

The men are shaved. (They are advised to lie about their ages to as to have a better chance of survival.)

People wandered around to find people they might know. Elie's one thought is to stay with his father. Those around them are sobbing, and Elie doesn't understand why they don't save their energy for other things: things other than crying.

Suddenly someone threw his arms around me in a hug: Yehiel, the Sigheter rebbe's brother. He was weeping bitterly. I thought he was crying with joy at still being alive.

'Don't bry, Yehiel,' I said. 'Don't waste your tears...'

'Not cry? We're on the threshold of death. Soon, we shall be inside...Do you understand? Inside. How could I not cry?'

Elie writes that he thought Yehiel was crying with gratitude. In using the word "thought," it becomes apparent that what Elie thought and the truth are separate things. Yehiel is crying for he believes death is at hand, and that once they enter the camp, they will all die.

Different people face the camps in different ways. Some give up. Other do all they can to survive: and even some of these people go out of their way to help others by sharing their faith and their knowledge. Elie and his father are fortunate to meet such people, for as time goes on Elie finds it difficult to face the test that lies before them, and does not recognize the man he is becoming.

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This section of this powerful novel comes just after Elie, his father and other Jews have been selected to live. They go through the humiliating and swift process of being stripped, shaved, and given new clothes. After they have endured these processes, Elie tells us that the surviving Jews who have not been selected for death take stock of their situation and find others who, like them, have survived. However, others just cry about what has happened to them and their fate. One of these figures is Yehiel, who embraces Elie, sobbing. However, when he is told not to cry by Elie, note how he responds:

"Not cry? We're on the threshold of death. Soon, we shall be inside... Do you understand? Inside. How could I not cry?"

Yehiel thus regards their survival as a temporary reprieve rather than an escape. He feels that although they are saved for now, this is just temporary. They will be selected for death later on, and this is why he weeps and embraces Elie out of the fear and grief of his imminent death.

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