In Night by Elie Wiesel, why does Eliezer pray, and why does he cry when he prays?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Moishe the Beadle approached Eliezer after watching him pray at the synagogue and asked him why he prayed and the reason he cried when he prayed. Eliezer stated that he did not know why he cried when he prayed or why he prayed. However, these questions from Moishe the Beadle troubled him. According to Eliezer, he only cried because something within him prompted him to cry. He never questioned what it was that made him cry during prayer.

"Why do you cry when you pray?" he asked, as though he knew me well.
"I don't know," I answered, troubled.

"Why do you pray?" he asked after a moment. Why did I pray? Strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe?
"I don't know," I told him.

At the time, Eliezer was looking for a master who would guide him in his studies of the Kabbalah. His father was against the pursuit of mystic knowledge citing a variety of reasons including Eliezer’s age. However, Eliezer was bent on studying the Kabbalah, and given Moishe’s knowledge of the subject, Eliezer was convinced that he had found a master to guide him.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 1 of Night, Moche the Beadle stumps Elie when he asks him both of these questions.  Elie is unable to give a reason for why he prays and why his prayers causehim to cry other than a stirring inside him that produces the need to weep.  When Moche asks him why he prays, Elie thinks, "Why did I live? Why did I breathe?"  To him praying is a basic necessity, almost the essence of life.

Wiesel includes these conversations with his religious mentor to establish not only how strong his faith was before deportation but also to demonstrate how empty he becomes by the end of his horrific ordeal.