What do Elie's parents and others in the community think of Moshe in Night by Elie Wiesel?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Elie Wiesel's autobiographical story Night opens with a description of a character known to the Jews of Sighet, Transylvania (Elie's home town), as Moshe the Beadle. 

Moshe is quite an amusing and rather pathetic character. He is physically awkward and very shy, so of course those qualities are likely to make him somehow separate from the rest of his community. Elie calls him a "jack-of-all-trades as a worker in the house of prayer known as the shtibl, which indicates that he is not afraid of or too proud to work, especially for God.

Moshe is also exceptionally poor, something which the people of Sighet normally did not like, though they were always good about helping those in need. This is not true of Moshe the Beadle. They do willingly help him and do not begrudge his extreme need. 

He stayed out of people's way. His presence bothered no one. He had mastered the art of rendering himself insignificant, invisible.

He never said much, but he did sing, or kind of chant, some of the themes of his religious studies. The people are tolerant of him and even smile at him because Moshe is so self-effacing and humble. Though he is odd in many ways, no one doubts that Moshe is a sincere man of God. 

As a boy, Elie is quite spiritual. When he wants to begin studying the Kabbalah, Elie's father tries to dissuade him and refuses to help Elie find an instructor. So, Elie finds his own teacher: Moshe the Beadle.

Moshe makes a good teacher in part because he is so poor. Without anything else to protect, he spends his time and energy protecting the faith and the people in his town. We see this happen later in the story when he tries to warn them about things to come, but of course the people treat him as a rather crazy uncle and ignore everything he says. They do not hate him or mock him, but they certainly do not believe him.

For Elie, Moshe is a wise and helpful teacher about spiritual matters. For the rest of the citizens of Sighet, he is simple a crazy, impoverished old man who sometimes makes them smile.

For morehelpful insights about this story, check out the excellent eNotes sites linked below. 

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