In Elie Wiesel’s Night, there is a character called Moshe the Beadle. The writer, who is also the first person narrator, looks up to Moshe as a spiritual advisor. As Elie learns more about Judaism he and Moshe discuss the higher aspects of Jewish mysticism. Early in the book, Moshe is trying to describe spiritual seeking by sharing a metaphor with Elie:
There are a thousand and one gates leading into the orchard of mystical truth. Every human being has his own gate. We must not make the mistake of wanting to enter the orchard by any gate but our own. To do this is dangerous for the one who enters and also for those who are already there.
The “orchard of mystical truth” is a metaphor for spiritual understanding. Moshe is teaching Elie that you have to find your own way to this understanding; you cannot follow someone else’s path. Writers often create metaphors like this to represent an abstract, or difficult, idea in a concrete way. The orchard is a beautiful, peaceful place, like spiritual understanding. The “gates” are the way you get there.
In response to Eliezer’s complaint that he is unable to find a Kabbalah teacher, Moshe the Beadle replies:
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. (Wiesel 5)
The “orchard of mystical truth” is a metaphor for attaining spiritual enlightenment, connecting a place of life and sustenance (an orchard) to the spiritual “sustenance” of faith. The “gate” that separates those who wish to enter the orchard from those already inside is not the same as a solid door – while it offers protection, it also allows individuals to look inside to make sure that this is the correct gate. That there are more than a thousand of these gates indicates a vast number of possibilities that each of us has available to explore. Through the use of this metaphor Moshe underscores the importance of individual choice in the matter of spirituality. Each person must find his or her own path to enlightenment.
Ironically, Moshe’s words foreshadow a cruel twist in the events that follow. The gate through which Eliezer passes is about as far as possible from an orchard of life and sustenance; rather, it is one of death and starvation where he loses his faith rather than gaining spiritual insight.
Wiesel, E. (2006). Night. 2nd ed. (Revised). New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN-13 9780374500016