Discuss the relevance of Moshe in Night?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Moshe the Beadle occupies some levels of significance in Wiesel's work.  The fact that it opens with Moshe is filled with deliberate purpose.  Wiesel wants to make it clear that one of the most horrific elements of the Holocaust is the dehumanization of people that was perpetrated by everyone involved.  It is interesting to note that Moshe's most intense pain experienced was second to the Nazis treatment of him.  When he survives his ordeal and comes back to Sighet to warn his fellow townspeople of what awaits them with the Nazis, Moshe is dismissed, treated with scorn and ridicule.  In this, Moshe is dehumanized twice; once by the Nazis and the next time by his own people.  In opening within such a framework, Wiesel makes it clear that his belief is that the pattern of degradation and dehumanization did not simply stop with the Nazis.

In another sense, Moshe is significant because he represents Eliezer's moral and spiritual compass.  Elizer's father is not as spiritually driven as young Eliezer demonstrates himself to be.  Moshe is, however, and the basis of their relationship is this spiritual quest.  The fact that Moshe tells Eliezer that he seeks not "answers" from God, but rather "questions," is telling in that it reveals a relationship between mortal and the divine that is rooted in a sense of confusion and doubt, and one in which the need for clarification is placed into a different context.  For Eliezer, approaching such a point of intense spiritual definition is interrupted by the Nazis. Seeing Eliezer at this point is a starkly different vision of spirituality than is seen later in the narrative when Eliezer repudiates God for making him see what he sees and endure what he endures.  In this, Moshe's presence has added relevance.

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