A Dwindling Faith

A Dwindling Faith

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A Dwindling Faith

"My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God…" (Wiesel 68). Most people would think hard times would strengthen people's faith, that they would rely even more on their beliefs. But that is not always the case. In times of great crises, people's faith may disintegrate to an almost nonexistent state. When people must look to physical things like food for survival, spiritual things like faith tend to be dropped. It has no use anymore.
Night by Elie Wiesel is a dramatic book that tells the horror and evil of the concentration camps that many were imprisoned in during World War II. Throughout the book the author, and main character, Elie Wiesel, as well as many prisoners, lost their faith in God. People are trying to keep and strengthen their faith but they end up rebelling against God and forgetting their religion. Even Elie, who had been training to be a religious figure in the community.
Elie had a strong faith as a young child, and at an early age of twelve he went to his father and asked him to find him a tutor to teach him the Kabbala. His father refused with the reason that he was so young and that he should wait until he was older and knows more of what he wants. This reason did not satisfy Elie. He decided to take it into his own hands and he recruited Moishe the Beadle as his tutor, and he started his training behind his father's back and against his wishes.
What causes a young boy to want to be a religious figure in the community so much that he would defy his father's wishes to pursue his future in his beliefs? Strong faith. Elie had an undoubtedly strong faith and it would seem that nothing in the world could shake that faith. "He wanted to drive the idea of studying Kabbalah from my mind. In vain. I succeeded on my own in finding a master for myself in the person of Moishe the Beadle" (Wiesel. 4). Elie couldn't imagine anything changing his faith, but he hadn't known the biggest crises he would survive, but his faith wouldn't; the Holocaust.
One day, after he is sent to the camps, when Elie and his fellow inmates returned to the barracks from working, they saw three gallows and three men in chains, heading towards the gallows.

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One of those men, was a young boy with an angel's face. Everyone starred at the young boy. He seemed calm as he bravely bit his lip in the shadow of the tall gallows. The two older men shouted a phrase known to the camp from a previous hanging. A phrase that talked about liberty and freedom. But the boy said nothing. Everyone wept when the boy hung. However, the boy did not die as fast as the older men, his body was too light for a quick death. He hung from the gallows for hours before he died. As the inmates walked past the gallows and saw the boy still alive, one man asked God where he was, and Elie thought the answer to himself, that God had died on the gallows along with the boy.
The men had all witnessed the hangings of fellow inmates before, but this time, it had a different effect on them. It made there already frail faith crumble more. To see a boy that looked like a messenger from heaven, be treated cruelly then killed inhumanly, most of the men, along with Elie, in the concentration camps couldn't handle it faith-wise. " "For God's sake, where is God?" And from within me, I heard a voice answer: "Where He is? This is where—hanging here from this gallows…" " (Wiesel, 65)
In the beginning, the Gestopo came to Elie's hometown and took all the foreign Jews. Elie's friend and tutor in religious studies, Moishe the Beadle, happened to be one of them. He escaped them and returned to the town to warn everyone, with no success. Everyone called him crazy and grew annoyed with his persistence. He knew the Germans would return and nothing but abuse and death was to come. But since everyone ignored his "mad" rantings he lost his faith, he fell silent, and not a single prayer escaped his lips.
Moishe the Beadle, who had always been seen walking around Elie's hometown praying, and who helped train Elie in the Kabbala, had started to lose his faith after experiencing the German's wrath, but when the crises became even more urgent, and still no one would believe him about what was to come, he lost his faith entirely. He no longer prayed, he just simply fell silent and awaited the return of the German solders. "Even Moishe the Beadle had fallen silent. He was weary of talking. He would drift through synagogue or through the streets, hunched over, eyes cast down, avoiding people's gaze" (Wiesel. 8)
During one of the Jewish Holidays, questions of weather or not they, the Jewish prisoners, should fast began to circulate the camp. Most of the Jewish men in the camp Elie and his father were in did not take part in the tradition to fast, some just to live, since food was life, but also because they no longer thought God was with them, if there was a God-Almighty. Part of Elie's desition to not fast was to please his father who asked him not to fast, but mostly because he felt that there was no reason to fast. God's silence was no longer tolerable in his mind.
To some religions fasting is a way of honoring there faith, their beliefs. But many men, including Elie choose not to take part in the tradition because they felt there wasn't a reason to risk what little remaining health they had to honor a God that they feel isn't bothered about their grave situation. A god should be loving, why should they love a god who doesn't love back? Elie writes, "I did not fast. First of all, to please my father who had forbidden me to do so. And then, there was no longer any reason for me to fast. I no longer accepted God's silence." (Wiesel, 69). The Holocaust crises caused Elie's father to also lose his faith in God. He had lost so much faith that he had forbidden his son to fast in God's name. Elie had no objections, he too had lost so much faith, maybe even more-so as his father had.
Two days after an operation on his infected foot, Elie hears rumors spreading around the camp about the battlefront inching closer to the camp. They'd be free of this torture. But one man Ellie was next to in the Infirmatry as he let his foot heal properly didn't believe the rumors. He cautioned Ellie, telling him that the promise Hitler had given was about to come true before midnight. This angered Elie and he voiced his anger. His neighbor tiredly replied that he had more faith in Hitler than anyone else, implying, as well, his God.
You know all faith a man once held dear to him has diminished to nothing when he has more faith in another man, rather than his God. In the Informatry, the man told Elie that he had more faith in Hitler's promise to kill all the Jews than God because God had not, yet, kept a promise, but Hitler had. He states, "I have more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people" (Wiesel. 81).
After his father died, Elie lost all ties to his faith. When his father was with him, he sometimes found himself drifting back into his faith, even if it was for a slight moment in time, but once he lost that link, his only faith was in food. The powerful faith he held so passionately close to him, was gone. Not a trace of it was left. He didn't think of God, family, or community, only food and by the end of the Holocaust, and the war, when Elie found himself free at last, he was a corps; a man empty of faith. "From the depths of the mirror, a corps was contemplating me" (Wiesel. 115).

Works Cited

Wiesel, Elie. Night. 1958. New York: Hill and Wang, 2006.
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