From Judaism to Defiance Although Elie is portrayed as a young devout Jew in the first chapter, he soon beings to question God’s authority, as he struggles with theodicy. After Elie’s family diverges, he begins to demonstrate his first signs of disbelief in God’s authority, especially as some of his Jewish acquaintances recite the Kaddish.
While facing the crematorium pit, he articulates, “For the first time I felt revolt rise up in me. Why should I bless His name? The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful and Terrible, was silent.What had I to thank Him for” (33)? As a fervent Jew, he feels almost betrayed by God due to the fact many Jews are victimized. He studied Judaism under the impression that God was the perfect ruler of the universe. Therefore, in response to the insidious acts of the Holocaust, such as the cremating of babies, he ponders not if God exists, but rather why God acts as the bystander. Moreover, he evens goes as far as to say God is silent. This confirms God’s existence as well as His lack of divine intervention.His use of powerful epithets also gauges the true might of God and makes His by-standing seem like a major faltering.
Here Elie is clearly expressing the birth of his theodicy. As Elie progresses throughout the book, he endures many situations that lead him to question God to the fullest, but there are also times in which he acquiesces to God’s power. Following Elie’s feelings on God in the second chapter, he says, “My head was buzzing; the same thought surfacing over and over: not to be separated from my father…Every encounter filled us with joy—yes, joy: Thank God!You are still alive” (35)! This leads the reader to believe that Elie has not truly lost faith in God, for he praises Him.
Also, one might think Elie refers to his father when he exclaims “You are still alive,” but he could be simply referring to God still being in existence, or alive for that matter. That further justifies Elie’s apparent reattachment to the Almighty. But nevertheless, Elie utters that he remains “alone-terribly alone in a world without God… ” (68).
In saying this he declaims once again his great distance between God.But, in this instance he actually proclaims that God does not exist, let alone be the bystander. Preceding this climatic moment, a Jewish man communicates, “For God’s sake, where is God”(65)? Elie then replies, “This is where—hanging from this gallows…,” referring to a recently killed Jew (65). This insinuates that God has died. Not only are the Jews without God, but they lost him through death, implying inferiority in Him. Lastly, Elie declares that he has “more faith in Hitler than in anyone else.He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people” (81).
At this time, Elie has become fully detached from God. He deems the master of death, or Hitler, as referred to in Death Fugue, more trustworthy than the Master of Life. To say that the man, who has been orchestrating genocide against his own people, is more virtuous than God, means that Elie will never be the fervent Jew he once was. These actions all lead Elie to the sort of Jew he becomes and is today.During the final stages of the novel his struggle with theodicy ends, as exhibited in his Nobel Peace Prize speech and final thoughts on the Holocaust.
After a brief conversation with Rabbi Eliahu, Elie thinks, “And in spite of myself, a prayer formed inside me, a prayer to this God in whom I no longer believed” (91). Although in this occurrence, Elie is just praying to God that he never run away from his father, he still reaches out to God. This shows that Elie’s connection to God continues to be hurt, but he now suggests that God is alive.Yet, before he rationed that God was a dead being. At this time, he just does not believe in Him. But, during his Nobel Peace Prize speech he says, “Words of gratitude. First to our common Creator.
This is what the Jewish tradition commands us to do” (117). Despite the fact Elie does not mention his definitive relationship with God at the end of the novel, he does here. First, he gives thanks to God for his accomplishment. He shows that God acted as a driving force in achieving the great honor.But, then Elie exclaims that his recognition to God was obligatory due to the fact his religion made it so. To this day he maintains a relationship with God; however, it remains forever tarnished.
Moreover, in a July 2006 interview with Elie Wiesel, he states that he “has faith. But it’s a wounded faith. ” In summation, the many acts of violence in the novel led Elie to question God of His authority.
So much to the point he said he did not believe in Him. But, the few instances in which God’s presence showed allow Elie to maintain a relationship with God. Just not as it was before.