Night Had Fallen (3)

June 15, 2006

Continuing my reflections on Night (pg. xx-xxi, emphasis mine).

"It was then that I understood what had first appealed to me about this young Jew: the gaze of a Lazarus risen from the dead yet still held captive in the somber regions into which he had strayed, stumbling over desecrated corpses. For him, Nietzsche's cry articulated an almost physical reality: God is dead, the God of love, of gentleness and consolation, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had, under the watchful gaze of this child, vanished forever into the smoke of the human holocaust demanded by the Race, the most voracious of all idols.

And how many devout Jews endured such a death? On that most horrible day, even among all those other bad days, when the child witnessed the hanging (yes!) of another child who, he tells us, had the face of a sad angel, he heard someone behind him groan:

"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."

On the last day of the Jewish year, the child is present at the solemn ceremony of Rosh Hashanah. He hears thousands of slaves cry out in unison, "Blessed be the Almighty!" Not so long ago, he too would have knelt down, and with such worship, such awe, such love! But this day, he does not kneel, he stands. The human creature, humiliated and offended in ways that are inconceivable to the mind or the heart, defies the blind and deaf divinity.

I no longer pleaded for anything. I was no longer able to lament. On the contrary, I felt very strong. I was the accuser, God the accused. My eyes had opened and I was alone, terribly alone in a world without God, without man. Without love or mercy. I was nothing but ashes now, but I felt myself to be stronger than this Almighty to whom my life had been bound for so long. In the midst of these men assembled for prayer, I felt like an observer, a stranger.

And I, who believe that God is love, what answer was there to give my young interlocutor whose dark eyes still held the reflection of the angelic sadess that appeared that one day on the face of a hanged child? What did I say to him? Did I speak to him of that other Jew, this crucified brother who perhaps resembled him and whose cross conquered the world? Did I explain to him that what had been a stumbling block for his faith had become a cornerstone for mine? And that connection between the cross and human suffering remains, in my view, the key to the unfathomable mystery in which the faith of his childhood was lost? And yet, Zion has risen up again out of the crematoria and the slaughterhouses. The Jewish nation has been resurrected from among its thousands of dead. It is they who have given it new life. We do not know the worth of one single drop of blood, one single tear. All is grace. If the Almighty is the Almighty, the last word for each of us belongs to Him. That is what I should have said to the Jewish child. But all I could do was embrace him and weep."

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One Response to “Night Had Fallen (3)”

  1. Kyle Says:

    I’m glad you’re enjoying Wiesel. The other two works in the ‘Night Trilogy’ are haunting as well.


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