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Notes on Night Themes

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Night Topic Tracking: Faith

Chapter 1

Faith 1: Elie is a deeply religious boy whose favorite activities are studying the Talmud and spending time at the Temple with his spiritual mentor, Moshe the Beadle. At an early age, Elie has a naïve, yet strong faith in God.

Chapter 3

Faith 2: Many of the prisoners try to cope with their situation by talking of God. Akiba Drumer, a devout Jew with a deep solemn voice, sings Hasidic melodies and talks about God testing the Jews. Elie, however, ceases to pray. He identifies with the biblical character Job, who questions God when misfortunes come upon him. Similarly, Elie begins to doubt God's absolute justice.

Chapter 4

Faith 3: As Elie witnesses the hanging of the young pipel, he feels that it is his God who is hanging on the gallows. Elie identifies with the death of the young pipel because he undergoes a similar slow, painful spiritual death. The death of the pipel is related to the death of his faith in God.

Chapter 5

Faith 4: On the Jewish New Year, Elie feels a strong rebellion against God. He becomes the accuser and God the accused. But in his rebellion against his faith in God, he also feels alone and empty.

The Jews debate whether they should fast for Yom Kippur. As an act of obedience to his father and also as an act of rebellion against God, Elie swallows his food. In the camps, his physical needs become more important than his faith.

Faith 5: Even the most devout, religious Jews begin to lose faith. Akiba Drumer does not make the selection when "cracks" begin to form in his faith. A rabbi from Poland, who always recites the Talmud from memory, concludes that God is no longer with them. For some, losing their faith in God is akin to losing their will to live.

Faith 6: As Elie recuperates in the hospital after his foot surgery, a faceless neighbor tells him that he has more faith in Hitler than in anyone else because he's the only one who's kept his promises to the Jewish people. This is a direct attack on those who have clung to their faith in God. The ultimate insult is that even Hitler is an object worthier of faith than is God.

Chapter 6

Faith 7: Recalling the actions of Rabbi Eliahou's son, Elie prays to the God he no longer believes in, that he have the strength to never do what the rabbi's son had done in abandoning his father. Rabbi Eliahou's search for his son rekindles in Elie a sense of hope and faith. Elie feels that at the very least, he should be faithful to his father to the end.

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