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By Elie Wiesel
Hasidic Judaism is a Jewish religious movement that started in Eastern Europe in the 18th century. Hasidism
is composed of many groups, usually headed by a charismatic leader. A Hasid (plural, Hasidim) often devotes
his life to the study of the Jewish scriptures, the Talmud, or the Cabbala (Kabbalah).
Scriptures: Wiesel cites the Book of Job, a poetic work in which God allows Job to be visited by all sorts of
undeserved evils. Job challenges God to grant him justice, but God never directly answers Job’s plea.
The Talmud is a compilation of Jewish oral law accompanied by a vast literature of rabbinic commentary.
The Cabbala is a Jewish system of mysticism that arose from medieval interpretations of Jewish scriptures.
Hasidism also stresses joyful performance of duties like reciting the Kaddish, an ancient prayer for the dead in
the Aramaic language, which requires a quorum of ten adult Jews for proper recitation. Wiesel quotes its
opening words, “Yitgadal veyitkadach shme raba.” which means, “May his name be blessed and magnified.”
Jewish Feasts and Holidays:
Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) occur in the autumn. These holidays are
called the Days of Awe, or the High Holy Days. Many Jews fast from sundown until sundown on Yom Kippur.
These holidays encourage reassessment of one’s life and deeds and the Jewish tradition teaches that on these
days God decides who will live and who will die during the coming year. In ordinary life the Days of Awe
promote spiritual renewal and reconciliation with others. In the concentration camp they ironically reinforce
Elie’s loss of faith.
Main Individuals in Night:
Eliezer (Elie) Wiesel, the narrator, is 12 years old when the book opens in 1941. He (along with his family and
others in the town of Sighet) is deported in the spring of 1944 to Auschwitz. There, he and his father are
separated from his mother and sisters. Elie had been drawn to Jewish mysticism, but was told by his father that
he was not mature enough to study it; however, he was a very religious young man.
Moshe, the Beadle is a poor “man of all work” in the Hasidic synagogue of Sighet. He also instructs Elie in
mystical lore. He is the lone survivor of a previous deportation, but the townspeople will not heed his warnings.
Chlomo Wiesel is Elie’s very religious father. He is a well respected shopkeeper in Sighet who, early in the
book, seems to care more for studying his religion than for his family.
Mrs. Wiesel, Hilda, Bea and Tzipora are, respectively, Elie’s mother and sisters. Tzipora is the youngest.
Stein of Antwerp is a distant relative of the Wiesel’s who meets Elie and his father in Auschwitz.
Akiba Drumer is a camp inmate. He is a mystic who believes that God must be testing the Jews through the
Holocaust. He loses his faith just before he is killed.
Juliek is a Polish violinist whom Elie meets at Buna.
Yossi and Tibi are young Czech brothers who become Elie’s friends at Buna.
Rabbi Eliahou is a well-loved prisoner whose son abandons him.
Sighet, Hungary (now Romania; Transylvania)
Ghettos of Sighet
Birkenau Death Camp (Poland) (part of Auschwitz)
Auschwitz Death Camp (Poland)
Buna Concentration Camp (Poland)
Death March (to interior of Germany)
Gleiwitz (one stopping point for march)
Buchenwald Concentration Camp (Germany)