Elie Wiesel

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Night | Section 5 | Summary



The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah (New Year) has come and the men gather for prayer. Eliezer is angry at God and feels God does not deserve his praise. The words, "All the earth and universe are God's!" particularly goad Eliezer as he cannot fathom why the people, who are still praising God's name, are being treated so horrifically. He thinks, "Look at these men whom You have betrayed ... They pray before You ... praise Your name!" When Eliezer sees his father after the service, they share a tear. The moment brings the two of them together as Eliezer reflects, "Never before had we understood each other so clearly."

The following week is Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year. It's a fast day but Eliezer decides not to fast. He sees this as an act of rebellion, but it comes with a price: "Deep inside me, I felt a great void opening."

Eliezer is transferred to the construction block that he's been warned about, and he and his father are no longer working together. For 12 hours each day, Eliezer hauls heavy slabs of stone. At this point, the Nazis decide to hold a selection: those who are deemed unfit will be taken to the crematorium. Eliezer feels concern when it comes to his father. "How would he pass selection? He had aged so much," he worries. The men are told about the process and encouraged to run as they pass Dr. Mengele. Eliezer's friends, Tibi and Yossi, tell him he ran so fast no one could judge him. Eliezer goes to his father and learns he has passed the test as well.

A few days later, however, 10 men are called out, including Eliezer's father. They are to go through another selection. Eliezer's father gives him a knife and spoon, his inheritance. "He felt time was running out. ... His speech became confused, his voice was choked." When the workday is over, Eliezer runs toward his father's block and feels relief when he finds his father has survived. Akiba Drumer, a fellow inmate who has lost his faith, is selected for death. Eliezer says, "If only he could have kept his faith ... he would not have been swept away."

It's winter and the men are suffering from the frigid temperatures. Eliezer's foot swells, and he goes to the infirmary for surgery. While he is recovering, the Russian army approaches and the Germans decide to evacuate Buna. After discussing their options, Eliezer and his father choose to be evacuated, though Eliezer has not fully recovered. Eliezer learns after the war that the people who stayed behind in the infirmary were freed when the Russians arrived two days later. The men are marched out of Buna during a snowstorm.


The Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as the high holidays. From the beginning of the former to the end of the latter are 10 days known as the days of judgment. God determines who will live and who will die as well as the type of year that those who live will experience. During these high holidays, Eliezer turns the tables and judges God, who has failed him and the other Jewish prisoners, and he refuses to say the prayers and bless Him. Despite Eliezer's feelings, he stays at the service until the end, feels alone without faith, and invokes the name of God during times of trouble. He continues to struggle with his feelings for God throughout the text.

When inmates lose their faith, it's only a matter of time until they meet their fate. Akiba Drumer is an example; he is condemned during the selection after he has lost his faith. Yet like Eliezer, the habit of faith is ingrained in him. He does not completely lose his faith as he asks the others to say the Kaddish, or mourner's prayer, for him. Another inmate places his faith, ironically, in Hitler. As the inmate says, "He alone has kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people." Eliezer does not know how to answer him as he sees the validity of the inmate's words.

The judgment of Rosh Hashanah continues to exist, but this year it is the Nazis who are doing the judging through the selection. The selection is demeaning—the men are required to run past their judges naked. The process is a reminder, as if one was needed, that they are kept alive for one reason—to serve as slaves. Eliezer uses gallows humor when he describes the knife and fork as his inheritance when his father is required to go through a second selection. This pathetic inheritance has real value in their circumstances.

Once again, Elie Wiesel the writer steps back and gives the reader an insight that Eliezer the character in Night did not have. Learning what Eliezer's and his father's fate would have been had they stayed in Buna is painful for readers. The information is presented in a dry, unemotional way: "After the war, I learned the fate of those who had remained ... They were, quite simply, liberated by the Russians." The tone is consistent with the rest of the narrative; Wiesel presents his story as if reporting the news. His goal is to inform; he allows readers to form their own judgments about his experiences.

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