Page 18 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 48

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day.” Her view underscores Wiesel’s observation, that whoever
blesses God for Jerusalem without interrogating Him about
Treblinka is purely and simply a hypocrite.6 Moreover, Esther’s
name itself is symbolic. As Irving Greenberg writes, “The Rabbis
speak of the Book of Esther as the book of the hiding God.”
In accounting for God’s apparent hiddenness during the events
associated with Purim, the Talmud, Greenberg notes, utilizes
the Hebrew phrase
Anochi haster astir
— “I will hide my face
on that day.”
is a Hebrew pun on Esther. God’s hiddenness
in Auschwitz complicates but does not terminate Esther’s wres­
tling with Him.
Yitshaak, for his part, abandons the faith struggle. He realizes
that Esther’s faith is an attempt to sanctify the suffering of the
innocents in the camp. “She blessed God, her tormentor, and
that same degradation would be required of him if he attended
the funeral tomorrow. But to what end?” Esther seeks recon­
ciliation. She tells Yitshaak that in the camp she thought many
times about cursing God. But, instead, she now blesses Him.
Her faith has been fused in the fires of Auschwitz. The serenity
she achieves is hard won. Yitshaak weeps, for he is excluded
from the “vast, quiescent and eternal order by the tumult in
his heart.”
Nissenson’s journal entries during the 1961 trial of Adolf
Eichmann pursue the theme of faith and choice in presenting
a panoply of responses to the post-Auschwitz dilemma of faith.
Nissenson discovers that the Holocaust both reinforces and un­
dermines the Jewish notion of chosenness. For example, Martin
Buber provides a philosophical view of evil, warning the young
writer not to grasp the meaning of the evil revealed at the trial
with his rational mind alone. Citing Isaiah 45:7, “I form the
light and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the
Lord do all these things,” Buber contends that man has free
will in order to oppose God. “Like Jacob,” observes the phi­
losopher, “we must wrestle with God for His blessing.” On the
6. Elie Wiesel,
Paroles D’Etranger: Textes, Contes et Dialogues
(Paris: Editions
Du Seuil, 1982), p. 176.
7. See Irving Greenberg’s insightful discussion o f Purim in his
The Jewish Way:
Living the Holidays
(New York: Summit Books, 1988), pp. 235 and 251.