Strength to Ask the Right Questions

[Reposted from Edmund Rice Christian Brothers]

When Elie Wiesel was liberated from Buchenwald in 1945, having also been in Birkenau, Auschwitz and Buna, he imposed a ten-year vow of silence upon himself before trying to describe what had happened to him and over six million Jews. He believed that to try to write of the experience was to cheapen the memory of the suffering of those who had died – so unbelievably horrible was it. He was persuaded to break his self-imposed silence because he came to believe that to forget the past and the evil that had taken place was a greater dishonoring of the dead.

In his book, “Night” he speaks about how he came to be the sensitive person he was, how he tried to find God and how he “lost” God, until he discovered himself anew. Speaking of his early search in childhood he writes:

I found a master . . .  for myself, and Moshe the Beadle.

He had noticed me one day at dusk, when I was praying.

“Why do you weep when you pray?” he asked me, as though he had known me a long time.

“I don’t know why,” I answered, greatly disturbed.

The question had never entered my head. I wept because – because of something inside me that felt the need for tears. That was all I knew.

“Why do you pray?” he asked me, after a moment.

Why did I pray? A strange question. Why did I live? Why did I breathe? “I don’t know why,” I said, even more disturbed and ill at ease. “I don’t know why.”

After that day I saw him often. Moshe the Beadle explained to me with great insistence that every question possessed a power that did not lie in the answer.

“We raise ourselves towards God by the questions we ask God,” he was fond of repeating. “That is the true dialogue. We question God and God answers. But we don’t understand His answers. We can’t understand them. Because they come from the depths of the soul, and they stay there until death. You will find the true answers, Eliezer, only within yourself!”

“And why do you pray, Moshe?” I asked him.

“I pray to the God within me that He will give me the strength to ask Him the right questions.”


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