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Michel Del Castillo

Although Moshe is arguably not a major character, the theme of his personality is one that runs through the book. He is the character that most people ignore and, discomfited by him, deride. He is, perhaps, the protagonist of Jewish history in that the Jews continue relying on their chosenness as comfort and prop for escaping suffering, yet Elie, through the instrument of Moshe the Beadle, questions this chosenness: What is it, this being selected to suffer? To bear witness and continue bearing witness even after one has been rejected? To live after death?

People involved with Night have seen this chosennes in various ways. To Elie, it meant being selected to suffer; to the Nazis, it meant being selected to be killed; to certain orthodox Jews—victims of the Holocaust—and to devout Christians such as Mauriac, it was part of a greater unfathomable Divine plan in which the Jews would rise again. To Elie, too, it meant being selected to bear witness despite, time and again, being knocked down for doing so.

In this way, Elie’s history of reception and publication of Night is similar to that of Moshe’s reception of his tale. The Jews ignored Moshe. The world (initially) ignored Wiesel. He had to persist and, each time, was rejected by a world that did not want to know of the morose incidents of the Holocaust. It was too discomfiting for them.

People who persist in discomfiting others are called madmen and derided. There is some psychological relief in doing so. Moshe, in no way, seems to be delusional. Yet, in the trademark spirit of Wiesel’s works, Moshe emerges as a delusional “clown” and a madman. However, he was no madman. He simply disturbed others, and to rationalize their delusion, the townspeople of Sighet called him insane and delusional.

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