Man comes closer to God through the questions he asks Him, he liked to say. Therein lies true dialogue. Man asks and God replies. But we don’t understand his replies. We cannot understand them. Because they dwell in the depths of our souls and remain there until we die. The real answers, Eliezer, you will find only within yourself.
Eliezer, the narrator throughout the text, is recalling what his teacher, Moishe the Beadle taught him about God. As a young teenager, Eliezer studied with Moishe and discussed theology with him. Moishe explains that asking God questions is natural and even encouraged, but we may not always be able to understand God’s replies and we are better off searching for truths inside of ourselves. Eliezer’s questions to God will become ever more challenging as his narrative progresses.
Some of the men spoke of God: His mysterious ways, the sins of the Jewish people, and the redemption to come. As for me, I had ceased to pray. I concurred with Job! I was not denying His existence, but I doubted His absolute justice.
Eliezer reflects on a moment while he and his father are staying in Auschwitz while awaiting transfer to another camp. They already stayed in the Birkenau camp, where they were separated from the rest of their family and witnessed mass cremations. Job is the hero of the oldest book in the Old Testament, a righteous man on whom God allows great evil to be visited. Eliezer is now questioning God in the same way that Job did, revealing that Eliezer has already lost much of his faith.
How could I say to Him: Blessed be Thou, Almighty, Master of the Universe, who chose us among all nations to be tortured day and night, to watch as our fathers, our mothers, our brothers end up in the furnaces? Praised be Thy Holy Name, for having chosen us to be slaughtered on Thine altar?
Eliezer and his father are now prisoners in the Buna camp. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, about ten thousand prisoners have been assembled for a solemn service. As prayers begin, Eliezer challenges God directly by posing questions that reveal Elizer’s lack of faith in God and the belief that the Jews are God’s chosen people. The image of the altar evokes the story of Abraham, who was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac at God’s command.