"He was the jack-of-all-trades in a Hasidic house of prayer, a shtibl…He stayed out of people’s way. His presence bothered no one. He had mastered the art of rendering himself insignificant, invisible."
Eliezer’s first description of Moishe paints him as innocent and harmless, qualities which, in combination with his religious devotion, allow him to serve as a symbol of the Jewish community’s innocence. The fact that Moishe is a “jack-of-all-trades” also supports the notion that he represents his community as a whole, for he does not carry one particular identity or function. Although readers are unaware of his fate at this point in the novel, these initial descriptions make it possible for Moishe’s character development to serve as a microcosm for the physical and spiritual destruction that many other innocents will ultimately experience.
"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."
Moishe imparts this wisdom on Eliezer during the early days of their friendship, and his perspective regarding the role of questions in faith serves as a framework for understanding Eliezer’s spiritual conflicts later in the novel. These lines also highlight the depth of Moishe’s devotion to his religion: he continues to embrace God despite the fact that his faith does not always offer answers to life’s difficult questions. He invites Eliezer to consider this perspective with the hope that he can help his young student discover his internal strength on his spiritual journey.
"Moishe was not the same. The joy in his eyes was gone. He no longer sang. He no longer mentioned either God or Kabbalah. He spoke only of what he had seen."
After Moishe escapes death at the hands of the Gestapo, he returns to Sighet to warn his neighbors of the imminent dangers threatening Jews. The violent murders he witnessed in the Polish forests drastically change Moishe, his once innocent and dreamy personality transformed into one of sullenness. This shift in character, particularly his lack of desire to speak of his faith, foreshadows the impending destruction of the Jewish community. The fact that “he spoke only of what he had seen” also emphasizes Moishe’s role as a messenger aiming to save people from tragedy.