There are probably not that many people living in the modern world today who have not heard of Elie Wiesel, a survivor of Auschwitz, where he witnessed more cruelty, more hatred, more indifference, and more death, including that of his entire family than this man. Going onto to be a great humanitarian, Mr Wiesel has influenced many from the common man to presidents and world leaders. In this fantastic book, Mr Wiesel is looked at by one of his former students, a person who is searching for the meaning of his Jewish faith and the relationship one has with God.
As we explore with Mr Burger the words and actions of Elie Wiesel, we become students ourselves immersed in the wisdom of his words, of his ability to teach, not preach, of his joy in being the one thing he wanted most to be, a teacher.
“What hurts the victim the most, is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.” In this story, Elie Wiesel encourages all of us to be that voice, that one person who stands and speaks out without fear of retribution, or fear of what others think and do. He weaves his faith, his belief in God, into words that inspire as well as help those of us who have so struggled with religion and the ravages it sometimes brings into the world it is suppose to make better. Growing up myself surrounded on all sides by a Catholic environment, I found myself somewhat adrift when relating to others outside of the faith that was pretty much drummed into me from a very young age. My religion frightened me as I was an extremely sensitive child, and the thoughts of beloved family members going to hell because they were not baptized made me sick with worry. So, in my own way, I have been searching for answers, the same as the author has been.
“To remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all.” That is why we must stand up today. There is an enormous amount of hatred circling our world. It is squeezing the very life out of us and as we witness once again the recurrence of antisemitism, we can’t stand silent. I have often thought of the term used..never again when referring to the Holocaust…and yet never again has happened in Darfur, Bosnia, and Rwanda to name just a few. Christians are being persecuted in Syria, Jews are being attacked, as I write these words and here we are not raising our voices as Mr Wiesel so adamantly wanted us to.
Reading this book was an awakening for me. It made me realize the presence of God in our lives is the focus of our lives. It made me know that while I thought God was silent as the world has burned, God is not. He has allowed his human creation to become better. We haven’t though and there is still time for us to be what Mr Wiesel wants us to be. “I still believe in man in spite of man. I believe in language even though it has been wounded, deformed, and perverted by the enemies of mankind. And I continue to cling to words because it is up to us to transform them into instruments of comprehension rather than contempt. It is up to us to choose whether we wish to use them to curse or to heal, to wound or to console.”
Thank you to Ariel Burger who wrote this inspiring book about his beloved teacher, to Houghton Miflin Harcourt for an advanced copy of this book, and to NetGalley. It is a book I will always remember…
This book is in my top ten reads for the year. Pick it up, read it, and assimilate Elie Wiesel’s words. It just may change you for the better.
and here’s the author….
ARIEL BURGER is a writer, artist, teacher, and rabbi whose work combines spirituality, creativity, and strategies for social change. A lifelong student of Elie Wiesel, he spent years studying the great wisdom traditions, and now applies those teachings to urgent contemporary questions. When Ariel’s not learning or teaching, he is creating music, art, and poetry. He lives outside of Boston with his family.