Tag Archives: Elie Wiesel

Open Heart

Open Heart, by Elie Wiesel, Translated by Marion Wiesel, is a beautifully written book and intimate reflection of his life, reflected during a time when he faced the unknown outcome of open-heart surgery.

He began having difficulties, which led to testing ordered by his primary care doctor.  The tests did not reveal the truth that was to encompass the severity of his situation. After severe pain, he finally gave in to his family’s wishes.

At the age of 82-years of age, he was rushed to the hospital, and through tests it was discovered he had blocked arteries, arteries that needed to be repaired through open-heart surgery.  This was a definite turning point in his life, and when told of what needed to be done in order to save his life, he was both hesitant and anxious.  He went into the operating room, not knowing if he would wake up and see his wife-Marion, or see his son-Elisha, again.

Wake up he did, and the successive days, weeks and months gave him much to reflect upon.  Within those reflections he journeyed inward, and the results are written within the pages.  As a reader, we are given the privilege to read and to ponder the thoughts and feelings of Mr. Wiesel, through the vivid illuminations of his heart, his mind, his humility, and of his deep religious spirit.

His prose is filled with richness and brilliance, and filled with vibrant word-imagery.  Even though he has lived a long life, in years, he was not ready to leave this realm.  For him there is still more to accomplish, and time is of the essence.  He feels the need to continue to help humanity, to spread more messages of tolerance, to write another essay or book.

Mr. Wiesel wants to live long enough to see his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah, and possibly even his granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah.  Family is of extreme importance to him, and the joy he receives from his grandchildren is endless, filled with unconditional love, as is his joy and love for his wife and son.

He eloquently describes his past, his present and his hopes for the future.  He defines himself through his Jewishness and his adherence to its religious traditions and practices.

Mr. Wiesel often wonders where G-d was during man’s worst moment in history.  He wonders how G-d could permit the murder of so many individuals.  As always, during reflections of this dimension, he has no answers to those questions, yet his faith remains strong.

He amplifies the need for tolerance within the community of diversity, diversity for all ethnic backgrounds and the diversity regarding religious beliefs.  His spiritual and humanistic lessons, within the slimness of the pages, are ones of immense insight.

Open Heart is filled with the thoughts and prose of an open mind. I recommend Open Heart to everyone.


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Review: A Mad Desire to Dance

I have been busy the past couple of days trying to catch up on some reading.  Today, I will review the book A Mad Desire to Dance, by Elie Wiesel, translated from the French by Catherine Termerson.  I read this a second time for a book club.

Wiesel, with his masterful writing skills, has done it again, with a book that is extremely complex, dealing with the primary theme of “madness”, otherwise termed as insanity, depression, melancholia, mania, schizophrenia, and illness.  It is not an easy read, and often seems disjointed.  That is due to the fact that Doriel Waldman, the primary character, is suffering from what he defines as “madness”, and is jumping back and forth, from one scenario to another in almost manic fashion, while relaying his story to his psychoanalyst, Dr. Thérèse Goldschmidt.  As a side note, the given name Doriel is taken from the Hebrew Dor, which means “generation”.  Add that to the surname Waldman, and you have a name that seems to imply that Doriel is a walled-in man, locked in, or out of, childhood memories, and memories of past generations.

That said, since I’m eager to tell you everything, you should know that I’ll be telling you this story without any concern for chronology.  You’ll be made to discover many different periods of time and many different places in a haphazard fashion.  What can I say?  The madman’s time is not always the same as the so-called normal man’s“.

Waldman is a very scrutinizing and eccentric individual, and relies on philosophy and religion to speak to Goldschmidt. He has lost his parents and siblings, and has been raised in a Jewish Orthodox community, by his uncle.  He moves back and forth with his answering of questions, and often plays word games that turn into mind games.  He does this in order to get the better hand of the situation, as he perceives it.  He is reluctant to release his memories, and is stuck in time, searching evermore for a smile, or a kiss on his forehead.  He is very controlling, and must be one up on the psychoanalyst at all times, even though he is paying her to help him.

Goldschmidt is treating him using Freudian principles of analysis.  She is also not his first psychoanalyst, having received Waldman as a patient from a previous doctor who felt he couldn’t help him (Waldman).  She is Jewish, like Waldman, and the previous doctor feels that this might help Waldman to open up.

I won’t state anything more about the story line, itself, as it would be giving away too much. I will say that Wiesel is brilliant in his assessment of the human mind, and is masterful in his blending of psychology, philosophy, Biblical references, tales and parables, and the Holocaust, within the pages of A Mad Desire to Dance.  The story is a dark one, compelling, if the reader takes the time to absorb all the analogies and relative content, not only within the pages, but between the lines.  It is often a haunting story, filled with sadness, loss, love, and exaggeration of truth.

Wiesel has infused A Mad Desire to Dance with extraordinary content, with repressed desires and fanaticism, with love and loss, with locked memories that have had a dominant force on Waldman’s life, on his personality and ability to relate to others.  The tapestry is woven with brilliance and with a profound sense of history and how it affects not only our mind, but our faith.

Elie Wiesel has written a masterpiece, and one that encapsulates all of the facets of “madness”, from fanaticism in religion and spirituality, to harshness and brutality, to mania and obsessiveness, etc. It is as if the reader is inside the mind of a “madman”, what Doriel defines himself as being. But, is he really? You read this intense book about survival and trauma and decide.
I apologize for the update-there were some complications in my links.

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Book Diva Review: The Town Beyond the Wall

the town beyond the wall elie wiesel_ Once again, in The Town Beyond the Wall, Elie Wiesel has brought us a novel in which he infuses pieces of himself within the pages, through the narrator, named Michael.

Michael is a Jew, and he is a survivor of the Holocaust. He is haunted by the past, by memories that he tries to hold on to. He is in constant search for validation and the meaning of life.

As Michael tries to come to terms with the events of his past, his present, and his possible future, his life takes on a different dimension within the confines of a prison in Szerencsevaros, Hungary. He was born in a concentration camp, before liberation, and returns to his birthplace years later.

Elie Wiesel wrote another book regarding a man who returned to his birthplace, and I remember that he stated something along the lines that everything was the same as far as the street, etc., except there were no more Jews living there any longer…

Michael’s story is told through many flashbacks that he has while being tortured in jail, as he is forced to pray standing up and facing the wall. The desired result from his those who captured him would be for him to feel such extreme physical pain, so much so, that it would cause him to speak. His flashbacks are his way of disassociating himself from the pain. It gives him something to focus on, in order not to confess about his friend Pedro. He wants to save Pedro, and will stay strong in order to do so.

Michael is disillusioned about G-d, about religion, about life in general. He is constantly disturbed and afflicted by memories of his childhood. He is a man in dire emotional straits. He regrets some of the choices he has taken, and regrets some of the actions he chose not to take.

Was Michael able to weather yet another ordeal of suffering, after the suffering he went through during the Holocaust? Read The Town Beyond the Wall and find out. Is self-inflicted suffering a form of survival for some? Do the questions we seek answers to always have answers? Are pain and suffering necessities in life? Could you endure these situations and retain your ability to be nonjudgemental? These and more questions come to mind while reading The Town Beyond the Wall. Wiesel is masterful in stimulating our emotions and thought processes. He always gives us much to ponder, and brings us sobering and serious issues to reflect upon.

Wiesel is ever searching inward, outward, ever filled with the silence of those who stood and watched while Jews were deported, and/or went to their deaths. The suffering is endless, and imprints of lives are left on the soul of the protagonist, as he reflects back in time in order to save a friend in the present.

Michael’s pain is consuming, hard to let go of, harsh and intense. Yet it is not the pain of a martyr, but of an individual who is trying to focus on the past in order to get through the adverse situation he finds himself in. In order for Michael’s friend to survive, Michael had to suffer. And, suffer he did, giving him a reason to survive, to weather the horrendous storm.

The Town Beyond the Wall
is a study in suffering, and returning to the place where the suffering began. It is where it continues to keep its hold on you, due to many factors, both real and imagined. The novel lets the reader know that you can’t always return to where your life began, to where you spent the first youthful formative years of your life, and not feel some form of pain or suffering. To do so would be to blot out those who came before you.

Elie Wiesel implies that suffering is man’s worst nightmare, where cowardice and courage can’t blend together with a firm or true resolution. It is either one or the other, but not both.


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Book Diva Review – Somewhere a Master

Somewhere a Master: Hasidic Portraits and Legends is one of Elie Wiesel’s wonderfu and intensel books filled with stories of legendary Hasidic Masters.

   Each individual, was a sage in their own right, and each one brought a depth of illumination into the ideals, practices, and the joy received within spiritual practice. The Talmud was an integral force in Hasidic Judaism. There came a point when some felt it was important to expand spirituality’s horizons and the tales, fables and stories brought comfort to followers of the sages. In Somewhere a Master, Elie Wiesel details, in vivid paintings, the compelling stories of these individuals, and their contribution in bringing happiness and song into the lives of Russian, Lithuanian, Polish and Ukrainian Jews during the dark and desperate times.

Times were harsh, filled with depression and despair, and persecution of Jews. Lives and families were uprooted, throughout the landscape of Eastern Europe. There seemed to be no escape from the devastation and cruelty.

The sages, legendary teachers, saw the necessity for escapism, and the need for happiness to be a primary facet in the lives of their followers. They chose to tell their tales, spread their teachings through joyous stories and participation. They wanted to uplift the poor, down-trodden, the despairing, and the poverty-stricken within their realm.

Rebbe Pinhas of Koretz chose to stand on the sidelines of Hasidism, yet his message was a strong one within his peers. He believed that “A good story in Hasidism is not about miracles, but about friendship and hope – the greatest miracles of all“.

Rebbe Ahron of Karlin was a legend in his own time, fighting until the end to escape through the melancholy into a state of joy. He, too, believed in deep friendship, and “he would like every Hasid to spend one hour a day with a friend – and confide in him“.

From the self-sacrificing Wolfe of Zbarazh, to the beautiful stories of Barukh of Medzibozh and his love of the Song of Songs, each master is compelling, and their stories can apply in today’s world. Their words are life lessons, lessons on joy, love, caring, selflessness, and finding happiness in a world overcome with darkness. Each individual illuminates and sparkles throughout the landscape, and within confines of isolation. Their auras flow over geographical boundaries and constraints, spreading warmth in the hearts and souls of those who needed caring and comfort.

Reb Moshe-Leib of Sassov was possessed with ecstasy and warmth, and it radiated through to everyone around him. The Holy Seer of Lublin (Rebbe Yaakov-Yitzhak Horowitz) was influential, charismatic, and nobody seemed to have the will to resist his stare. While Rebbe Meir of Premishlam despised poverty, and he prayed for monetary fullfilment. “Why shouldn’t I pray for money for my Jews?” he once asked.” On and on, the statements and the stories go.

Many of these sages understood melancholy, as they were affected by it, themselves. Silence was a big part of their lives. Prayer was a major force in what determined their standing in the Jewish community with their peers and followers. Each one thought about not only life, but death, and what it would mean to die. They worried about where they would be in the scheme of death. Yet they overcame their own depressions and melancholy and brought joy and light to those in need of an escape from the harsh realities of life during tumultuous times, including the Holocaust.

Elie Wiesel has brought us another masterful book of portraits of Jewish masters, sages, and teachers, each with their own stories, each with their own perceptions of what it is to be in a joyous state. Each one speaks about the spiritual aspect of life, not only depicting words of the Talmud, but verbal stories and tales that those before them could believe in, and bring home and retell in moments of despair, loss and sadness. When injustice and cruelty reigned, the sages brought a sense of peace to those filled with anguish. Somewhere a Master:  Hasidic Portraits and Legends is an incredible book, filled with compassion, love and kindness, and infused with lessons we can carry with us within the context of modern times and current events. It is as compelling as it is filled with loveliness.  Written masterfully, as only Elie Wiesel can write.

In the Afterword Elie Wiesel writes: “Such is the power their legends; their intensity, their beauty stay with you and involve you – almost against your will, almost against your better judgment.” I find this statement to be extremely profound in its truth.
I highly recommend Somewhere a Master:  Hasidic Portraits and Legends to everyone.

Copyright 2012, L.M. No permission is given to reproduce, copy or use my writings or photographs in any manner.


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Dawn, by Elie Wiesel

Dawn, by Elie Wiesel is an excellent book that examines many issues, especially on good and evil, forgiveness, spirituality and identity.

“There are not a thousand ways to be a killer; either a man is one or he isn’t. He who has killed one man alone, is a killer for life…the executioner’s mask will always follow him.” This was Elisha’s dawn, his dawning.
During the years after World War II, terrorists in Palestine try to drive the British out. This dark, intensely written novel, focuses on a young Holocaust Survivor, Elisha, who has joined a group of Jewish militants. He has been assigned to be the executioner of a British officer.

The book fluctuates between Elisha’s ghosts of the past, Holocaust ghosts, and his present situation, as Elisha continually questions whether what he is doing is right, is for the larger good . We enter his mindset, literally, and feel his struggles between what is the moral thing to do, and, what one does, in what they believe to be in the best interests of their nation, and their historical group of individuals. His dilemma “dawns” on him, as he becomes aware, and strongly perceives the struggle he has to face…within himself. Dawn, is a word that does not necessarily imply sunrise, and in this novel, although the execution is to take place at sunrise; the impact and emotions of the situation, are deeper, and more vivid, and illuminate, within, more than any morning sunrise ever could. Elisha has an awakening, and a new life begins, unfolds, for him…one he can never return from.

We see how the militant group dynamics can encourage and persuade a young person, in the wake of a horrific trauma of their own, to commit an act, that under different circumstances, they might not involve themselves in.

Weisel’s intensity in writing, and his analyzing the events for what they are…conflict…on both sides of the coin…leaves one to question what components make up the mind of a murderer, and whether there is justification for violence and murder, for a political cause, under certain climates.

Although the Dawn’s copyright is 1961, the mindset of the militant group could apply to the world events, today, with the current terrorist situations. In fact, if events of The Holocaust were not mentioned in the book, one could assume that it might have been written today, its relevance to current events is so strong.

~~Book Diva

© Copyright – All Rights Reserved – No permission is given or allowed to reuse my photography, book reviews, writings, or my poetry in any form/format without my expresss written consent/permission.

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Messengers of God, by Elie Wiesel

Messengers of God: Biblical Portraits and Legends“, by Elie Wiesel, is a book that is filled with fantastic word-images and descriptions told from the perspective of a Holocaust survivor. The book deals with various characters of the Bible: Adam, Cain, Abel, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob, Esau, Moses, and Job, and how they obtain spiritual growth and move forward under harsh conditions.

Wiesel manages to infuse these Biblical individuals with traits and characteristics, giving them a sense of substance, whether it be superficial or sincere. He brings emotion and life into them, and a sense of spirituality. We see how the successive generations gain logic, insight and knowledge…both emotional and spiritual.

As the generations continue on from Adam and Eve, Wiesel gives the individuals emotional qualities, qualities he feels didn’t truly exist within Adam and Eve. He feels that they (Adam and Eve) didn’t have the history or the references in which to understand the immense responsibility they had, not only for their children, but for future generations. They did not, or would not trust entirely in God. They lacked in familial background and human role models, and we see the succeeding generations of individuals begin to develop more human-like emotional qualities, and the ability to reason within their daily setting.

We watch the characters grow, some gain weakness, and others gain strength. We see them learn right and wrong, and develop chaos and a sense of peace in their lives. Mainly, we see how the Biblical characters and their lives can be placed in a modern-day setting, through Wiesel’s brilliant writing, and his use of midrash, parables and sayings at the end of each chapter. We ponder their stories from Wiesel’s perspective.

Life holds many challenges and struggles for all of us, And Wiesel has shown us how some of our favorite Biblical individuals might have gained a sense of their humanity, and might have felt and thought about issues relevant to them and their world, trying to resolve them, whether rightly or wrongly, justly or unjustly. We are witness as the story teller blends death and annihilation into the lives of the characters, and leaves them to ascertain how to begin again. The Holocaust is underlying, and ever present within the stories, including sacrificial aspects. Lessons are learned, and spirituality is gained, as each person’s humanness is exposed. Their lives live on, in the present, in order to teach us, to bring insight into the human condition and atrocities that continue to occur.

Elie Wiesel’s brilliant story telling in “Messengers of God: Biblical Portraits and Legends“, in my opinion, is a metaphor for right and wrong, good and evil, within a Holocaust type of situation, and how to begin life anew from such an adverse event.

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Legends of Our Time, by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel is the narrator in “Legends of Our Time” an amazing book of stories and essays, written through doubt, through clarity, through knowledge, through self-analyzing, through questioning God, and through events before, during and after the Holocaust. His experiences are compelling in their insights, and his assessments are filled with overwhelming acuteness.

Nothing had changed. The house was the same, the street was the same, the world was the same, God was the same. Only the jews had disappeared.”

These were the poignant and haunting thoughts that Wiesel had, upon returning to Sighet, Romania, as he walked through the streets of his hometown. What he saw was almost unbearable to witness, as Wiesel remembers what once was.

Wiesel’s characters are given life eternal through his vivid and poignant writing. Each story is filled with spiritual illumination and learnings. Each situation brings Wiesel insight, revealed through each person,and/or vision. Heroes are acknowledged and become eternal impressions in the continuum of time, and in Wiesel’s mind and spirit.

Legends of Our Time” expands our minds, as to the acts performed by individuals before, during and after World War II. “Legends of Our Time” is a testament to those who interacted or had contact (whether knowingly or unknowingly) with Wiesel during his life, sometimes selflessly, sometimes not so selflessly. Each person made their impression on his emotions and on his life, whether positively or negatively, and at times his perceptions on the person changed slightly. He was often in disagreement with the individual, but at times came away from his experience understanding how they came to their own decisions.

Wiesel is brilliant in his writing, his thought processes are vivid, his word images are filled with clarity. The overwhelming burden of suffering before and after the Holocaust is apparent in every story and essay within the pages of Legends of Our Time. Wiesel’s book is testimony to the suffering, and the will and strength of mankind, and an eternal testament to humanity, in all its degrees. Wiesel’s “Legends of Our Time” is a testament to Elie Wiesel, himself, and his continuing quest/search for answers.

I personally own and have read this book.

~~~Book Diva


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