Rabbi Shapiro Reflects on Legacy of Elie Wiesel


Curtesy United Nations

Elie Wiesel

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference."

― Elie Wiesel

It is hard to imagine a world without Elie Wiesel. He was a connection to darkness. And he was a connection to hope. He was a window into inhumanity. And yet he magnified the significance of each human soul. He taught us about hate. And he inspired us to embrace goodness. His story is unique. But his story was one of oh so many. A world without Elie Wiesel.... It is hard to imagine.

As a young teenager, I attended a lecture of Professor Wiesel at Boston University, where was teaching at the time. His thick accent accompanied his mastery of language, and he unfolded his life journey. We were there with him from his early childhood in Transylvania and Romania. We could hear the Yiddish lullabies his mother used to sing. We could feel the conditions of the ghetto in Hungary. We're suffered his train ride to the Auschwitz death camp, and we felt the sting of the number tattooed on his arm. We marched with him. We starved with him. We were among the six million Jews murdered. And we were among nine the remnants of survivors.

All this, of course, was chronicled in his incredible book, "Night."

Being in his presence - we all bore witness to a small, small measure of what this immeasurable man endured. But we also learned about lesser known facts that made Elie Wiesel that much more extraordinary:

- Throughout the 1950's, he traveled the world as a reporter, using the many languages he could speak fluently.

Wiesel (Circled) in Concentration Camp photo

- In 1957, we wrote a review for the recently opened Disneyland in Tablet Magazine.

- Throughout the 1950's he wrote opera libretto's as well as opera reviews.

- His wife, Marion Erster Rose, translated all his books from 1969 on.

- Wiesel spoke out for suffering of all people, protesting South African Apartheid, delivering food to starving Cambodians, and lobbying for victims in Bosnia.

Indeed, the world has lost one of the great men of our time. May his life be an illustration of how our lives can make a difference. May his legacy become our vision. May his suffering become our promise to never allow hate to dominate our world. And may his memory guide us always toward seeking light in the face of darkness by harnessing the goodness at the core of every human soul.


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