God on Trial

Several years ago, Ellie Wiesel, a survivor of the Holocaust, gave an interview on public television. Wiesel was just fourteen years old when he and his family were taken to a Nazi concentration camp. His story of the Holocaust is an awful story—a nightmare beyond belief. In this television interview, Wiesel recalled a vivid experience at the concentration camp. A group of men in his barracks decided to have a trial. However, this was unlike any trial you’ve ever heard of before. These men decided to try God for the horrors of the Holocaust. They were men of faith, but their faith had profoundly disappointed them. So they decided to put God on trial for abandoning the Jewish people. They asked young Wiesel to witness the proceedings.

The prosecutor listed the charges one by one. God’s people had been torn from their homes, separated from their family, beaten, abused, murdered, and burned in incinerators. A defense was attempted. But in the end, God was found guilty of abandoning his people, maybe even guilty of not existing. After the trial, a dark and profound silence fell upon the room. A few moments later, the men realized it was time for the sacred Jewish ritual of evening prayer. At this point in the story, Wiesel recounted a remarkable fact. These men who had just found God guilty of abandoning them—these same men got down on their knees, and they began to pray their evening prayer.