Souls on Fire

The book “Souls on Fire” by Elie Wiesel discusses an important issue concerning spirit and strength which help people to overcome harsh realities of life and despair. The problems, unveiled in the work, had not received much publicity, because for some people these problems are too intimate or dedicated, they touch personal feelings and human soul. This book incorporates principles of Hasidism, a Jewish branch of religion, which helps people to survive in the world full of cruelty and injustice. The book consists of 12 separate chapters which describe historical development and religious practices of Hasidism.

Elie Wiesel analyzes and disguises the problem of despair and methods used by Jews to overcome depression and distress.  Through the lens of Hasidism, it is possible to say that everything has two sides: good and bad. A person should recognize both of them and find the best way from the difficult situation. Both are adjuncts of mankind’s temporal existence, hence inferior principles that serve a superior conciliatory principle. The individual, who has come to identify himself with the superior principle, has freed herself from the deterministic order which holds sway in a world of imagined preferences. To some extent, this superior, universal principle manifests itself in its timelessness.

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The unique approach of the book is that it is based on legends and tales which help readers to understand century old wisdom and grasp the idea at once. Elie Wiesel (2006) underlines: “all of these tales are incomprehensible; one must enter them; for their truth may be measures only from the inside” (p. 5).  This book is full of symbolism which shapes the atmosphere of the work. In this case, strict laws and moral principles help people to overcome anger and aggression they feel against the world. Elie Wiesel depicts low morals of people faced with difficulties and unable to keep overcome them, but in contrast to such people he portrays high morals and values inherent to them.  The main principles of this religion reflected in such the concepts of “obedience”. Wiesel unveils that the woman and a man also should be “calm” which help them to resist social tension and emotional tortures. It is possible to say that a man tries to penetrate the realm of Nature by identifying himself with it.

Another idea is that people remain very much entangled in their own emotions and moods. Most people do not take responsibility for their experience unable to see things in transition. A state of anxiety is one of the main features of ‘modern man’. “The main them remains constant: man owes it to himself to reject despair, better to rely on miracles than opt fro resignation” (Wiesel 2006, p. 35). Anxiety manifests itself as transference, a tie which must eventually be dissolved for the benefit of a person. Wiesel describes a meaning of life as a help to other people which brings happiness and satisfaction. Wiesel (2006) describes a meaning of life: “since man is alone, he helps his fellow man and thereby breaks his own solitude …” (p. 223). This remark underlines limitedness of human existence and will.  The book depicts life philosophy contrasting morality and dissoluteness of the society.

Wiesel gives a special attention to ceremonies and traditions typical for Hasidism. To some extent, these settings shape the atmosphere of the book and help readers to understand the important of century-old traditions for common people. He mentions such rituals as ritual bath and the ritual confession, and such symbols as the ritual shawl and ritual belt, etc: “he appeared muffles in his ritual shawl” (Wiesel 2006, p. 230). These ceremonies are interpreted as one of the most sacred ceremonies in this culture. In general, the life of common people leads to an understanding of life through the gateway of one’s own subjectivity.

The main focus of the book is that people should change their moral principles in accordance with century old morals and values which help to overcome the state of despair and desperation. For most, Hasidism is not mysticism. In this book, Wiesel creates sophisticated atmosphere forcing readers to recall eternal values and truths reading old tales and legends. All the characters from the book represent internal values and become the “bearers’ of norms and traditions. When one person’s actions begin to affect another person, it often places some limits on human behavior, and lead to personal degradation. This is not an “onslaught of human values” because every epoch creates its own frames for good and bad, moral and immoral. The question concerning the source of wisdom is brought up as a matter of intellectual conjecture. It is important to remain silent, thereby making it obvious that the inquiry is redundant. This moral disquiet gets represented in the division between calm and chaos, which substitutes for the opposition “good versus bad.” Regu­lating personal views and feelings, emotions and reactions towards events help to affirm for ourselves and for others that we have not abandoned all our principles. Wiesel teaches that the concern for others is a universal, but that societies alter our conceptions of who can and cannot be considered “the other”: he writes: “return to God” (Wiesel 2006, p. 215). The particular problem in the world for the reconciliation between the human subject and objective institutions is the recon­ciliation between the growing sense of personal freedom, independence and dignity which has been a marked feature of culture, and a world of institutions within which that sense of individual worth can both be recognized and made compatible with a similar recognition of the worth of others.

The philosophy of Hasidism can be explained as a programming of human mind based on happiness and morality. Hasidism teaching includes unconscious ideas that shape everyday behavior of followers. Similar to other religions, Hasidism sees the society in microcosm with its own specific cultures and ways of transmitting these cultures to their microcosm with its own specific cultures and ways of transmitting these cultures to their along the centuries. It is more a way of living and thinking of people then religion. Hasidism as a philosophy of life helps people to overcome despair and find personal value and happiness.