On Yom Kippur eve in 1965, Elie Wiesel found himself in Russia, “in a synagogue crowded with people. The air was stifling. The cantor was chanting . . . Suddenly a mad thought crossed my mind: Something is about to happen; any moment now the Rabbi will wake up, shake himself, pound the pulpit and cry out, shout his pain, his rage, his truth. I felt the tension building up inside me; the wait became unbearable. But nothing happened . . . It was too late. The Rabbi no longer had the strength to imagine himself free.”
In Zalmen, or The Madness of God, Wiesel gives his Rabbi that strength, the courage to voice his oppression and isolation, and the result is a passionate cry. This play illuminates not only the plight of the Soviet Jew, but the anguish of individuals everywhere who must survive—and yet long for something more than mere survival.
(Adapted for the stage by Marion Wiesel.)