Open Heart, by Elie 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 (who is a cardiologist). The tests did not reveal the truth that was to encompass the severity of his situation. After a severe bout with unrelenting pain, he finally gave in to his family’s wishes.
At the age of 82-years of age, Mr. Wiesel 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 soul, his mind, his humility, and of his deep religious spirit.
Mr. Wiesel’s prose is filled with richness and brilliance, and filled with vibrant word-imagery. Even though he has lived a long lifespan, so far, he is 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 tell the world to never forget the Holocaust, to write another essay or book, to help individuals discover the preciousness of life.
He doesn’t get around as well as he did before his surgery. And, he has had to trim his schedule, realizing that he can only do so much within the framework of time and of his health. Mr. Wiesel wants to live long enough to see his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah (he made a promise he would), 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. His spiritual and humanistic lessons, within the slimness of the pages of Open Heart, are ones of immense insight. I never fail to gain inspiration from Elie Wiesel’s books, and this one is no exception.
I recommend Open Heart to everyone.
January 10, 2013 – 28 Tevet, 5773
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