A chronicle has it that the celebrated Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Lyady was locked up in a St. Petersburg prison after being denounced by a foe of the Hasidic movement as an agitator against the Czar.
One day the warden came to see him in his solitary cell, and this is what he said:
"I am told you are a rabbi, a Master. So explain to me a passage I fail to understand in the Bible. It says in the Book of Genesis that, after having bitten into the forbidden fruit, Adam fled, so that the Lord had to ask him: 'Ayekha, where are you?' Is it possible, even conceivable, that the Creator of the world did not know where Adam was hiding?"
Whereupon the rabbi smiled and answered: "The Lord, blessed-be-His-name, knew; it was Adam who didn't know."
And Rabbi Shneur Zalman went on: "Do you believe the Bible to be a sacred book?"
"And that it speaks to all mankind, of all times, therefore also to ours?"
"Yes, I believe that."
"In that case, I shall explain to you the real meaning of the question God asked of Adam. Ayekha signifies: Where do you stand in this world? What is your place in history? What have you done with your life, Adam? These are fundamental questions that every human being must confront sooner or later.
"For every one of us, the book of life goes back to Adam. It is he who embodies the mystery of the beginning. But it is to each of us that God speaks when He says Ayekha."
To write, to write about oneself, one's past, one's burden of memory, is somewhat like that: to keep alive this first question in the Bible.
- Elie Wiesel, "And the sea is never full", pg 3, 4