In writing about Orthodox Jewish life, Chaim Potok speaks with considerable authority: He was a rabbi and a respected academic, and he served as the editor-in-chief of the Jewish Publication Society of America. In My Name Is Asher Lev, Potok focuses on the role of the artist in a particular community—a community he locates in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and calls Ladover Hasidism. Potok models his Ladover Hasidism on Lubavitch Hasidism.
My Name Is Asher Lev, like Potok’s other novels including The Chosen (1967), The Promise (1969), In the Beginning (1975), and Davita’s Harp (1985), probes the specific struggles of one member of a community who comes into conflict with the norms and expectations of that community. Asher Lev’s community expects him to follow in his parents’ footsteps and to work in some way for the preservation and the betterment of Judaism worldwide. Asher, however, is seen as responding to a radically different calling: art. A very familiar pattern of conflict in the world of the novel—the individual versus society—becomes apparent early in the book. On the first page, Asher lists some of the charges he has to face. These include “traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflicter of shame upon my family, my friends, my people.” Asher’s own struggle to come to terms with these labels is also sensed when he adds: “In all honesty, I confess that my accusers are not altogether wrong: I am indeed in some way, all of those things.” My Name Is Asher Lev, then, becomes a defense, a defense of the individual and a defense of art.
The particular society to which Asher belongs is bound together by religious beliefs, and the decisions of the individuals and of the corporate body are seen as having eternal consequences. Asher is taught to view all of his...
(The entire section is 762 words.)
The Power of Art and Religion A struggle of a boy who is bounded to his religion through pressure of his parents, Rebbe, and others that put forced down upon him, a way of living that he does not want to pursue and that is interfering with what he believes. In the book, My Name is Asher Lev, written by Chaim Potok, Asher is put on this earth simply to draw, and it is a gift that has been given to him, but is interfering with his religion. It is hard for a boy that has people constantly on his back relentlessly preaching to him that consequences of the “other side,” for others and myself this can be easily related to. Over all, the entire book was a long yet smooth read; it was hard to relate to because of my lack of knowledge of Judaism, yet easy for me to understand how the main Character, Asher Lev, felt throughout his story. In the beginning Asher was very young and seemed to be immature, but as you follow his thoughts you begin to realize he is not immature he is trapped within something he does not believe in. His parents did not believe or have the same values he does, so as a child there was a lack of support that needed to be there. Asher was a young boy simply trying to find himself without any