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Paperback My Name Is Asher Lev Book

ISBN: 0140036423

ISBN13: 9780140036428

My Name Is Asher Lev

(Part of the Asher Lev Series)

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

Asher Lev is the artist who painted the sensational 'Brooklyn Crucifixion'. Into it, he poured all the anguish and torment a Jew can feel when torn between the faith of his fathers and the calling of his art.

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

Anticipatory Love...Awaiting My 1St Of Patok's Works

And why, you may ask, do I bother others with a review of a book not yet read? Just because I wish to express Deepest Gratitude for the Wonderful minds and Thoughts of these reviewers!

To Be, or Not to Be?--Still the Question

It is surprising what treasures can still be found at a community book fair for the price of only one thin dime. Such was my good fortune and happy surprise when I discovered a brand new copy of MY NAME IS ASHER LEV (hereafter, MNAL) by Chaim Potok (New York: Ballantine Books; reissue edition, 1996) hiding amidst the tabletop piles of used books. It is also rare to find an extraordinarily beautiful story--woven from the threads of one's own heart and life--in the same bargain. Potok (himself a Jewish rabbi and novelist extraordinaire) takes us deep with a brilliant flashback into the rich and intimate world of Hasidic life in Brooklyn, New York, during the mid-twentieth century depicting the forces of art and Jewish orthodoxy as they vie for the affection of a Jewish boy, named, Asher Lev. Asher, Aryeh and Rivkeh (his parents), and his friends and relatives all struggle to synthesize the meaning of his artistic 'gift.' Is it from the 'Ribbono Shel Olom' ('Master of the Universe') or from the 'sitra achra' ('other [dark/evil] side')? The dawning realization that Asher's gift for drawing and painting is not going away sets the stage for conflict in the face of his ancestoral and parental theological heritage. The simmering strain remains for the next twenty years as Asher grows up. We follow Asher's thoughts as a four-year-old drawing pictures for his 'mama' with Crayolas into his mid-twenties when he celebrates (?) his second one-man-show of critically acclaimed painted canvases. We also learn a great deal about the Ladover, Hasidic Jews of the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn during the 1940s, 50s, and early sixties along the way. The difficult tension between the family's deeply held religious convictions, and a not so easily adapted gift for visual artistry in their growing son, carries us from the beginning of the book to its final page. The heart-rending decision whether to please parents and community at the expense of one's talent, or to give expression to one's art and in the exchange risk heritage and family, is the question with which Asher must wrestle. As a Christian minister; fine artist; son; and dad with theological and artistic issues currently coloring my own relationships with dad and sons, I don't think I could have found a more incisively relevant novel for this time in my life than MNAL. Those interested in the lifestyle and the challenges faced by the Hasidim of New York City during the mid-twentieth century receive an arresting and memorable exposure in MNAL. Those possessing religious or spiritual scruples, and yet wondering about the appropriate exercise of their artistic abilities, or the possibility of pursuing art as a carreer, will discover in Asher Lev an empathetic companion with whom to share their mutual concerns. Conscientious; God-fearing; sensitive; and torn; Asher graciously offers us his struggle and his decision. I love this book for all of its stunning and warm humanity. But I love it especially for in

A classic

MY NAME IS ASHER LEV by Chaim PotokA story about a young man's struggle between the secular world of an artist, and life as a Ladover Hasidic Jew, Chaim Potok's masterpiece MY NAME IS ASHER LEV is truly a classic.Asher Lev is born to parents who are devoted to the life of the Ladover Hasidic Jew. As his mother supports and stands by the work Asher's father does, Aryeh Lev devotes his life to the causes closest to his people. Most of his life is dedicated to preserving the culture of this Jewish sect, and also to helping those who are being persecuted in other countries. He travels often, sometimes to countries as far away as The Soviet Union to help out his fellow Jew. He's rarely home, and young Asher is often angry and upset, wishing his father had more time for him.From a very young age, Asher has a deep sense of art, and learns to express his innermost feelings through his creativity. As with any artistic genius, creating art is in Asher's blood and it soon gets in the way of his schooling and his religion and culture. His parents are not happy with the way things are going with Asher, but they tolerate his strange obsession, thinking this is just a passing phase. He will grow out of it, they think. His mother in particular does not dissuade Asher from drawing, if only to keep him happy, hoping that he would reward her with better grades in school. And with the help of local storeowner Yudel Krinsky, Asher obtains the necessary pencils and other art equipment to continue his fascination with drawing.However, his obsession with art does not die, as his parents had hoped. The older he becomes, the more his passion with art drives a wedge between himself and his parents. He becomes more independent in the way he thinks, and soon his parents find they cannot control him. The life of a Ladover Hasidic Jew is one of structure and daily prayer and obedience to one's elders, to one's Rebbe, and to one's God. Asher lives in direct conflict with all this, although he tries to keep his daily prayers in his routines, and is often dwelling on things that pertain to his religious background. Torn between his great desire to express himself as an artist and the need to please his parents and in particular his father, Asher's life is full of torment and guilt. But he is happiest when he is painting, or drawing, or walking amongst the masterpieces at a museum. When Asher takes up with a fallen Jew who also happens to be one of the greatest living artists in the country, Asher's artistic life goes into full swing. He lives and breathes his art, as Jacob Kahn teaches young Asher all he knows. Jacob convinces him that in order to become a true artist, he needs to live in the secular world. Again, Asher questions whether he is doing the right thing by following his passions and his God-given gift, or should he turn his back on art and follow the route of an obedient Hasidic Jew?What more can I say about a book that has become a modern classic? Chaim

Read Without Prejudice

I would perhaps not have been inspired to write a review of this brilliant book had I not read Rachel Grey's review... In general, other reviewers have said all the things I would want to say about "My Name is Asher Lev;" its exquisite writing, its heartbreaking and beautiful portrayal of a developing artist trying to reconcile his need to create with the demands of his family and his religious community - these are well covered. But Miss Grey's review moved me to respond.Dear girl - how closely did you read this book? It does not take place in the present time; it was published in 1972, and is set somewhat earlier. Asher's family in no way represents mainstream Judaism, which I would think any careful reader - even one ignorant of Jewish culture and practice - would have understood. The Levs are Hasids, members of a small, conservative, fundamentalist segment of the Jewish world. In that respect, your identification with Asher's experience as similar to that of growing up in a fundamentalist Christian household is entirely appropriate. Potok is not by any means suggesting that all Jews would be dismayed to find Picasso growing up in the back bedroom. He is portraying a very specific world, and through that world exploring the conflicts that an artist - one who is powerfully, passionately driven to realize his unique vision - may encounter with his family, his community, and even his own spiritual nature as a result of that need to create. Please do read this book again, and please don't condemn Judaism or Jews - or even Hasids - for the behavior of Asher's family that you find distasteful. A work of art, a piece of literature, should not stand as a sweeping statement on an entire class of people, nor should a work of fiction be read as though it intends to make such a statement. In this case, at least, "My Name is Asher Lev" is a specific exploration of a microcosm inhabited by interesting, multi-dimensional, sometimes unsympathetic members of a minority sect. The general message to take from this book is not that Jews are intolerant of art and artists or communicate badly with their children, but the far more complex truths Potok investigates regarding the interplay of religion, family, and artistic vision.

Potok's best novel

While The Chosen is the more popular book, this book is just a little bit better. It brings up the tension between secular art and religion, spirituality ad culture, Judaism and Christianity, as well as fathers and sons who can't seem to communicate no matter how much they want to know each other. Asher Lev is an artist in a Chasidic community that does not encourage artwork amongst its members. While his father is completely perplexed, the rebbe (leader) has him train with an artist friend who is secular. As he develops as an artist he begins to feel more confident with his perspective no matter how much it bothers people around him. The book ends with him painting The Brooklyn Crucifixion which uses Christian symbolism to characterize the tension between him and his parents. Unlike The Chosen in which both fathers are ultimately understanding (even if they don't seem it), in Asher Lev, the father is perplexed. He wants to love and understand his son but he also spends much of his time yelling in confusion and befuddlement. It's almost like they both need the rebbe to be the understanding part of the father-son relationship.The character of the artist is also a great touch, because there are always people who are for the most part secular or assimilated but respect and admire Chasidic rabbis and rebbes (a particularly famous example is Rabbi Manis Friedman who attracts a diverse range of Jews and gentiles of various religious viewpoints to his lectures and is respected if not admired by all.)This is a much more complex novel than The Chosen and should be read by all fans of The Chosen.


I am not an artist. Nor am I a gifted person in any respect. But, for a few moments, I had a notion of what it could be like to be blessed and cursed with a talent so rare, and so special. This feeling occured when I read and delved into the world of Asher Lev."My Name is Asher Lev" is Chaim Potok's best novel. It is complete, subtle and passionate; devastating to its core. It tells the poignant and difficult story of Asher Lev, a New York-born religious Jew who finds the gift of painting within him early on, yet is isolated from his community due to the philosophy that Judaism, modern art, and Christianity are distinctly seperate worlds.In my favorite scene from the book, detailing the power of Potok's imagination, Asher Lev is a young boy, who looks at his mother one day and creates a rendition of her on paper. Because she is depressed at the time, and smoking, Potok has Lev use the leftover ash from her finished cigarettes as the drawing object; his mother is created in shades of gray. A story this original, this creative, and this imaginary deserves to be read. Potok, a rabbi, has done an excellent job in detailing a Jewish community in the United States, as well as conveying the relationship it holds with the Christian majority. Besides being a good read on art, the novel offers a fascinating glimpse into the tensions that separate two religious worlds."My Name Is Asher Lev" is a wonderful read and I recommended it to all.
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