My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

I am not necessarily a fiction reader but I think this one is a must read. Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful fictional works out there, I just too often find myself engaging in many non-fictional resources that when I find time it is hard to sit still for a good read. However many fine works of words have engaged my attention.

My Name is Asher Lev is just one of those said works. The nature of the book is one that I could especially relate to with my undergraduate study in fine art (painting and art history). The book shows the development of Asher Lev, the Hasidic Jew, artist and painter.

If you are already a practitioner of the Hasidic Jewish faith or the elite world of art you may realize the antagonistic relationship that already exists between the belief and practice of young Asher. If not let me make you aware.

In the Hasidic Jewish community existence is about conforming and following the ways of God; it’s about obedience and through obedience, salvation and truth. In the realm of art, there are no conformists; whoever conforms is considered a whore. Art is about self and self-expression and through total expression there is truth. In art there is seemingly nothing sacred, in Hasidic Judaism so much is sacred.

This antagonistic relationship follows the entirety of the book, until at last Asher comes to rest with what he wants to be.

Potok’s griping tale demonstrates a strong story of his own faith. He writes of Jewish practice and art as someone who is well-learned in both. His in-depth understanding transcends to a deeper meaning not just to the artist or the Jew. It is the essential question of self introspection, “Who do I want to be, what do I want to become?”

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3 thoughts on “My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

  1. Hasidic Judaism is an interesting religion because they are ultra-conservative, so this book would be interesting!! I’m curious what they think about fine arts and how that is in conflict with their beliefs. One would assume that fine arts would be okay since God is the ultimate creator of all things, but I’m unsure with Judaism…

    • In the case if artists are okay with God, it is definitely dependent upon the individual artist. However, I would say the art community as a whole does not like the idea of the Christian or God of Judaism. It would place limitations on their art if they were a avid believer. Let’s just say that Hasidic Jews would not be okay with all the nakedness found in art.

  2. I’m pleased that you enjoyed it! Asher Lev is one of the most impressive books I’ve read recently. Unlike you, I read almost exclusively fiction; it’s more fun.

    I learned an awful lot about art in this book, and not just from the subject matter. Potok’s writing in this one is extraordinary–evocative, colorful, emotional, and moving. An excellent work!

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