Asher Lev


Word Count: 866

I Comes Before “U” in the Alphabet and in Happiness
Throughout life, one faces many responsibilities that could be
taken upon; furthermore, sometimes one responsibility
conflicts with another, causing a person to struggle to find
which responsibility is more important in his life. In addition,
for one to live his life in a manner that would make others
content would be foolish, because this person would feel
unsatisfied with his accomplishments and no one else would
be completely pleased; It is impossible to make others
completely happy, due to the fact that everyone would want
and expect different things from this person. For instance, in
My Name Is Asher Lev , Asher is unsure whether or not the
responsibility of pleasing the important people of his life and
community is more important than making himself happy. In
order for Asher to make others happy, he must sacrifice his
one desire of being an artist. After attempting to do so, he
concludes that being an artist is a greater priority in his life,
because can not meet the needs of all the people that are
important in to him in his life. Asher’s mother has no
objections of his desire to draw, and is often encouraging
him, which late in the novel leads him to become an artist.
One example of his mother influencing him, she takes Asher,
at a young age, on walks to several places, like the park. At
these places Asher is able to draw different images, helping
him find a hobby that he loves and that will later become his
life. Another place his mother takes him to is the art
museum. There they speak and learn about art, which Asher
is later influenced by the paintings that are on display in that
museum, and he often copies famous paintings. Another
example, his mother is constantly asking Asher questions
about his art, showing signs of interest. For instance, when
she is ill and does not speak to her as often as she once did,
she asks, “Asher?... Asher, are you drawing pretty things?
Are you drawing sweet, pretty things? ...You should make
the world pretty, Asher. Make it sweet and pretty. It’s nice
to live in a pretty world” (Potok, p.17-18). By speaking to
Asher about art when she is so sick and has other things on
her mind shows him that she enjoys his art and that it is
important. Although his mother takes pleasure from
happiness Asher gets by being an artist, his father is very
against it. Asher’s father and mother having conflicting
expectations of Asher, it is already impossible to make them
both completely satisfied at the same time. Throughout the
novel My Name Is Asher Lev, Asher’s father wants him to
stop drawing completely by constantly calling art “foolish”
and “from the sitra achra”. In a discussion about art between
Asher and his father, his father says, “Asher, you have a gift.
I don’t know if it is from the Ribbono Shel Olom or from the
Other side. If it is from the Other side, then it is foolishness,
dangerous foolishness, for it will take you away from Torah
and from your people and lead you to think only of
yourself”(109). In addition to talking to him, his father talks
to the Rebbe and Asher’s teachers to also influence him
towards Torah and away from art. Therefore Asher is
getting mixed feeling from the two closest people to him,
leaving him no other choice but to pursue after his dreams.
On his path of becoming an artists, Asher learns valuable
lessons from Jacob Kahn, which leads him contradict both
his parents. In order for Asher to become the best artist he
can, he must forget about everyone else and draw from his
heart. Jacob Kahn makes him realizes this when he says,
“As an artist you are responsible to Jews?... Listen to me,
Asher Lev. As an artist you are responsible to no one and to
nothing, except the truth as you see it. Do you understand?
An artist is responsible to his art” (218). Asher then on
begins to live life for himself and not for other by focusing
only on art. His father is upset with his decision and causes
them to have turmoil in their relationship. In addition to
angering his father, Asher paints images that also his mother
and the Jewish community are unhappy with. These pictures
started with nudes and later lead to drawing his mother on a
crucifix. When his parents see this in the exhibit, they
immediately leave disappointed. Along with his parents,
several art critics and his community do like