Chaim Potok, in his novel My Name is Asher Lev explores a situation never before heard. Asher Lev is a typical Orthodox Jewish boy. He has a passion for his religion, for his synagogue, and for his people. But there's one thing about him that is deemed unacceptable by everyone around him. Asher Lev has a passion to paint.
To Asher's dismay, this was condemned by his parents, teachers, friends, and rabbi. They called it foolishness - something Jewish boys shouldn't do more than once in a while. As much as he tried, he couldn't disown himself from the gift he was naturally given.
In his early years, this gift was viewed as a stage, something that would pass if everyone insisted it was wrong. Instead, it began to interfere with his studies and everyday life. To everyone's dismay, he would not abandon his passion. With college, he began to study extensively and vigorously with a world-renowned artist, which is when he began to lose his parents.
Asher Lev was caught in a dilemma between his art and his religion. All of his peers were insisting he devote his life to Judaism; his conscience was insisting he devote his life to art. His art was taking away from his heartfelt religion. Would his religion take away from his art? Is there a happy medium?
Chaim Potok does a phenomenal job in relating the life of a boy filled with inner struggles, filled with emotion, like a soda bottle ready to burst. The torment is so perfectly placed and described, the reader begins to see everything through Lev's eyes. Asher Lev's inner emotional conflict is never fully resolved. Chaim Potok leaves the reader hanging, eager to continue the course of events in the sequel, The Gift of Asher.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.