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My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potek is a novel about a jewish boy troubled by his own artistic gift. The main problem with Asher’s art is that it combats his jewish upbringing, and his dad makes it a point that Asher’s “gift” is “foolishness.” Asher eventually succombs to his artistic fate, for he chooses it over his own family. Aryeh Lev, especially, is disappointed in Asher, which originates from Aryeh’s traits: being strict, disciplined, and powerful.
Aryeh, Asher’s father, is very strict, and makes Asher work hard in school. An example of this is on page 124, for Aryeh confronts Asher after he draws on the Chumash. “‘The mashpia called me’… my father said, without preliminaries. ‘Did you know what you were doing?’” Aryeh’s uptight tone helps represent him as a strict individual. Asher’s performance in school disappoints Aryeh, for Asher is not able to follow his father’s strict guidelines.
Aryeh does not want Asher painted, but would rather him be learning in school. “‘Your father came home and saw your drawings and your school marks and was very upset.’” (167). During this time, Asher had started to go to the museum, which was against Hasidic tradition. Due to Aryeh being absent, there was no one to keep Asher in line, so to speak, and Aryeh feels like Rivkeh is not raising Asher correctly. Aryeh being strict on Asher may have originated by Aryeh’s own strict discipline.
Discipline is one of Aryeh’s strong points throughout the novel. Often, Aryeh would have to travel for the Rebbe, and made it his duty to comply to whatever task he was told to complete. For example, Aryeh would go to Washingon DC, most likely to discuss Jewish politics, for the Rebbe. “The next morning, my father went to Washington for the Rebbe.”(77) Aryeh never complains about having to leave his family, even though the reader can see that deep down Aryeh wants to stay.
Even when Aryeh comes home, his work is never done. “He arrived from Washington late Thursday night and went to his office Friday morning.” (73). Most people would probably take that Friday, and the weekend, off. Aryeh decides to lose sleep and go to work rather than get to relax at home with his family. It is because of Aryeh’s hard work ethic that he looks down on Asher when he is not doing all he can in school. Aryeh’s hard work for the Rebbe also makes him a powerful person in the Hasidic community.
Asher is treated with respect toward the beginning of the novel due to his powerful father. “I was treated with special care, for I was the son of Aryeh Lev.” (51). The Rebbe is an exremely important figure in Asher’s community, and Aryeh is the Rebbe’s right hand man. Everyone knew Asher, only because of his father. This serves to disappoint Aryeh when Asher starts painting anti-Jewish art, because it slanders Aryeh’s name. Asher is almost seen as a bastard child through Aryeh’s eyes, Aryeh does not want to be affiliated with anything that conflicts with what he is working on.
Aryeh thinks of his son as a failure by the time Asher starts his own art show. Aryeh’s character traits causes him to be disappointed in Asher. Aryeh is strict on Asher, who did not seem to listen to what his father said for him to do. Also, Aryeh is disciplined, whereas Asher does poorly in school. Finally, Aryeh is powerful, and gets repercussions from the community due to Asher. All in all, Aryeh sees Asher as a disappointment because of the traits that Aryeh has.
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