Friday, April 4, 2008

My name is Asher Lev

It is an interesting time for me to be reading this book. My 23 year old son David is studying Judaism at a Yeshiva in Jerusalem right now and will be back in May to start law school. When he was growing up we celebrated holidays, attended synagogue a few times a year and maintained a cultural and historical connection to Judaism. Of my three children, David is the one who wanted to know more and he has thrown himself completely into studying. He is at an orthodox school and loving every minute. They study from 7:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night with breaks for meals and prayers. So I have a child going in the opposite direction of an Asher Lev. He knows that when he is back in America he will have to figure out how to be observant, go to school and have a social life at the same time. It's exciting for me to listen to his ideas and everything he is learning. My goal is to catch up with him so I can also understand more. I mentioned this to a rabbi recently and he said "The parents follow the hearts of the children." I think this is true.
The first half of Asher Lev has been engrossing. Even though it is told from a Jewish perspective, the themes are universal. Breaking away from our parents to become individuals is a difficult task. However, our past is a significant part of who we are and should be treasured. I'm reminded of a line from the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding,"when Nick tells his sister Tula, who is exasperated by her huge loud family, "Don't let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become." The book is also fun for me to read because I grew up in Brooklyn and know the neighborhood where Asher lives and also the Brooklyn Museum that Asher and his mother go to. I also graduated from Brooklyn College which is the school that Asher's mother attends. I find it interesting that the person who accepts Asher's need to be an artist is the Rebbe, the one who I would least expect to understand. Maybe it is the one most close to God who recognizes the piece of God that resides in Asher.

8 comments:

mountaingirl said...

What wonderful insight you offer to our class. Thankyou so much. It is difficult to understand other's driving forces in their lives. Asher and his parents all seem to be dealing with this struggle. Asher's parents even struggle with their relationship with each other due to this.

ANaturalBeauty said...

Thank you Phyllis. You help clear up some things for me. I don't know anything about the Jewish religion. I realize now Asher's father anger was due to the deaths of jews by christians.

Carolyn said...

You said the parents follow the heart of the children. Wouldn't life be so much more positive for children today if parents embraced that concept as you have? Also, you mentioned the Rebbe being the one who seemed to understand Asher's gift the most, I am curious to see how this plays out later in the book since his father is beginning to really struggle with the Rebbe's support of Asher's gift that seemingly shames him.

Cari's Blog said...

It is so cool that you have a background that allows you to have such an understanding. It is sometimes a little difficult for me to understand some parts of the book because I do not have the cultural background and often wonder if some of the character's reactions are cultural rather than character-driven.

AnneR said...

That is so neat about your son and your sense of Brooklyn! What a perspective you have to offer on this novel.

I find the Rebbe to be the perfect person person to set Asher free. Only he has the power and authority to do so.

eli korthanke said...

How cool that you have such a personal grasp of some of this information and even the locations in the setting. I also was surprised about how the Rebbe was really the only one that understood Asher. I expected him to have the same kinds of sentiments as Asher's father.

Kelly Hall said...

Wow, thank you for a more personal look at the book. I find myself trying to understand the values and not knowing for sure which values are Jewish, and which are simply the family values of Aryeh and Rivkeh Lev. I appreciate your values, especially your comment that parents follow the heart of their children.

Lisa Mac said...

Great post. The rabbi sounds so wise; I am adding his words to my list of quotes. I must confess that I have never seen My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I loved that quote as well. Thank you for sharing such an interesting perspective.