Torn as a Believer {Book Club}

My Name is Asher Lev (by Chaim Potok) just keeps getting better, doesn’t it?

As we have finished two sections, I’m left feeling torn. Torn. Torn. As, it seems, is the state most of the characters are in too.

Rivkeh is torn between her husband and her son.

Aryeh is torn between following the Rebbe and not completely washing his hands of his son (and, he is also torn between his love for his son and not understanding him).

Asher is torn with how much to follow Jacob Kahn and his fellow-Jews. Torn between being bullied and using his art powers for putting others in their place. Torn between how far he is willing to go to follow his art and where are boundaries he can’t cross.

Jesus said he came that we might have life and have it in abundance. How does this truth, that we KNOW, we KNOW is true, gel with the reality of tearing that we too have experienced? How do we live with these competing pulls without wearying and turning our backs on one or the other?

By this point in the novel we can see Asher continuing to be of being misunderstood in relation to his calling as an artist. Unlike the hope of his father, instead of growing out of his interest in art, Asher has leaned into it and more clearly aligned with the art world. He is living with the misunderstanding in part by hiding. Here I’m thinking of when he knows how nude drawings will be perceived by the community (and his parents), yet also understanding the need as an artist to learn to from this genre as well. He live with the tension at first, by not sharing that piece of himself with his Jewish community. And as he grows in confidence in that part of himself, slowly offers it to the community.

Yet, we know there are boundaries and not everything is permissible just because someone feels called. How do you know when you (or others) are being called and understand it is an area that will be met with resistance? Have you or others you know experienced this tension? I can’t wait to hear how this aspect of the book has touched you thus far!

For fun, let’s upload pictures of art we like or have made — stick figures are more than welcome — and art is open to interpretation, get creative :).

Next week we will explore themes of tensions that may exist between art and religion and the ways the characters changed over the book (have finished the book). Be sure to check in for our next book AND a give-away!

What do you think of the book? See you in the comments!


Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 

Photo Credit: MattusB via Compfight cc


  1. Amy Young August 19, 2014

    Henri Nouwen’s “The Return of the Prodigal Son” helped me love, love, love this painting by Rembrandt.

  2. Bayta August 23, 2014

    I agree, this second part is very much about feeling torn.  I felt torn myself, in turn feeling huge sympathy with Asher but also getting somewhat annoyed with him, as he often seemed so utterly selfish.

    It made me think how easy it is for traditions and convictions to become walls that restrict us, that keep us from engaging with (and really evaluating) something that’s new and different. At the same time, Asher’s gift and sense of calling lead to him blocking out anyone else and other points of view.  I wonder if that’s inevitable when you’re being so strongly opposed?

    While Asher is growing in his skill and identity as an artist, he seems to be losing another part of himself. There is such a deep sadness in all of the protagonists.

    Anyway, this is a picture I love.  I actually have it up on my wall (well, a postcard of it, anyway).  It’s by Ford Madox Brown and is called “The Last of England”. It depicts a couple emigrating, probably seeing their home for the last time (though they’re actually looking ahead rather than back).  I guess the sense both of loss and of excitement resonates deeply, as it is so much a part of cross-cultural living.

  3. Julia August 26, 2014

    I didn’t bring any picture to show, but I do feel that these days, my creativity goes into creating new recipes.  So I guess you could see some of those results on my blog if you like. 🙂  In the past I have occasionally written poems too.

    Also I wanted to chime in and say that I thought the tension between Asher and his family was very similar to what Eric Liddell experienced in the film Chariots of Fire.  His sister disapproved of his choice to pursue running in the Olympics, but he persisted, and at the same time remained true to his convictions.

    1. Amy Young August 27, 2014

      I hadn’t made the Eric Liddell connection, but now that you point it out, how did I miss it :)? This is what I love about books, so many fun tie-ins!

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.