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Chaim Potok was born in the Bronx in 1929. His many novels include The Chosen, The
Promise, The Gift of Asher Lev, In The Beginning, Davita\'s Harp, and The Book of Lights. His
writings seem to mirror his life to some degree. Also, Potok\'s writings contain a rare insight into
"universal themes" such as friendship, relations between parents and children, and the changing
of tradition between generations.
For example, in The Chosen and The Promise, the main character, Reuven, earns his
rabbinical ordination, as did Potok. Potok also struggled to conform to the wishes of his parents
and Talmud teachers that he not paint or draw, which he began at the age of eight. His struggles
were clearly reflected in My Name is Asher Lev and The Gift of Asher Lev. Potok\'s
experiences in Korea as a chaplain are shown in The Book of Lights. Potok is a great writer
that does not let his Jewish ancestry interfere with his writing, but allows it to enhance his work.
Chaim Potok has the uncanny ability to look at the human nature and write of it not with
partiality to any one aspect; but with clear and unbiased thoughts, hopes, fears, and dreams.
Thinking like the Author:
a. Potok chose this subject because he can relate to the trauma of being given a
gift and not being able to use it to the greatest extent that he knows he is capable of. Although
Potok writes from the viewpoint of a Jew, he writes in such a way that the meaning of the book
is clear to those from all different backgrounds.
b. Potok used the window that Asher\'s mother always waited at as a symbol of
a mother\'s grief. It symbolizes to the reader all of the doubts and worries that we are
bombarded by every time a loved one leaves our sight to go out into the brutal world to venture
on their own. At this window, all of the grief, the worry, and the hopes that she had for Asher
became quite evident as she stood waiting for him to return from wherever he had been. Behind
this window, Rivkeh stood waiting for her husband to come home, always wondering if he
would return, as her brother did not that one fateful day. This is the same window that Asher
used in his Crucifixions, the one that would always be there burned into his heart and soul as a
part of his childhood, as a part of his mother.
c. Potok described Asher Lev as a withdrawn child, somewhat of a loner that
was quite different from every one else. I think that Potok characterized Asher as being this way
to help the reader to relate to him. Most everyone in the world can relate to being lonely and to
being made fun of. This really draws the reader in, and also does not let the "hero" of the story
seem like a perfect person that never does anything wrong; someone that everyone strives to be
like but knows that they can never reach that level of excellence.
d. The theme or main idea of the book is the ultimate sacrifice that is
unavoidable if a person has a gift, a dream, or a desire that must be fulfilled. It is also completing
the unfinished, for everything must be complete or it is worth nothing.
1. (supporting detail) Asher\'s father, Aryeh, has a dream of fulfilling the
wishes of the Master of the Universe, to obey the Rebbe and live his life according to the
Talmud. He must complete the journey\'s of his father\'s father, journeying for the Ribbono Shel
Olom. He sacrifices his comfortable life to travel, as well as his relationship with Asher.
2. (Second supporting detail) Asher\'s mother, Rivkeh, has a dream of
completing her brother\'s work and becoming something in the world that will make her feel
worthwhile. She sacrifices the role of being a mother to Asher, and the chance to stay with her
son so that she can travel with her husband.
3. (Third supporting detail ) Asher has a dream of painting and fulfilling
his need to paint the emotions inside of him. He sacrifices his relationship with his parents and
classmates, his comfortable way of living, some of his religious rules and beliefs, as well as his
e. The setting of this story was around 1943 to 1966 in Brooklyn. The author
probably chose this setting because he grew
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My Name Is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok, The Gift of Asher Lev, Davitas Harp, The Chosen, The Book of Lights, Asher, The Promise
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