My Name Is Asher Lev

by Chaim Potok

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Chapter 5 Summary

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Asher draws pictures of buildings in flames. Mrs. Lev takes him to a doctor, but there is nothing physically wrong with him. The eye doctor sees nothing wrong with his eyes. Asher is taken to a psychiatrist, but Asher does not learn what this doctor said, only that his mother is very quiet on the way home. In school, Asher draws a picture of the Rebbe in his copy of the Torah, though he is not aware of what he is doing until his horrified schoolmates question him. The teacher is only disappointed, but the head of the school (mashpia) calls his father. Asher is to meet with him the next day. After school, Asher goes to the stationery store and asks Krinsky about the oil paints. When he learns the price of them, Asher feels that he will never be able to afford to paint with oils. It is after seven o’clock when he finally arrives home to his worried mother.

In the mashpia’s office the next day, Asher has trouble listening to his questioning. He looks outside at the rain and at his other surroundings. Finally, the mashpia gives him a sketchbook and a pencil and tells him to draw something. When he is done, he is to leave the sketchbook and return to class, remembering to close the door and turn off the light. Asher draws picture after picture of what he knows everyone wants him to draw but not what he himself wants to express. He leaves school, even though the school day is not over. He wanders around until late in the evening, once again returning home to a worried mother. He refuses to answer any of her questions. When his father returns home, he tells Asher that he must return home after school and not go to see Reb Krinsky. Asher agrees, but he goes back to the stationery store one more time. He steals some oil paint and brushes, but he buys a canvas. He returns home to his room. At school, he is bullied, but he ignores it.

Mr. Lev goes to Washington. On the day he is to return, Mrs. Lev hears the news of a plane crash, but it is not the one carrying Mr. Lev. Asher begins to see what his father’s trips do to his mother. Asher is left at home one evening. He learns that his parents were going to leave him with his uncle after all, but they decided that he was too much of a responsibility with all his strange behaviors. Mr. Lev goes on alone, while Asher stays with his mother in Brooklyn.

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