Chapter 7 Summary
Asher begins to prepare for his bar mitzvah. The Rebbe will meet with each student before the ceremony. Asher has lessons in the Torah and Hasidus with the mashpia (head of the school) every day after school in preparation. They study the three kinds of Jews: the one who sins and has evil thoughts, the one who acts without fault but cannot control his thinking, and the one who has control over his heart. This last one can only be born. They study the verse in Proverbs that states that the candle of God is the soul of man. They also study the Other Side, the realm of evil and darkness. Asher does not understand many of the things that he studies, but he enjoys his time with the mashpia.
Mr. Lev comes home in January before Asher’s meeting with the Rebbe. He warns him to remember to whom he is speaking. He is tense about the meeting, but Mrs. Lev is proud. Asher goes to the Ladover building and sits in the waiting room for his meeting with the Rebbe. He sees another man sitting there with a pad in his hand. The man writes, shakes his head, and turns to another page. Asher feels the man’s eyes on him. After some minutes, Asher is escorted in the Rebbe’s office.
The Rebbe asks after his mother, and Asher replies properly in Yiddish. The Rebbe remembers the night Asher was born and his bris (ritual circumcision). He also remembers Asher’s grandfather. The Rebbe tells Asher that life should be lived for the sake of heaven, and no one life is better than another. A lawyer is not better than a painter. The Rebbe blesses Asher and dismisses him.
When Asher reenters the waiting room, the man with the pad goes quickly into the Rebbe’s office. On the chair where Asher was sitting is a piece of paper. Asher opens it to find a portrait of himself, along with the signature “Jacob Kahn” and the date. Asher quickly draws a picture of Jacob Kahn from memory, signs and dates it, and leaves it on the chair. He goes out to the front porch, where Jacob Kahn soon joins him. He asks Asher if the life of a painter is really what he wants. Asher says that it is. Jacob tells him that the Rebbe wants him to work with Asher to perfect his art. They will begin to have lessons in March. Until then, Asher is to go to the Museum of Modern Art and study Picasso’s Guernica.
Mr. Lev does not accept the Rebbe’s decision that Asher should be trained as an artist. Mrs. Lev takes Asher to the museum and buys him a reproduction of Guernica. Asher studies it every day.