Chaim Potok, conservative Jewish rabbi and Jewish scholar, wrote a beautiful novel called My Name is Asher Lev. It is about a young Jewish boy who is an artist and whose Hassidic Jewish parents, especially his father, see his art as against the Torah, something for the goyim and unreligious Jews. His parents are deeply involved in a dangerous movement to get their Hassidic Jewish brethren out of Russia where they are being persecuted and into the freedom and safety of western Europe and the United States. His mother’s brother is killed in these efforts. And Asher observes her suffering over his death as well as her worrying about his father’s frequent trips. He also sees her suffer as she stands between her son and her husband in the conflict over his drawings and paintings. His mother takes him secretly to art museums where he sees many paintings by the old masters of the crucifixion. Intrigued by them, he asks his mother about them. She says they are of Jesus, the God of the goyim, but we cannot speak of Him. As Asher grows to manhood he continues with his art and becomes a successful artist. For the first exhibition of his paintings he depicts his mother’s suffering by painting her on a crucifix.
He thinks about the painting and the hurt it will cause his parents: “For all the pain you suffered, my mama. For all the torment of your past and future years, my mama. For all the anguish this picture of pain will cause you. For the unspeakable mystery that brings good fathers and sons into the world and lets a mother watch them tear at each other’s throats. For the Master of the Universe, whose suffering world I do not comprehend. For dreams of horror, for nights of waiting, for memories of death, for the love I have for you, for all the things I remember, and for all the things I should remember but have forgotten, for all these I created this painting–an observant Jew working on a crucifixion because there was no aesthetic mold in his own religious tradition into which he could pour a painting of ultimate anguish and torment.”
What a poignant and powerful statement on the symbolism and reality of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who endured unspeakable suffering for the sins of the world!
A Music Link: What Wondrous Love Is This by Steve Green https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u3uxCOwrcow