One My name is Asher Lev,theAsher Lev, about whom you have read in newspapers and magazines, about whom you talk so much at your dinner affairs and cocktail parties, the notorious and legendary Lev of theBrooklyn Crucifixion. I am an observant Jew. Yes, of course, observant Jews do not paint crucifixions. As a matter of fact, observant Jews do not paint at all--in the way that I am painting. So strong words are being written and spoken about me, myths are being generated: I am a traitor, an apostate, a self-hater, an inflicter of shame upon my family, my friends, my people; also, I am a mocker of ideas sacred to Christians, a blasphemous manipulator of modes and forms revered by Gentiles for two thousand years. Well, I am none of those things. And yet, in all honesty, I confess that my accusers are not altogether wrong: I am indeed, in some way, all of those things. The fact is that gossip, rumors, mythmaking, and news stories are not appropriate vehicles for the communication of nuances of truth, those subtle tonalities that are often the truly crucial elements in a causal chain. So it is time for the defense, for a long session in demythology. But I will not apologize. It is absurd to apologize for a mystery. And that is what it has been all along--a mystery, of the sort theologians have in mind when they talk about concepts like wonder and awe. Certainly it began as a mystery, for nowhere in my family background was there any indication that I might have come into the world with a unique and disquieting gift. My father was able to trace his family line down through the centuries to the time of the Black Death in 1347, which destroyed about half the population of Europe. My father's great-great-grandfather was in his early years the manager of the vast estates of a carousing Russian nobleman who when drunk sometimes killed serfs; once, in an act of wild drunkenness, he burned down a village and people died. You see how a goy behaves, I would be told by my father and mother. The people of the sitra achra behave this way. They are evil and from the Other Side. Jews do not behave this way. My father's great-great-grandfather had transformed those estates into a source of immense wealth for his employer as well as himself. In his middle years, he began to travel. Why did he travel so much? I would ask. To do good deeds and bring the Master of the Universe into the world, my father would respond. To find people in need and to comfort and help them, my mother would say. I was told about him so often during my very early years that he began to appear quite frequently in my dreams: a man of mythic dimensions, tall, dark-bearded, powerful of mind and body; a brilliant entrepreneur; a beneficent supporter of academies of learning; a legendary traveler, and author of the Hebrew workJourneys to Distant Lands. That great man would come to me in my dreams and echo my father's queries about the latest bare wall I had decorated and the sacred margins I had that day filled with drawings. It was no joy waking up after a dream about that man. He left a taste of thunder in my mouth. My father's father, the man whose name I bear, was a scholar and recluse in his early and middle years, a dweller in the study halls of synagogues and academies. He was never described to me, but I pictured him as slight of body and huge of head, with eyelids swollen from lack of sleep, face pale, lips dry, the veins showing blue along his cheeks and temples. In his youth, he earned the name "ilui," genius, a term not lightly bestowed by the Jews of Eastern Europe. And by the time he was twenty he had come to be known as the Genius of Mozyr, after the Russian town in which he lived. Shortly before his fiftieth birthday, he abruptly and mysteriously left Mozyr and, with his wife and children, journeyed to Ladov and became a member of the Russian Hasidic sect led by the Rebbe of LPotok, Chaim is the author of 'My Name Is Asher Lev', published 2003 under ISBN 9781400031047 and ISBN 1400031044.