Pastoral Discernment

I’ve finished for the second time My Name is Asher Lev and am now re-reading The Gift of Asher Lev.  They’re beautifully written and it’s such a lovely story.

There’s a conversation in the second book between the Rebbe and Asher Lev in which Chaim Potok captures well the character of discernment required of pastors and theologians who serve the church.

“Asher, I want to tell you something.  It is important that you listen carefully to my words.”  He raised his head and gazed at me unblinking from beneath the rim of the dark hat.  “My father, of blessed memory, once said to me, on the verse in Genesis: ‘And He saw all that He did and behold it was good’—my father once said that the seeing of God is not like the seeing of man.  Man sees only between the blinks of his eyes.  He does not know what the world is like during the blinks.  He sees the world in pieces, in fragments.  But the Master of the Universe sees the world whole, unbroken.  That world is good.  Our seeing is broken, Asher Lev.  Can we make it like the seeing of God?  Is that possible?”

He paused a moment, then went on.  “Once I told this to Jacob Kahn, of blessed memory.  Yes, these same words.  And he said to me that an artist, too, must see the world whole, he must somehow learn to see during the blinks, he must see where no one else can see, he must see the connections, the betweennesses in the world.  Even if the connections are ugly and evil, the artist must learn to see and record them.  I said to Jacob Khan that a Rebbe, too, must see the connections, and if a Rebbe truly sees, if he is able, through the goodness and mercy of the Master of the Universe, to see as the Master of the Universe Himself sees, then he will see that all is good.  Jacob Kahn said to me, ‘It is the task of the artist to see.  If what he sees is good, then fine.  If not, then not.’  But all agree, Asher Lev, that it is the task of a Rebbe and of an artist to see, to look.  That is understood?”

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