Chapter 6

Asher misses his father and recollects many memories of him. He and his mother commiserate about this. Alone in the house together, they begin to talk more—she speaks more of her deceased brother, Yaakov. Asher begins to notice the immense amount of work his mother is doing, such as reading volumes of books and writing lengthy papers. The work generally focuses on Russia.

Toward the end of December, Rivkeh buys Asher oil paints. He takes to them immediately and spends a lot of time painting with them. Aryeh writes to Rivkeh asking how Asher is doing in school. Rivkeh asks Asher what she should write back. He responds that he does not care and thinks about the painting he is working on.

Asher's teacher scolds him in class for drawing rather than studying. He tells him he is an embarrassment to his father. The mashpia calls Asher into his office to talk about his problems in school. Uncle Yitzchok receives a letter from Aryeh and comes to talk to Asher about his lack of interest in learning. Asher's mother tells him that everyone is upset with him because a boy his age should be learning Torah and he is not learning Torah. Yudel Krinsky tells Asher that everyone knows that while his father is off bringing Torah to Jews all over Europe, Asher does not study Torah. Asher muses that drawing needs all his energy. He has no energy left for the Torah, since it must all be devoted to his artwork.

Asher and his mother visit the art museum together. He shows her some of the paintings that intrigue him and which he does not understand. He shows her nudes and she says she thinks it is against the Torah to paint them. Outside, she explains to him about the paintings of the crucifixion that they saw and tells him a little about Jesus. The next week, Asher goes back to the museum and sketches some of the paintings of Jesus.

Asher's father returns home for Passover and finds some of Asher's sketches of Jesus and of nudes. He is enraged. He questions his son's commitment to Judaism and tells him that such things are for the goyim (gentiles). Asher hears his father screaming at his mother and asks her about it. She says that he left her with the responsibility of raising him and she has, in some ways, failed. Asher's father explodes one morning at breakfast as Asher, ignoring his request, uses his fork to draw. Aryeh tells Asher that he must learn to control his desire to produce art.

When Aryeh returns to Europe, Asher decides to focus more on his study of Bible and Talmud in an attempt to appease him. Asher's marks improve and the adults are pleased. That summer Asher and his mother stay at the bungalow colony. The following summer Rivkeh goes to Vienna and Asher stays with his Uncle Yitzchok.