I just finished Chaim Potok's My Name is Asher Lev. A friend of mine has been encouraging me to read this for some time now. I'm not exactly sure why I procrastinated. I know now that I had the wrong impression of the book.
Potok's use of the cross raises all sorts of fascinating questions. It is, on the one hand, simply a symbol for the complex conflict between Asher Lev's anti-iconic Jewish tradition and his artistic passion to paint what he sees and feels. More than that, there was no aesthetic form in Asher Lev's Judaistic culture that could capture his Mother's passionate suffering. But this seems inexorably to point to something richer and more dangerous. Something Potok himself surely did not intend. It's very difficult for me, a Christian, not to read this story as an allegory of the incompleteness of Judaism. Of course, for me, the cross is the fulfillment of pre-Christian Israel's own cruciform existence as the first, corporate form of "the suffering servant" (Isa. 53). Jesus is the true Israel, the one who suffered in love for the world.
All texts transcend authorial intention. Perhaps this is one of those texts that has depths of meaning not only not intended by the author, but also not appreciated.