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To go far away in order to come closer

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

Omri Caspi invited me to be a guest on his new podcast. On my way over I did a google search in order to be reminded of all of his accomplishments in the NBA. But he wanted to talk about completely different things: the coronavirus, the media, America and Israel, and Judaism as well.

"I departed for the United States as an Israeli only, but I returned also as a Jew," he told me. When I asked for an explanation of this powerful statement, Caspi expressed ideas that are quite relevant to the approaching festival of Shavuot that celebrates the giving of the Torah:

"Outside of Israel, if you do not create an identity, it will not happen on its own. I lived in places like Sacramento, Cleveland, and Houston – without a large Jewish community.  But at some point, I stopped and said to myself: 'Wait a minute, what is going on with me?'. I felt a sense of obligation. I began thinking that I represent something, but I know nothing about what I represent.

For example: I land in Boston and American Jewish kids are waiting for me there with much excitement and they are staring at me. I represent for them the Jewish nation, the State of Israel, but I am conflicted.  After all, if you go outside in Los Angeles on Yom Kippur, it's just a regular day, traffic as usual. If you do not do something special on Shabbat, you won't feel any Shabbat. It's your responsibility to do something since you are not in a Jewish country. My wife and I went through this process together, as a family – Friday night dinner, kiddush, tefillin, holidays, community, Jewish education, kosher food. I felt a sense of obligation towards myself and towards the Jewish community. Many Israelis feel this over there but there are many unfortunately who do not. Only there was I able to understand that I am an emissary of something great. Sometimes you need to go far away in order to come closer, to discover who you really are."


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