What did Omri Caspi tell me?

Humor and purpose. May we all find them throughout our lives.

Sivan Rahav-Meir ,

מצליחה להביא את הטוב מכל המגזרים. סיון רהב-מאיר
מצליחה להביא את הטוב מכל המגזרים. סיון רהב-מאיר
צילום: אייל בן יעיש

The 15th of Av that we marked yesterday on Shabbat is much more than a commercial holiday or a collection of couples' photos on social media. It brings before us the difficult, yet most rewarding challenge in life: finding fulfillment in marriage, home, and family. So here at the height of wedding season are two thoughts on the subject:

• Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe once received a letter from a worried woman, a mother and wife, who laid out her troubles before him. The solution to her problems could be summed up in one word: humor. He advised her to become “skilled in humor.” We tend to lose control, he explained, to get into arguments, to magnify little things regarding our spouse and children, and not to relate to them appropriately. A smile, a good word, a light touch, the ability to look at what’s happening at home in the proper context – this is the best medicine for what ails you, he told her, instead of exaggerating and taking every little thing so seriously. Especially someone religious, who is attached to eternity, he claimed, is best equipped to utilize humor.

• Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of “The Little Prince,” wrote about love as follows: “Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.” In other words, love is not just about satisfying our romantic needs but rather about a common vision, purpose, and direction in life.

Humor and purpose. May we all find them in this marriage season and throughout our lives.

Omri Caspi seems to have done that:

"I hope it was an easy fast for all who fasted." This was the first sentence spoken by Omri Casspi, among the greatest Israeli basketball players, at his press conference recently in which he announced his retirement. I have nothing to add to all the praises of the world's elite basketball players who spoke of the professionalism, the humility, and the perseverance of the boy who grew up in Yavneh and made it to the NBA.

But I was reminded of when Caspi interviewed me on his podcast and opened our conversation with this surprising statement: "I departed for the United States as an Israeli only, but I returned also as a Jew. He explained this transformation as follows:

"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 and began thinking: 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."

This discoveryis a process that also needs optimism, belief and patience.

A mother wrote me that her son received a bad report card. Now, during summer vacation, she was already feeling pressure about the coming school year. But then she noticed an optimistic item in the story of Moshe that helped her.:

In his first meeting with God, Moshe Rabbeinu says, *"I am not a man of words."* (Exodus 4:10). He then adds, *"I am slow of speech and slow of tongue."* Yet later the book of Deuteronomy begins, *"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all of Israel."* Deuteronomy is composed entirely of wonderful speeches by Moshe Rabbeinu. He leaves us his will, a spiritual inheritance, his impressive "I believe" speech.

So what happened here? How did we transition from "I am not a man of words" to "These are the words that Moshe spoke"? Our sages explain: Moshe receives a mission and accepts a responsible role. He must bring the people out of Egypt, teach them Torah, and bring them to the Land of Israel.

When we have a purpose, a goal, and a vision – it's possible to overcome many difficulties, including dire diagnoses and mistaken ideas about ourselves. The Torah is not concerned with superheroes. Instead, it wishes to teach us that it is precisely a stuttering Moshe who said "I am not a man of words" – who could be transformed into someone whose words we would encounter daily, for thousands of years.

Wishing us all much success, and you, too, Omri, as you continue in the game of life.