Amar’e Stoudamire followed me on Instagram. I know. It’s just a virtual network and doesn’t really mean anything. He probably has a staff member managing his account. It could have been done by mistake. But either way, Stoudamire now follows me on Instagram.
Stoudamire is a professional basketball player who earned more than $165 million by being one of the best players in the NBA. My earliest memories of him were praying the Philadelphia 76ers would trade Allen Iverson to the Phoenix Suns for Amare and a first-round pick. A move that I still think would have earned me general manager of the year honors.
Even more, Stoudamire is a recent Israeli League Finals MVP. He won a championship after joining the Maccabi Tel Aviv team in July 2020.
Even more, he is a Jew, recently finishing his conversion process in Bnei Brak. He celebrated afterward in Jerusalem’s Yeshivat Ohr Samayach, where one of my students could hear the music. but not participate due to his quarantine upon arrival into the country.
Even more, Yehoshafat ben Avraham is my brother.
The midrash in Song of Songs (Rabbah 5:14) compares the Torah to the “great sea.” As the Zohar teaches, “Hashem, the Jewish people, and the Torah – are all one.” If so, then the Jewish people must also be like a great sea.
All bodies of water are made up of a tremendous amount of little water droplets. These droplets are literally indiscernible from each other while still in the water. So too are the Jewish people. Ashkenazi, Sfardi, Black, white, grandfathered in or converted, all droplets in the sea are part of one collective unit. There cannot be any discernment.
One of the mitzvot of Sukkot is to bind together the “four species.” The midrash in Vayikra (Rabbah 23:4) relates that lulav, etrog, chadasim and aravot (palm frond, citron, myrtle and willow) represent different kinds of Jewish people. Hence, this festival is celebrated by grasping at the unity of different types of Jews. Because, unlike water droplets, people can be quite discernable. Stoudemire and I look nothing alike. But we can still wrap ourselves together and declare ourselves to be one people.
So Stoudamire followed me on Instagram. And that does matter. Because in what other world besides us being brothers would this happen even by accident? When he never made it to the 76ers, I thought my prayers for him to be on “my team” were ignored. It turns out I was wrong.
Rabbi Arieh Friedner is the founder of Torah Institute Beyond Campus, a semi-virtual learning platform for motivated Jewish college students seeking mentorship and study opportunities beyond those available to them on or off-campus at torahbeyondcampus.org.