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Buckeyes Beat ‘Bama–a Biblical Moment

Buckeyes Beat ‘Bama–a Biblical Moment

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Last night’s thrilling OSU comeback against Alabama, a shocking win over the number one team in the land after trailing 21–6 late in the second quarter, might seem “Biblical” in our euphoria over winning a trip to the national championship game. But really? Biblical?

Okay, the facts that Ohio State was a distinct underdog, that the team barely squeaked into the national championship playoffs through a stunning 59–0 thrashing of Wisconsin, and, most dramatic, that OSU was starting a relatively unknown, third-string quarterback with one game under his belt, Cardale Jones, did make a victory seem improbable. But still. Biblical?

Ask a rabbi, however–or at least this rabbi–and the response is yes, Biblical. In fact, the Torah is full of stories of ordinary people–people of whom little is expected–who are suddenly thrust into a crucial situation and who act heroically. The best-known tale may be that of David’s triumph over Goliath, but in the synagogue on many Saturday mornings throughout the year we read examples of people who unknowingly had greatness within them.

I need look no further than this week’s Torah portion for such a story. This week we read that Jacob, the esteemed patriarch and father of the 12 Tribes of Israel, has died. The gathering for his burial is massive and star-studded in terms of Biblical heroes. Among the mourners are his son Joseph, the prime minister of Egypt and the individual who saved the Egyptian people—and, in fact, the entire world–from years of famine. Judah, whose strength and courage were legendary. Shimon and Levi, who together took down an entire city.

But someone else is present: Esau, Jacob’s twin brother and nemesis since birth. Although Jacob had paid Esau for the last family burial plot in the Cave of Machpalah, Esau says there is no proof of purchase, and the burial is stalled. All these powerful men of the Bible are gathered, and none of them intercedes to permit the burial to go forward. None, that is, except Chushim. So who was Chushim?

A grandson of Jacob and the only child of Dan, Chushim was a strong young man with a disability. He was deaf and did not speak clearly. In many ways he had been marginalized. But amid the chaos and paralysis that had overtaken his family, Chushim became the one with the clarity and pure sense of purpose to demand, “My grandfather should lie over there in disgrace?" And he set about ensuring that Jacob would be buried where he belonged, alongside other hallowed ancestors of his people.

Commentaries on the Talmud ask, why Chushim? And in our delirium over our unexpected Sugar Bowl victory, we might ask–if you will pardon the analogy–why Cardale Jones, a player who sat invisibly on the bench until a few weeks ago? Why a third-string quarterback to lead a storied football power to one of the most celebrated triumphs in its history? Is there any similarity?

The commentaries imply yes when they explain that Chushim, whose deafness distilled the emotional disarray that had overtaken his family, pierced through the clutter. His grasp of the situation was not affected by all the distractions hampering others. He focused on the need for action and he took it.

In fact, such commentaries often explain to us that Bible heroes do not suddenly become heroic. Like David, who slew Goliath, they always had this capacity to triumph and to lead, and the situation we read about in the Bible is merely the moment when their greatness is revealed. 

Maybe Cardale Jones, with limited experience and limited time to pay attention to all the hype surrounding the game, actually had an advantage: a clear-sighted understanding of his mission: Learn the plays and focus on your role so you can help your team win the game. Maybe many of his teammates “kept it simple” as well. We’re not expected to win and advance to the championship game. Let me just try to focus on the fundamentals, listen to the coaches, and do my best.

The Torah teaches us that greatness can be revealed from those who appear stuck on the sidelines, and that sometimes a disadvantage turns out to be an advantage. And on occasion we get these same lessons from a football game.

Only good news,

Areyah

 

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