Our Father Jacob, and the Denver Broncos

This past Saturday evening as the Jewish Sabbath came to a close, I checked my phone to see if I had missed any interesting news over the course of the last 25 hours. As a Sabbath observant Jew I go completely offline from sundown Friday afternoon until about an hour after sunset on Saturday night. Ninety-nine percent of the time, nothing interesting happened over the last 25 hours. But as I began scrolling through Twitter, my mouth dropped, as I stood there completely dumbfounded. Backup quarterback Jeff Driskol of the Denver Broncos has Covid-19, and he was exposed to not one, not two, but ALL three other Broncos Quarterbacks– starter Drew Lock, backup Brett Rypien, and practice squad quarterback Blake Bortles. I quickly did some math in my head and I realized that this meant that all four Broncos quarterbacks were exposed, and therefore, ineligible for the big, winnable game against New Orleans the next day.

My first thought, in all honesty, was that this is my one shot. That this is my opportunity. To seize everything I ever wanted. Would I capture it? Or let it slip. Yo. I instantly took to Twitter and advertised my services to General Manager John Elway. Crazily, he didn’t respond, taking me up on my offer to suit up as the Broncos quarterback the next day. Early the next morning I even recorded some footage of my quarterbacking skills, (see below), but alas, no return tweet.

I then became angry. I felt like there was a gross double standard, with the NFL going out of its way to delay games to accommodate the Patriots, the Ravens and Steelers. Not so with the Broncos, they were going to make an example out of them by sending them to sure defeat. After all, it is difficult to win an NFL game without a quarterback. In the end the Broncos used not I, but brave practice squad wide receiver Kendall Hinton, who played some QB in college. So naturally, I was angry.

And then last night, I read a verse from the upcoming Torah portion of the week. We read in the weekly Torah portion two weeks ago how Jacob received the blessing from his father Isaac, which had been meant for his brother Esau. Needless to say, Esau was none-to-pleased with this turn of events, and he pledged to kill his brother once their father died. Anticipating trouble, Jacob flees and runs away, ultimately building his family, and tremendous wealth at his father-in-law Lavan’s house.

At the beginning of this week’s portion we see Jacob and his family anticipating the long awaited reunion with Esau. He send messengers to bring tributes to Esau, he prays, and he divides up his family. The Torah tells us,

Jacob became very frightened and was distressed; so he divided the people who were with him and the flocks and the cattle and the camels into two camps. And he said, ‘If Esau comes to one camp and strikes it down, the remaining camp will escape.’ 

In other words, there is the very real concern that Esau and his army of 400 will be so enraged they would not spare one person from Jacob’s family. So Jacob prepared, and divided up his family. He came to the sobering realization that through this strategy, as devastating as it must have been, at the very least, part of his family would make it out alive. Better take his chances by dividing up his family, then risking every one of them.

After seeing these words, only a few short hours after the “football game” yesterday that looked more like a dumpster fire, I was reminded how our Torah is not only an instruction Manual for life, but also could be, and should be used as an instruction Manual for how to run a football team with competence amid a global Pandemic. Other teams have figured this out, but it probably is not the best idea to leave your 4 quarterbacks in one room together, lest one of them catch the virus, as millions of Americans have. As any infectious disease expert such as myself can tell you, it is not such a far-fetched possibility that one of the four of them would be carrying the virus.

The Talmud teaches us that a wise person is one who can see into the future. That is, a person who can make decisions by anticipating potential consequences of his/her actions. To realize, “gee, if one of has the virus, that means none of us can play! That would be bad for our team!”

Life is complex. Things happen. Once in a century, global pandemics ravage the world. It affects our lives in a myriad of ways. Thankfully we have our holy Holy Torah to share its eternal wisdom with us when we need it the most. If only our beloved Broncos understood this, and they could have taken a page out of our father Jacobs’s playbook, and the Broncos could still be in playoff contention.

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