I have a cousin who was on Jeopardy. When Final Jeopardy came around, he was leading by a slim amount, or he was in second- or third-place. Night after night, the other contestants guessed wrong at the Final Jeopardy clue, leaving my cousin to win. I said to Gayle, “Ronnie backed into the win.” He was a two-day champion.
Al Oerter was a four-time Olympic champion in the discus: 1956, 1960, 1964, and 1968. In 1968, Jay Sylvester was the favorite to win the event, but he walked into an air conditioning unit and knocked himself out. Sylvester was not himself when the discus event went on, and Oerter, as I said, won the event. Maybe you could say Oerter backed into the win, but he won.
Often, sporting events are won not by the best team, but the best team had an off day. The record books do not care that the best team had an off day; the record books record the win and loss. You can research all kinds of sporting events, and you can find the favorite did not win because he or she had a bad day. The victor perhaps backed into the win, but he or she is a winner in the record books.
The Torah is our record book. In this week’s Torah portion, Ekev, Moses warns the Israelites not to get a swelled head. Your God will lead you to conquer Canaan not because you are virtuous, but your enemies are wicked. Moses excoriates the Israelites because they are stiff-necked people, and they defied God many times. The implication is that the Israelites are wicked, but the inhabitants of Canaan are more wicked than the Israelites. Like my cousin Ronnie, like Al Oerter, the Israelites backed into victory, but the record book does not care how they won the victory. The record book lists the victors and the losers, and in the record book of history, the Israelites came out on top.