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Two Minutes of Torah: Vayetzei - Divine Karma

It would be nice to imagine that our world works according to the principles of karma; that people's good actions would be rewarded, and people's negative actions would be punished.  But, all too often, unfortunately we see that the good are not rewarded, and the wicked are not punished.  And so it's hard to believe that the world really works according to those principles of you get what you deserve; and yet in this week's Torah portion we see an important example of divine karma.  

The main character of this week is Jacob.  Last week we read about how Jacob deceived his father Isaac to steal his brother Esau's birthright.  Jacob essentially pretended to be his brother, and played on the fact that Isaac was old and his eyes were too dim to see.  Following this deception he fled and seems to have got away with his crime, having received the birthright and made it to Haran at the beginning of this week's Torah portion.  But the story does not end there.  

Jacob meets Rachel the daughter of Laban, his uncle, and falls in love with her.  We also learn that Rachel had an older sister Leah, and we read that "Leah had weak eyes; Rachel was shapely and beautiful."  At this moment, having read previously about Isaac's eyesight, we cannot fail to see a connection between Isaac and Leah.  As the story continues Jacob works seven years in order to receive Rachel's hand in marriage.  And after seven years of work there is indeed a wedding; but the following morning when Jacob wakes up he discovers that rather than marrying Rachel, it was Leah whom he married.  

In this way Laban tricked his nephew and switched the sisters beneath the veil.  Considering the fact that Jacob had tricked his father, pretending to be his brother, this seems an appropriate response that Laban, in turn, tricks Jacob by having Leah pretend to be Rachel.  

The text does not suggest that Laban knew of Jacob's earlier deception, and it seems unlikely that he was concerned with "punishing" his nephew, and so in the background we might see an example of divine karma.  While God intended for Jacob to receive the birthright, and did not intervene at the moment of deception, there is still a need for there to be some form of punishment, some retribution for what he did.  

Rather than leave this in the hands of Esau, where the conflict would have been resolved brother against brother, God takes the matter into God's own hands and through this divine karma ensures that Jacob receives an appropriate punishment for what he did.  In this case, and perhaps only in this case, in our Torah we really see that what goes around does come around, and we see that sometimes there can be divine karma with a clear punishment for the crime that was committed.  

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