Cunning and Karma

The pain Isaac suffers when he realizes his least favorite son, Jacob, through cunning, has stolen Issac’s first born blessing from his favorite son, Esau, is palpable.  At a key moment Isaac tells Esau that he cannot undo what has been done, but can only give Esau a lesser blessing.  But can Issac really blame Jacob totally?  Can he blame Rebecca?

Or is there a feeling deep within that Issac himself is not innocent, that he has used his own cunning to gain an advantage?  Moreover, didn’t he employ his cunning in the exact same way that his father Abraham did earlier?  Recall that in a time of famine Abraham had to leave Canaan for Egypt, and for fear of losing his life and property, he instructed Sarah to pretend to be his sister.  When the Pharaoh discovered this, he was livid, and dispatched Abraham, Sarah and their retinue out of Egypt. (Gen. 12:12-20)

Later, Isaac tries a similar ploy with King Abimelech.  He puts forward that Rebecca is his sister.  When found out, he too asserts that he was afraid his wife would be taken because she is so beautiful and thus vulnerable.  But wouldn’t it have been safer to acknowledge Rebecca from the start as his wife? (Gen. 20)

Perhaps Jacob’s cheating his father is like the chickens finally coming home to roost. Is there a message here that cheaters do not necessarily prosper?  If so, why does this cheating seem to recur over and over again?

It is not as if it rewards the cheater with impunity.

Not only Issac who suffers.  From now on, Jacob will rarely experience moments of peace.  With his brother after him, he flees to his Uncle Laban.  Laban will trick Jacob into marrying Leah instead of Rachel, and forces Jacob, to work another seven years in order to “earn” Rachel.  Later, Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, will be sold into slavery, and Jacob’s conniving sons will claim Joseph has been killed by a wild animal.  In this Hebrew clan, cunning and bad karma seem to go hand in hand.

Why do you suppose HaShem tolerates it?  Or perhaps HaShem is the instigator.  If so, why? Is it all about ending up in Egypt for four hundred years of enslavement, the ultimate karmic punishment?

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