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For the week of November 9, 2013 / 6 Kislev 5774
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 28:10 - 32:3 (English: Bereshit / Genesis 28:10 - 32:2)
Haftarah: Hosea 12:13 - 14:10 (English: Hosea 12:12 - 14:9)

God Knows

Then Jacob became angry and berated Laban. Jacob said to Laban, "What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? For you have felt through all my goods; what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two." (Bereshit / Genesis 31:36-37; ESV)

Jacob had a difficult relationship with his father-in-law, Laban. Between the two of them, they more or less met each other's match with regard to their shrewdness as businessmen. Jacob fled to the land of his relatives out of fear of his older twin brother, Esau, after he tricked his father, Isaac, into giving him the firstborn blessing which rightfully belonged to Esau. Upon arriving, Jacob fell in love with the younger of Laban's daughters, Rachel, and agreed to work for seven years in exchange for her hand in marriage. But on the wedding night, unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel's sister, Leah was given to him instead. He then agreed to work another seven years for Rachel as well. During the final years of Jacob's time within Laban's household there was great competition between them, mixed with suspicion and underhanded business practices. Before critiquing the intrigue, dishonesty, and customs of those days and these men, take a close look at the intrigue, dishonesty, and customs common in our day. I don't know how much better our society is faring. But this is not what I want to focus on this week. I wanted to give this background before looking at the final recorded incident between these two men.

When God told Jacob to return to the Promised Land, he managed to leave with his large entourage of wives, children, servants, and animals without Laban noticing. This made Laban very angry and he pursued them. It took a week to catch up. Thankfully God warned Laban in a dream not to harm Jacob or else greater trouble would have likely ensued. Still, Laban confronted Jacob over two things. First, he wanted to know why he snuck off as he did. And second, he accused Jacob of stealing his idols. As for the first issue, Jacob replied that he was afraid that Laban would take his daughters back by force. As for the second, not knowing that Rachel did indeed steal them, Jacob pledged retribution towards anyone who may have done so. So Laban searched their tents. Rachel put the idols in a saddle bag and sat on them. When Laban got to her tent, she claimed she was not able to get up due to her having her menstrual period. That she had her period may or may not have been true, but either way it was an effective ruse, for he didn't find his idols and no one knew that Rachel took them. And that's the end of the story; sort of. Something happens in next week's portion that may relate to this. Perhaps we will look at it then (if you are curious, you can read ahead. See Bereshit / Genesis 35:1-4)

But for now note that Rachel got away with theft. She rips off her own father and fools both him and her husband. And nothing bad happens to her. No one but her knows what she did. No one, but God, that is. But God did know. God always knows.

Just because Rachel's wrong didn't result in immediate consequences doesn't mean that she got away with it. It's true she didn't get in trouble with her father or her husband. As far as we can tell she didn't get into trouble at all over this in the same way it seems lots of people get away with lots of things all the time. But God still knows.

It's not just that God knows that makes the difference. It's that who we are and how we live matters to him. We don't exist for ourselves. We were created by God on purpose and for a purpose. To ignore that, pretending that we are free to live life any way we wish has dire consequences. Just because it looks like we are getting away with it, doesn't mean we are.

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