Reward and punishment are complicated concepts. Suffice it to say that Divine intervention in the world is often through seemingly mundane acts. For instance, the Torah describes the death of the matriarch Rachel immediately following the difficult birth of her second son, Benjamin, but her death cannot be discussed without mentioning “the curse.”
After Jacob and his family began their journey back to Canaan, Laban and his sons followed in hot pursuit. At first he accused Jacob of carrying away his daughters as if they were captives: “Why did you flee secretly…and did not allow me to kiss my [grand]sons and my daughters?” (Genesis 31:26-28). At the end of his great speech informing Jacob that God had warned him in a dream not to hurt Jacob, Laban suddenly asks, “Why have you stolen my gods?” (31:30).
Before leaving Aram Naharayim, Rachel had taken her father’s idols. While her motive is not recorded in the Torah, the Midrash explains that Rachel did not want her father to continue his idolatrous ways. When Laban demanded that his idols be returned to him, Jacob, not knowing of Rachel’s part in this matter, announced that “whoever you find has your idols, that person shall not live. In front of our kinsmen, identify for yourself what I have [that is yours] and take it.” (Genesis 31:32), When Laban came to search Rachel’s tent, she sat on the idols and told her father that she could not rise, “for the way of women was upon her.” Laban left without his idols.
Words have power, especially the words of a righteous man like Jacob. And while Rachel did not succumb to the curse immediately, several years later her life was, indeed, cut short.
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