What is the Jewish view on karma?


Karma is an idea that permeates many cultures. In ancient Egypt, it was called "ma'at," in Greek, "heimarmene" or "fate" and in Germanic, "wyrd." Basically, the idea is everything is within the system (Greek: cosmos) and so everything bounces back eventually. You can play around with the system and even manipulate it, but you can't escape it.

Divine Providence ("hashgacha") means that we can reach beyond the system. We can plead with the Creator of the system, or do teshuvah (repent) and transform ourselves, even change our past. We can break out of the prison of our personal Egypt and reach to the pre-cosmic Infinite Light, unbounded and free.

For example, the "karma" of Abraham and Sarah was such that they would not have children together. The Torah tells that G‑d lifted Abraham above the stars and Sarah gave birth to Isaac. Similarly, the "karma" of his offspring was to be enslaved to Pharaoh. Again, divine intervention overrode that karma and they were miraculously freed.

Yes, karma envelopes us and all that exists. But there's an escape hatch, through teshuvah, through Torah and through good deeds.