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We know the adage, “Poetic justice.” Many years ago, I visited a friend at Colgate University, in Hamilton, New York. One road I drove on was Route 12B. We were stuck in slow-moving traffic. There were at least five cars ahead of me, but the driver behind me passed all of them but one. He moved back to right lane between the lead car and the second car, because an oncoming car forced him to make a choice: move over to the right lane or hit the oncoming car head-on. The oncoming car proved to be State Trooper, who quickly made a U-Turn or K-Turn, and he pulled over passing driver. I do not know how the confrontation ended, but it was going to badly for the passing driver before I drove off.
English drama critic Thomas Rymer coined the phrase “Poetic Justice” in The Tragedies of the Last Age Consider’d (1678), to describe how a work should inspire proper moral behavior in its audience by illustrating the triumph of good over evil. Good conquers evil, because the villain gets a comeuppance.
This week’s Torah portion, Vayetze, is an example of poetic justice. Jacob deceived his father and his brother in the last Torah portion we read last week, and Lavan deceives Jacob this week, marrying Leah to Jacob, rather than Rachel. Two weeks from now, Jacob’s sons will deceive their father; payback for Jacob’s deceiving Isaac and Esau. Jacob will live with the deception all of his life, until Joseph reveals that he is alive.