Sunday, November 08, 2009

Holy Laughter

By Moshe Feiglin

And Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him that Sarah bore him, Yitzchak. (Genesis 21:3)

In Hebrew, the name Yitzchak means, "he will laugh." Actually, laughter is a very serious matter. Healthy humor is a mechanism that balances life and puts things in their proper perspective. The best humor is laughter at oneself. After all, how can a person take himself seriously in the face of the Creator of the world?

And Sarah said: God has made laughter for me; every one that hears will laugh on account of me. (Genesis 21:6)

There is good laughter and bad laughter. Laughter that highlights the weakness and smallness of a person in the face of the Creator is good, holy laughter. Bad laughter inflates the person laughing at the expense of everyone else. "He and I cannot live in the same world," says G-d of this type of laughter.

There is another, dangerous type of laughter: And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne unto Abraham, making sport. (Genesis 21:9)

The laughter of the son of the maidservant is the laughter of murder, the laughter of immorality, the laughter of idol worship. It is the laughter that convinced Sarah to drive him out of her home. And G-d sided with her.

And she said to Abraham: Drive out this maidservant and her son, because the son of the maidservant will not inherit with my son, with Yitzchak. (Genesis 21:10)

A woman who had immigrated from Libya once told me the following story:

"When I was a young girl, my mother sent me to care for my grandmother, who was ill in a Jerusalem hospital. The patient in the bed next to her was an elderly Arab woman. The two women became friendly and spent a number of weeks chattering in Arabic, while I listened on.

One day, the Arab asked my grandmother:
"Why did you come here? Why did you leave Libya?"
"Because this is my Land," my grandmother answered.
"Why do you think it is yours?" the Arab woman asked.
"Because I received it as an inheritance from my father," my grandmother replied.
"Who is your father?" asked the Arab woman incredulously.
"Abraham!" my grandmother answered without missing a beat.
The old Arab woman thought for a moment and then said, "But Abraham is also my father!"
"That is true," my grandmother answered pointedly. "Abraham is also your father. But I am the daughter of the lady of the house, and you are the daughter of the maidservant."

How funny and how true.

No comments: