Vayeira: A Parsha Full of Laughter

There are some things that confuse me about Judaism, I admit.  One of them is how we are to learn from our forefathers and follow in their footsteps.  This week, I tried to put it into practice when I was learning Sefer Shmuel.  In the beginning of Shmuel II there is a list of children, and the names of their mothers, who were born to Dovid HaMelech in Chevron.  One of the mothers on the list is called “Eglah” (literally: calf).  Rashi explains that this was Shaul’s daughter, Michal, and Dovid HaMelech called her by this name as a term of endearment.


So, when I returned that night from the kollel, I swung open the door and asked, “How are you my beautiful cow?”


I don’t think Dovid HaMelech received the same response I did.




I listened to one of the talks my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Asher Rubenstein gave several years ago this week. In it, he mentioned that this week’s parsha contains four “laughing," three that we need to stay away from, and one that we need to come close to.


The first is when the Angels promised Avraham that he and Sarah would have a child: “And Sarah laughed (v’tizchak) at her insides, saying ‘After I have withered shall I again have clear skin?  And my husband is old!’” (Bereishis 18:12).  While this was a laughter from some deep level, it was a laughter of disbelief.


One of the problems of such laughter is that when we disbelieve something, that anything is possible if Hashem wants it, we often "cut ourselves off" from such a possibility.  Hashem often deals with us according to how we deal with Him.  The more real faith and trust that we have in Hashem, the more He deals with us in a direct manner and visible manner.


The second case is when Lot went to get his sons-in-law to leave Sodom, before the city was destroyed: “But he seemed like a jester (kim-zacheik) in the eyes of his sons-in-law” (Bereishis 19:14). Many times, when a person decides to grow spiritually, his “friends” will often make fun of him and laugh at his decision.  They might joke about how he is “becoming a frummy."  While Lot was being made fun of for saving himself, so too will a person be made fun of when saving himself.  Therefore, one should always strengthen themselves against such “friends." 


A third case is when Sarah kicked out Hagar and Yishmoel: “Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Avraham, mocking (m’tzachek)” (Bereishis 21:9). Rashi gives three explanations on what this "mocking" was: idol worship, sexual immorality, and murder, being that Yishmoel would shoot arrows at Yitzchok “as a joke!”  Here, the laughter is slightly similar to the previous, but different.  The previous laughter was against those doing Hashem’s will.  This is laughter/mocking against Torah concepts themselves and a laughter of not WANTING to follow the Torah.


Rav Rubenstein pointed out that today’s world is focused solely on having fun.  Everybody works hard in order to relax, rather than relaxing in order to work hard.  And how do people have fun?  They spend their time watching shows about idol worship (money/self), sexual immorality, and murder. This is how they spend their entire lives: chasing after "fun." 


And finally the fourth case, when Yitzchok is born to Sarah: “Sarah said, ‘G-d has made laughter (tzchok) for me; whoever hears will laugh (yitzachak) for me” (Bereishis 21:6). 


Here is the laughter of tsaddikim.  The laughter of realizing that Hashem has a plan and actually seeing how that plan unfolds (which we don’t always get to see).  It is the laughter of happiness that one recognizes the blessings that he has received in this world and the feelings of gratitude that he has for the One who gave it.


We see this in Tehillim, speaking of the final redemption, which we recite on Shabbos at each of the meals:


“When the L-rd returned the captives of Zion, we were like people in a dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter,​ and our tongue with exultation: then said they among the nations, The L-rd has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for us; so we rejoiced!​ Bring back our captives,​ O L-rd, as the streams in the south. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Though he goes on his way weeping, bearing the store of seed, he shall come back with joy, bearing his sheaves.”


Have a wonderful Shabbos!