by Brad Scott
The story of the birth of Isaac is very provocative. In Bere’shiyt (Genesis) 17:17 Abraham is first told that he and Sarah shall have a son. Abraham bursts out in laughter, which, according to standard biblical practice, will be the name of this son. His name will be Yitzechaq. This name comes from the root tzachaq (צחק) which does mean to laugh or to mock or scorn. This, as is commonly understood, is because of the seemingly impossible circumstances of Sarah's age. Abraham, still in unbelief, did not tell Sarah and she finds out from the three "visitors" to their home in Bere’shiyt 18.
The word behind Yitzechaq's name contains a fine line of discernment between joyous exuberation and mocking something. In our text here in Bere’shiyt, it appears to be in a mocking sense at their response to an apparently absurd prediction. This word does appear in a joyous sense, as well:
Mizemor (Psalm) 126:1-2When YHVH turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, YHVH hath done great things for them.
The context, however, does not seem to be a whole lot different. It seems that Sarah may be a paradigm for all those who come into the kingdom. The realization that God takes the dead and gives it life is perhaps part of the journey for all who believe. Perhaps this is what is suggested by Sarah in Bere’shiyt 21:
Bere’shiyt 21:6And Sarah said, God hath made me to laugh, so that all that hear will laugh with me.
Shalom Alecheim! ◊