chagall-sarah and the angelsI have often wondered at the condemning words so often spoken about the laughter of Sarah, when she found our that she would conceive and bear a son (Exodus 21).

Why is it assumed that Sarah’s laughter was one of mockery?  Why, if her laughter was such an offense to The Creator, was Abraham told to name their son, Laughter?

Chagall’s  Sarah and the angels

What if Isaac, which means Laughter, was chosen because Sarah’s laughter came from utter delight and the kind of disbelief that says…”can you believe it?”

What if Laughter is his name to mark and remember the moment that Sarah found out she would actually bear a son, and her delight was uncontainable?  This possibility changes how we have historically understood this story and our view of Sarah.

I imagine that the men who wrote the commentaries in years past, never waited for a pregnancy test to read positive, or wept as the blood flow each month marked one more lost chance of a child.  In my brief experience with infertility, I got a glimpse of Sarah’s pain.  I road that horrible roller coaster of anticipation and pain, of faith and grief…my heart breaking as the hope each month that maybe this time, was dashed when  my empty womb released the signs of death.

Women live with life and death each month as their bodies repeatedly cycle through the preparation for caring and nurturing a new life…and then bleed, as the unnecessary nutrients and prepared walls of their womb slough off and die. Women who long to conceive are acutely aware of this, and i have wept with them, prayed with them and laughed with them in the miraculous moments of discovering they were finally going to bear a child…

Was this cycle of hope and expectation, crushed and rekindled each passing month in the midst of the commentators as they condemned Sarah for her laughter?  I remember the tears that came with the first signs of my unfertilized womb, the anguish and anxiety that i might not conceive, the fear that something was wrong with me…the longing and ache of my empty arms…and then… the thrill at finding out that i was going to give birth…that a life was growing within me!  I can only imagine Sarah’s delight and surprise as she found out that she would no longer be barren…that she would bring forth life, and it would be a sign and symbol of the Hand of G-d on her life. That the shame and sorrow associated with being barren would plague her no longer.  Her conceiving was a miracle… and she laughed, in utter delight with a sense of ‘can you believe it?!! finally… you’re kidding…really???  not in mockery but in a child like way that expresses awe at the gracious giving and is exuberant when receiving a gift.

I think this is the spirit of Sarah’s laughter… and i think God was so charmed by her child like wonder, that Isaac’s name, Laughter, marks the impossible promise of God, and acts as a reminder for the miracles that take us by surprise and the wonder of belief…

Just a different lens…a possibility of looking at the story through the eyes of a woman.

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