Parshas Vayeira: Laughter and Salvation

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Vayeira, Avraham and Sarah’s long awaited son, Yitzchak, is born.  At the age of 100 and 90, Avraham and Sarah, respectively, become parents together. 

וַה’ פָּקַד אֶת-שָׂרָה, כַּאֲשֶׁר אָמָר; וַיַּעַשׂ ה’ לְשָׂרָה, כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר – And Hashem remembered Sarah as He had said; and Hashem did for Sarah as He had spoken; וַתַּהַר וַתֵּלֶד שָׂרָה לְאַבְרָהָם בֵּן, לִזְקֻנָיו, לַמּוֹעֵד, אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר אֹתוֹ אֱלֹהִים – And Sarah conceived and bore a son unto Avraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which G-d had spoken with him; וַיִּקְרָא אַבְרָהָם אֶת-שֶׁם-בְּנוֹ הַנּוֹלַד-לוֹ, אֲשֶׁר-יָלְדָה-לּוֹ שָׂרָה—יִצְחָק – And Avraham called the name of his son who was born to him – whom Sarah had borne him – Yitzchak (Bereishis 21:1-3).

Regarding the name Yitzchak, Rashi (ibid, 17:19) tells us:

וקראת את שמו יצחק. עַל שֵׁם הַצְּחוֹק, וְיֵ”אֹ עַל שֵׁם הָעֲשָׂרָה נִסְיוֹנוֹת וצ’ שָׁנָה שֶׁל שָׂרָה וח’ יָמִים שֶׁנִּמּוֹל, וק’ שָׁנָה שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם – Because of the laughter (of Avraham when he was told a child would be born, Bereishis 17:17).  And there are those who say, alternatively, he was called יצחק because of: י – the 10 trials of Avraham (see Avos 5:3); צ – the 90 years of Sarah’s age when Yitzchak was born; ח – the 8 days of Yitzchak’s age when he had his bris milah; and ק – the 100 years of Avraham’s age when the child was born.

While it was Hashem Who commanded Avraham to name the child Yitzchak ((Bereishis 17:19); after the birth of their son, the pasuk says: וַתֹּאמֶר שָׂרָה צְחֹק, עָשָׂה לִי אלקים: כָּל-הַשֹּׁמֵעַ, יִצְחַק-לִי – And Sarah said: G-d has made laughter for me; all who hear will laugh for me (21:6). 

What does Sarah mean in this declaration, “all who hear will laugh for me”?  Rashi (ibid) explains: יִשְׂמַח עָלַי, will rejoice over me/will rejoice for me.  And the Medrash teaches that many barren women were remembered and conceived along with her.  Many sick people were cured on that day.  Many prayers were answered along with hers, hence, there was much laughter in the world.

What is Rashi teaching us, and in what merit were many others – themselves in need of their own personal yeshuos (salvations) – answered along with Sarah?

Perhaps Rashi’s first pshat (interpretation): יִשְׂמַח עָלַי, will rejoice over me, is connected to, and actually leads to, his second pshat.  Rashi’s two interpretations should not be seen as two different interpretations; rather, we should view these words of Rashi as one pshat, which come to teach us a fundamental and crucial life lesson.    

Sarah believed and knew that many people would be truly happy for her, would rejoice for her, would rejoice with her – even while they still waited, and longed, for their own yeshuos!  יִשְׂמַח עָלַי, they will be happy for me!  Even if they are yet barren, even if they are sick, even if their prayers have not been answered, surely יִשְׂמַח עָלַי, others will rejoice along with me.

So often in life, due to the frailty of human nature, and the painful struggles we all face, it is difficult for us to rejoice over someone else’s simcha and success.  While we may smile for their happiness, inside, we may resent their yeshua.  “Sure, it’s good for them!” we think, “but what about me!?”  And so, too often, we do not truly rejoice for others. 

Perhaps Rashi comes to teach us a lesson we all ought to learn, and strive to implement.  יִשְׂמַח עָלַי – because they were happy for Sarah, truly happy for her salvation and the illustrious son born to her and Avraham, they merited their own yeshuos.  Why were many barren women, sick people, and tefillos answered on that day?  Because יִשְׂמַח עָלַי – they all rejoiced for Sarah, as if the simcha was there own, without any feelings of resentment and pain, even though she was answered and they were not.

Ultimately, their simcha for her led to a simcha for them. 

The gaon and gadol, R’ Belsky zt’l (1938-2016) related, “My parents’ home was the happiest home in the world.  We weren’t missing anything.  Only once, for my bar mitzvah, did my father take me to a store to buy a new suit.  Our clothing came from a supply of hand-me-downs.  And we were all happy.  We truly felt that we were lacking nothing.  Because we had everything.  A person who lives with bitachon (trust in G-d), and does not spend his life pursuing the material pleasures of this world, is the one who is truly happy…This is the kind of home in which I was fortunate to grow up… The overriding mood was one of simcha.  And that is how a Jewish home has to be. 

“You know how I feel when one of my friends, relatives, or neighbors has something that I don’t have?  I feel delighted!  I am so happy for them!  I enjoy seeing other people’s successes and happiness.  This was King David’s intent in saying: נָתַתָּה שִׂמְחָה בְלִבִּי; מֵעֵת דְּגָנָם וְתִירוֹשָׁם רָבּוּ – You put joy in my heart (that is greater than theirs) at the time that their grain and their wine abound (Tehillim 4:8).  I am happy for them, and I am happy for myself.  I am the happiest person in the world” (Rav Belsky, Artscroll, p.512).

Sarah Imainu, in her purity and faith, believed and knew that others would be genuinely happy for her salvation and success, even if they still awaited their own.  And ultimately, their happiness for her – for someone else who had more, even while they still lacked – led to their own yeshuos

Perhaps, if we can all find it within our hearts to rejoice for our fellow Jews and their accomplishments, successes, smachot and salvations, we will merit to usher in the ultimate salvation for all.

For when Hashem returns the captivity of Tzion, we will be like dreamers; אָז יִמָּלֵא שְׂחוֹק, פִּינוּ–    וּלְשׁוֹנֵנוּ רִנָּה – then our mouths will be filled with laughter, and our tongues with song… הַזֹּרְעִים בְּדִמְעָה– בְּרִנָּה יִקְצֹרוּ, for he who sows with tears, will certainly reap with joy (Tehillim 126).

May it be immediately and in our days, amen v’amen.

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,

Michal

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