Continuing my weekly posts of mental health-inspired reflections on the weekly Torah reading.
Strangely, in a sedra that is so much about death and near death, the resonance I found with my depression was not death and destruction at all, but birth and life.
“And Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me, all who hear will laugh (yitzchak) for me.” – Bereshit/Genesis 21.6
I have mentioned in the past the importance of firsts in traditional Jewish textual exegesis. As far as I can tell, the idea of laughter is first recorded in the Torah in relation to the birth of Yitzchak (Isaac), first when God tells the elderly Avraham (Abraham) and Sarah (who is infertile as well as elderly) that they will have a son and then when he is born. Importantly, Yitzchak means, “He will laugh” and this play on words appears in the verse I quoted above.
What resonated with me is the idea of such laughter so intense that everyone shares it, that even takes over the entirety of a person’s being (I am not enough of a dikduknik (grammarian) to be sure, but I think “tzechok asa li” “has made laughter for me” can also be translatated as “has made me into laughter”, a laughter so strong that one completely becomes it with one’s whole being). I think this is the laughter that comes as a release after a long period of suffering, when sadness is converted to joy, as with the Avraham and Sarah miraculously having a child in old age after decades of infertility. Happy are those who are granted such laughter.