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Sarah's Lesson On Laughter and Miracles

By Rabbi Rafi Rank

When our neighbors buy a new car, we don't necessarily rejoice with them in their new purchase. Of course, we don't begrudge them their happiness, but how happy can you be? It's not you're new car; it's theirs. And so it is when something of great fortune comes our way, our neighbors may only feel a tenth of the happiness that we ourselves are experiencing. This phenomenon is the basis of the rabbis' question about Sarah and her observation of how happy the world was when she gave birth. We read in the Torah, "Sarah said, 'God has brought me laughter; everyone who hears me will laugh with me'" (Genesis 21:6). Now granted, Sarah's case was a bit unique-she was 90 years old when she gave birth to Yitzhak. I would imagine that anyone hearing that would certainly laugh-for joy!-with Sarah. But the rabbis see an even greater miracle embedded in Sarah's words.

The midrashic story is that when Sarah gave birth, barren women around the world gave birth, deaf mutes began to hear and speak, the blind began to see, and the mentally deficient regained their faculties. In other words, the miracle that Sarah enjoyed triggered an entire series of miracles that occurred that day, and so the entire world was laughing for joy. They heard of Sarah's miracle and were themselves blessed with a miracle, too.

The birth of Yitzhak was a miracle for Sarah and Abraham. More importantly, the rabbis saw in his birth a miracle wrought for the entire world. Through his life, the possibility of tikkun (repair) of the whole world became possible. Judaism is the religion of the Jewish people, but it's truths may inspire the entire world. The very religion that is so often characterized as isolationist and parochial has the power to put many more people-Jews and non-Jews alike-on the path of righteousness. But people will only know how wonderful Judaism is, if they hear our laughter and our love of it, more often. And so Sarah teaches us how to repair the world and spread the eternal truths of Judaism: laugh louder and more frequently.

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