The Ambivalence of the Biblical Attitude toward Laughter

Jewish history has not always been characterized by laughter, but in Genesis it evokes the freedom and joy of a life in partnership with God.

Isaac blessing his son, as painted by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1292-1294. Wikipedia.

Isaac blessing his son, as painted by Giotto di Bondone, circa 1292-1294. Wikipedia.

Observation
Oct. 26 2018
About the author

Sarah Rindner teaches English literature at Lander College in New York and blogs at Book of Books.


Last week’s Torah reading of Lekh-L’kha (Genesis 12-17) tells the story of the birth of Abraham’s elder son Ishmael. By contrast, this week’s reading of Vayera (Genesis 18-22) has at its center the birth of his younger son Isaac. I say “by contrast” because, from the very start, beginning with the circumstances of their birth and their respective names, the text makes the difference between the two boys especially stark. Nor are these differences just a matter of literary curiosity; rather, they present divergent ways of relating to God.

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

Create a free account to continue reading

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register

More about: Abraham, Hebrew Bible, Isaac, Ishmael, Religion & Holidays