First a request: Someone mentioned to me a while back that they either knew the author Jonathan Safran Foer, they were related to him or knew his relatives in Denver? Please let me know if you are the one who mentioned the connection.
In last week’s Torah portion Abraham and Sarah are informed that they will have a child—at their advanced ages of 100 and 90 respectively. Upon hearing the news Sarah laughs so hard that the Torah makes note, “She laughed in her innards.” I had always thought that the non-literal translation of the Hebrew could be, “She had a good belly laugh.” Her laughter lasted all the way to the naming of their child, Isaac—in Hebrew Yitzchak—which means “He will laugh.”
This week I had two episodes of uncontrollable laughter. Both were instigated by my wife pointing out (again) some characteristic behavior of mine. She did it in a playful way that allowed me to see my behavior. In our second year class Who are You? we continue to explore who we are at our essence through identifying masks and we asked: Who is it that is laughing uncontrollably? I emphasize the word uncontrollable—as it is clear that the laughter is beyond my (our) control. In the instances this past week of uncontrollable laughter, I became aware of my masks and laughed. Perhaps Sarah also laughed uncontrollably at the masks she was wearing—a 90 year old woman giving birth? Her laughter inspires us to see the masks we wear and in that moment of uncontrollable laughter, laughter wears us.
Laughter then is not only good medicine (in rare instances persistent uncontrollable laughter can be a sign of a neurologic condition), it is an emotion that helps us see our self beyond ourselves. Perhaps that is why so many comedians are Jewish—it is part of our spiritual inheritance—for through laughter (Yitzchak) you will survive and thrive.