Monday, November 23, 2009

Ishmael and Issac

I seem to be on a "Biblical Grammar" streak. Lately every drash I hear involves word origins, hidden meanings based on structure, or some similar topic. Today's got into the burial of Abraham, and Issac and Ishmael's reunion. The rabbi's larger topic was mixed marriage, so he dwelt on the significance of Hagar's name: Ha-gar, the stranger. So "Ishmael ben Hagar" is "Ishmael, son of the stranger". His discussion prompted a different line of thought for me.

Ishmael = "He will listen to God"
Issac = "He will laugh"

Ishmael listens, Issac laughs; Issac gets the blessing.

It's not enough to listen to God. We must be prepared to laugh as well.

Both Abraham and Sarah laughed when God told them they would have a son, although we usually just hear about Sarah's. She laughed in surprise and disbelief; Abraham laughed in joy.

Abraham laughed in joy. Laughter shows joy. Sitting in services last month, someone said something that made me happy, and I laughed. It was very loud in the otherwise silent sanctuary. I was struck by how rarely we as adults laugh out of pure joy; humor, embarrassment, or courtesy, sure, but joy? Almost never. But religion is supposed to make us happy, right? We rejoice and celebrate our people, our culture, our family, our community, and our God. If we're so happy about it, where's the expression of joy? Where's the laughter?

Sarah laughed in surprise and disbelief. Laughter shows understanding. There's a lot of intelligence that goes into humor, both writing it and understanding it. This is why in-jokes are so annoying when you're not "in the know"; without the understanding to make it funny, it's just strange, frustrating, and nonsensical. [I want to say more about this, but it's not flowing well so I'm hoping one of my funny friends will save me in the comments section]

Laughter requires joy and understanding.

It's not enough to listen to God. We must be prepared to laugh as well.

1 comment:

  1. A friend once asked me about whether there was a change between my childhood understanding of God and where I'm at now, especially having been raised Protestant and currently identifying as Jewish. And I replied, "No, me and God have been laughing together since I was about three or so." *grin*