What does Torah teach us when she states that “SARAH LAUGHED WITHIN HERSELF” (Genesis 18:12) Our sages offer us a dozen very different yet always insightful expositions.
1-Sarah laughed within herself because she felt embarrassed. She was very sensitive that she was barren and blamed herself for it even though it was not her choice or her fault.
2- Sarah laughed within herself for she felt it would be ridiculous to have a baby at her advanced age.
3-Sarah laughed within herself because she felt unworthy of such a great miracle happening to her. Like many women she didn’t realize that she was extremely worthy of receiving God’s blessings.
4-Sarah laughed within herself because she felt nervous about being able to raise a child at her advanced age.
5-Sarah laughed at herself i.e. at her old body, which was long passed childbearing.
6- Sarah laughed at herself for momentarily doubting that she would be able to give birth and raise a child at her advanced age. She knew if God decreed it she could do it.
7-Sarah laughed within herself. Why didn’t she laugh out loud? Sarah had borne her disappointment and suffering quietly for so many years that she was now incapable of expressing her joy out loud. She named her son Yitzhok-he will laugh, to remind herself that she should not continue to suffer in silence.
8-God told Abraham a few days earlier (17:19) that Sarah would bear a son. Why didn’t Abraham tell Sarah? Why don’t husbands tell their wives everything that concerns them?
9-The Talmud says that Sarah was a prophet-in many ways even greater than Abraham (Megillah 14a)- so why didn’t Sarah believe the blessing. Many women find it easy to believe in the capabilities of others and hard to believe in their own capabilities. Sarah’s modesty stood in the way.
10-Sarah laughed for a mixture of all the reasons listed above. God rewarded her, and all the generations of her daughters after her, by establishing the Jewish law that the children of a Jewish mother will be Jewish regardless of who the father is.
11-Abraham was honored by being the first Jew to be circumcised and Sarah was honored by becoming the first Jewish Mother.
12-Sarah laughed because she was filled with happiness and joy. She didn’t laugh out loud because Sarah had always believed that she would give birth to a child and become the mother of the Jewish people. Now that her belief was confirmed she didn’t want to embarrass Abraham who had started to despair.
Like most wives, Sarah was very concerned with upholding her husband’s self esteem.