Sarah’s Laughter and Messiah

After nearly 2,000 years, it seems laughable to imagine that Messiah is ready to return and that He may yet come this very day.

The Golden Gate in Jerusalem, Sha'ar HaRachamim (שער הרחמים), Gate of Mercy in Hebrew. (Photo: Christian Kaehler/Adobe Stock)

Vayera

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Vayera (וירא | He appeared)
  • Torah: Genesis 18:1-22:24
  • Haftarah: 2 Kings 4:1-37
  • Gospel: Luke 17:28-37

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Genesis 18:1 | A Son Promised to Abraham and Sarah
    • Genesis 18:16 | Judgment Pronounced on Sodom
    • Genesis 19:1 | The Depravity of Sodom
    • Genesis 19:12 | Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed
    • Genesis 19:30 | The Shameful Origin of Moab and Ammon
    • Genesis 20:1 | Abraham and Sarah at Gerar
    • Genesis 21:1 | The Birth of Isaac
    • Genesis 21:8 | Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away
    • Genesis 21:22 | Abraham and Abimelech Make a Covenant
    • Genesis 22:1 | The Command to Sacrifice Isaac
    • Genesis 22:20 | The Children of Nahor
  • Prophets
    • 2Ki 4:1 | Elisha and the Widow's Oil
    • 2Ki 4:8 | Elisha Raises the Shunammite's Son

Portion Summary

The fourth reading from the book of Genesis is named Vayera (וירא). It means "And he appeared" because the first story describes how the LORD appeared to Abraham one day as he sat outside his tent. Section Vayera continues with the series of tests of faith for Abraham, concluding in one great and final trial.


The mysterious visitor said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son” (Genesis 18:10). Sarah was inside her tent, and she overheard the conversation. She laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?”

The Torah scholar Chofetz Chaim comments on this passage, saying that the story contains a hidden warning not to doubt the coming of the Messiah. Just as Sarah laughed at the notion that God would keep His promise to Abraham after so many fruitless years of waiting and hoping, we too are in danger of losing faith in the coming of the Messiah after so many years of waiting. After nearly 2,000 years, it seems laughable to imagine that Messiah is ready to return and that He may yet come this very day.

After decades of waiting for the promised child, Sarah had despaired of seeing the promise fulfilled. A similar situation occurred just before the redemption from Egypt. When Moses came to the Hebrew slaves, declaring the hour of their redemption, they did not believe him: “They did not listen to Moses on account of their despondency and cruel bondage” (Exodus 6:9). The long years of suffering in Egypt had crushed their hopes, and they no longer had the strength to believe in the promised redemption.

If one truly believes in the possibility of Mashiach’s imminent arrival, then he will constantly be in a state of spiritual preparation, through Torah, good deeds and repentance. If, however, such is not the case, then it is apparent that our talk of his imminent coming is mere lip service; in reality, our faith is quite miniscule. This is alluded to in the words told to Sarah, “No, you laughed indeed.” (Chofetz Chaim)

In a similar teaching, the Apostle Peter tells us:

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

When Sarah finally received the promise and held her baby in her arms, she laughed with joy rather than cynical incredulity: “Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me’” (Genesis 21:6). “Then our mouth was filled with laughter,” (Palm 126:2).

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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Torah Club is an interactive group Bible study that brings together disciples from diverse backgrounds to share the common ground of new discovery. This year only, Torah Clubs have the option of following the main study track commentary, Shadows of the Messiah. This deep dive into the Torah employs Jewish commentary and ancient Christian texts to reveal Messiah in the books of Moses.

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