G-d’s Laugh

Friday, 4 November, 2022 - 7:59 am

There’s a famous Yiddish saying, “Der mentsch tracht un Guh-t lacht,” which translates to, “A person thinks and G-d laughs.” The meaning of this idiom is that we have our plans, but G-d has other plans for us. In Yiddish it rhymes as well.

We can all point to situations in life where we put great energy into a certain path in life, only to have the rug torn out from under our feet. G-d had other plans.

Yiddish is a rich language and it often does away with conventional diplomacy in order to make a point. It’s no wonder that this saying pulls no punches in describing G-d as laughing at our grandiose plans.

I wonder, however, if that is really the sole intent. And, if it remains so, is it accurate? Do we really believe in a G-d that disparages us despite or best efforts?


In the opening scene of this week’s parsha Lech Lecha, we find Hashem instructing Avraham to set out on a journey. And, G-d’s promise that this journey will lead to success.

The text reads, “And the L-rd said to Avram, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will aggrandize your name, and you shall be a blessing.”

It has been pointed out that Avraham was only able to shine and accomplish his unique mission in life after he departed the awful surroundings and harmful influence of his upbringing.  G-d tells Avraham to leave, and Avraham becomes the founder of a new movement, the epitome of an iconoclast.

It’s interesting, however, that Avraham is told explicitly where he must leave from, but never told where he is heading to. He must know his point of origin, but not his destination. His end point is simply, “The land that I will show you.”

Perhaps the Torah wishes to convey a fundamental message for our lives. As Jews, we look to the life story of our Patriarchs and Matriarchs as a macrocosm of our own lives. We find meaning and direction in the happenings the Torah chooses to share about their lives.

Here, as well, the Torah wishes to impress upon us an attitude and approach to our own journeys of life.  It’s critical that we know our point of origin. We need to recognize the tools that we have been given. We must acknowledge and celebrate the talents, history, and traditions upon which our lives can flourish.

But, when it comes to looking ahead, we must only know the general direction – that we are heading to the place that G-d will show us. With this conviction and humility, we can be guaranteed that G-d will bless our ways.

It was Avraham’s unwavering faith in Hashem, plowing ahead on an unknown path, that was the key to his success.

And, I’m sure that G-d was smiling down from Heaven at every step of the way – knowing exactly where it was leading.

Perhaps that Yiddish phrase is open to interpretation.

If we think we have it all figured out, G-d chuckles at our lack of foresight.

But, it need not be derisive. In a deeper, encoded vein, it is telling us that G-d is celebrating our future success. If we have the humility to think about ourselves as implementers of a mission that is not fully known to us – coupled with the devotion to forge ahead – G-d is delirious with joy and doing the Heavenly Hora at our blessings that He can already count.

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