Yitzchak's Name

No name in the Torah is without meaning, and surely of the Avos that is especially true. As Rabbi Avigdor Miller explains, the name of Yitzchak Avinu is laden with meaning.

HaRav Avigdor Miller zts"l

Judaism HaRav Avigdor Miller zts"l
HaRav Avigdor Miller zts"l
INN:Toras Avigdor

The triple prophecy (Breshis 17:21, 18:10, 18:14) that Sarah would bear a son at an appointed time was fulfilled to the day. The child was named Yitzchak (He shall laugh) as G-d had ordered, for a threefold significance:

1) Abraham’s laughter (ibid. 17:17) (for which he was not rebuked) when the happy tidings were delivered: “he fell upon his face and laughed” (ibid.); this was the expression of happiness and gratitude which his seed would demonstrate at the future Redemption: “Then our mouth shall be full of laughter” (Psalms 126:2). Thus Yitzchak’s name prophesied the great happiness in store for his seed, and with them all Mankind shall rejoice: “Whoever hears shall laugh with me (Breshis 21:6).

2) Sarah’s first laughter (ibid. 18:12) out of a feeling of unworthiness of having such a spectacular miracle in her behalf, for which G-d rebuked her (ibid. 18:13). This was not because of lack of belief in the prophecy; Sarah believed more than the firmest believers among the prophets, excepting Moses. Yet because her feeling of certainty lagged behind that Abraham in a minute measure perceived only by G-d, she was rebuked. When the miracle took place, Sarah laughed again (ibid. 21:6); but then she was doing what Abraham had done before on the strength of his faith alone.

Thus Yitzchak’s name symbolizes also the great test of faith to which his seed would be subject throughout many centuries of waiting, after the nation had grown old in exile and appeared incapable of restoration, like Sarah’s prophetic words: “After I have withered away, would my youthfulness return?” (ibid. 18:12).

3) Ishmael’s laughter (ibid.21:9), which hinted a skepticism of the authenticity of Isaac’s origin, for there were scoffers who claimed that the new child was a foundling brought in from elsewhere.

Thus Yitzchak’s name symbolizes also the long ages of calumny and hatred to which his seed would be subjected, when the proponents of alien religions and the scoffers of every sort would deride Israel’s traditions and its claim to the role of “the children of the living G-d” (Hoshea 2:1), which very verse is distorted by Paul to demonstrate that Israel is not the people to G-d. (From Behold, A People)