Breishit 18:15 says (Mechon Mamre / JPS in English):

Then Sarah denied, saying: 'I laughed not'; for she was afraid. And He said: 'Nay; but thou didst laugh.

Apparently, Sarah laughed because she didn't believe that G-d would create a miracle to let her give birth at such an old age. Some questions:

  • Apparently, G-d asks Avraham, why did Sarah laugh. The question is addressed to Avraham, but he doesn't answer. Why not?

  • If the question was asked to Avraham, how does Sarah know the conversation. Was she eavesdropping?

  • If Sarah did hear the question, and she understands that G-d is "angry" with her laughing, why does she deny and, essentially lie to G-d that she didn't laugh?

  • It says, "because she was afraid" ... afraid of what?

To me, the conversation seems somewhat "childish" - Like a parent asking a child, "Why did you do this", and the kid says, "No I didn't", and the parent answers, "yes, you did!" What is the Torah trying to tell us by including this whole back-and-forth conversation? Is it so important that we know that Sarah had a lapse of faith and then, denied that she did? What message is the Torah trying to teach us?

2 Answers 2


To answer the last two questions:

The Ohr HaChaim explains that Sarah's denial was actually a manifestation of a certain degree of righteousness. When a servant who has genuine awe of his master does something inappropriate towards his master, his intense awe of the master makes him unable to confess. This is what the verse means that she was afraid, she had awe of Hashem and therefore was unable to bring herself to confess. (The Ohr HaChaim explains that she did not outright lie, and this is why the verse says "she denied, saying..." and not just "she said...", because she didn't actually say it. She somehow implied it in such a way that it conveyed that she wanted to deny it but also that she really acknowledged that she did it. He doesn't give specifics of how she conveyed this.)

Avraham then corrected her by telling her that it was more appropriate to confess outright, as Hashem desires our confession and teshuva.


No biblical characters were ever perfect, not even the most righteous ones. Their standards were a lot higher than ours but they were not perfect.

Sarah's denial was obviously a fact that she did recognise that G-d could do miracles and it was not beyond G-d to give Sarah a child.

Abraham also laughed at the end of last week's sedra. The name Yitzchak means laughter. You might ask why G-d told them to call their son by that name, but it seems to link the name into the story which is perhaps why there is a fair bit of emphasis about the laughter.

  • What is obvious to you is false according to the Kli Yakar. Commented Nov 9, 2014 at 2:03
  • Difference between "would" and "could". She might not have believed G-d "would" perform such a miracle but obviously knew He "could".
    – CashCow
    Commented Nov 10, 2014 at 11:36

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