The Power of Laughter
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The Power of Laughter

Karen Berg
January 26, 2020

Laughter heals. For that which we can laugh at, can no longer hurt us.

Actress and author Carrie Fisher, may God rest her soul, once said: “If my life wasn’t funny, it would just be true – and that is completely unacceptable.” This coming from a woman whose father left her at 2 years old. A woman who suffered from a lifetime of drug addiction, was diagnosed as bi-polar, and once was committed to a mental institution where she did not sleep for six days straight. Regardless of the slings and arrows life threw at Miss Fisher, there was one thing she never lost: Her sense of humor about herself. She was a wildly funny writer and comedienne, with a wit that rivaled the likes of Dorothy Parker and Oscar Wilde. She found ways of turning her maladies into comedies, poking fun at herself and her life, in everything from a series of books to a one-woman stand up show on Broadway. For Carrie Fisher, the funny perspective was the only one worth having.

"Laughter heals. For that which we can laugh at, can no longer hurt us."

I mention this because this week’s portion is one that I believe urges us not to take ourselves too seriously – a tall order, even for the most spiritual among us. The story of Bo contains the three final plagues that Pharaoh endured because he would not set the Israelites free. The literal translation is one that has been a subject of debate among Biblical scholars for centuries, as it infers the Creator was playing a joke with Pharaoh. … A joke? A joke in which the likes of locusts, frogs, insects, and hail wreaked havoc upon an entire nation of people? How could such disasters be referred to as a joke? Thankfully, the Zohar sheds some light on the matter, revealing that Pharaoh is a code word for our Ego, the Desire to Receive for the Self Alone. The Creator “playing a joke” with Pharaoh is an indication for us, that we are not to take our ego too seriously.

Ego shows up in different ways. Sometimes our ego tells us we are the best person in the world, and sometimes it tells us we are the worst. Either way, it’s two sides of the same coin; for in both cases, we believe what the voice is telling us is true. Ego keeps us stuck in self-consumption, thinking we are always right. Anger, sadness, frustration, boastfulness, pride, and guilt are all varying shades of the same color: Being too deeply involved in ourselves. It is in these moments when those ego-fueled emotions come rushing in that laughter can save us most. Laughter can release the ego’s grip on our thoughts, making space for us to see beyond the limited view we think is the truth. Laugher can lift us from a bout of sadness reminding us how funny and beautiful life can be. Laughter can save us from our ego. It can save us from ourselves. 

"Laughter can save us from our ego. It can save us from ourselves."

Let’s make a pact to let nothing steal our sense of humor over the next seven days. When we make mistakes, instead of getting all bogged down or worked up, let’s try laughing at ourselves. It’s only a mistake, and that’s why God put erasers on pencils – because we were bound to make them! When we find ourselves annoyed by something or someone, if we can just take a moment to realize how small the situation is or how silly we are being, the scenario may evolve from frustrating to funny.

The ability to laugh at herself might not have cured Carrie Fisher of bi-polar disorder, but what it did do was give her a way to bring joy to the lives of so many people. Both Carrie and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, had their respective struggles, and yet they used their pain as foundation to leave something positive in the world.

This week, when the sun shines on our day we will laugh, and when darkness falls we will laugh louder. May this laughter help us create something for the world that makes it just a little brighter because we are in it.