Friday, June 28, 2013

Fellows, eshet chayill your wife tonight

Proverbs 31:10-31

What a rare find is a capable wife! Her worth is far beyond that of rubies. Her husband puts his confidence in her, and lacks no good thing. She is good to him, never bad, all the days of her life. She looks for wool and flax, and sets her hand to them with a will. She is like a merchant fleet, bringing her food from afar. She rises while it is still night, and supplies provisions for her household, .... She sets her mind on an estate and acquires it; she plants a vineyard by her own labors. She girds herself with strength, and performs her tasks with vigor. She sees that her business thrives; her lamp never goes out at night. ...She gives generously to the poor; her hands are stretched out to the needy. ...... She is clothed with strength and splendor; she looks to the future cheerfully. Her mouth is full of wisdom, her tongue with kindly teaching. She oversees the activities of her household and never eats the bread of idleness. Her children declare her happy; her husband praises her, “Many women have done well, but you surpass them all.” Grace is deceptive, Beauty is illusory; It is for her fear of God that a woman is to be praised. Extol her for the fruit of her hand, and let her works praise her in the gates. [JPS translation]

Eshet Chayil is a twenty-two verse poem with which King Solomon concludes the book of Proverbs (Proverbs 31). The poem has an acrostic arrangement in which the verses begin with the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in regular order. The poem describes the woman of valor as one who are is energetic, righteous, and capable.

According to Aggadic Midrashim (interpretation of the non-legal portions of the Hebrew Bible), the poem was originally composed by Abraham as a eulogy for his wife Sarah.

According to Jewish mysticism, Kabbalah, the poem is a reference to the Shabbat Queen, the spiritual soul-mate of the Jewish nation.

According to commentators, the poem is allegorical. A Woman of Valor has been interpreted as a reference to the Shechinah (Divine presence), the Shabbat, the Torah, wisdom, and the soul. Using Jewish women as the vehicle through which to describe these spiritual manifestations is a tribute to her.

It has become a Jewish custom for men to recite this hymn at the end of the week, and thus to think about and be thankful for all his wife has done for him and their family throughout the past week.

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