Eishet Chayal, The Woman of Valor

Featured imageA woman of valor, who can find? Her worth is far above jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and nothing shall he lack. She renders him good and not evil all the days of her life. She opens her hand to the needy, and extends her hand to the poor. She is robed in strength and dignity, and cheerfully faces whatever may come. She opens her mouth with wisdom. Her tongue is guided by kindness. She tends to the affairs of her household, and eats not the bread of idleness. Her children come forward and bless her. Her husband too, and he praises her. Many women have done superbly, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a God-fearing woman is much to be praised. Place before her the fruit of her hands. Wherever people gather, her deeds speak her praise.

This passage from proverbs 31 is read every Shabbat at dinner.  It describes a godly woman.  Surely, not all women measure up to the standards of the passage. But the point is, it describes a strong, capable woman.  It does not describe a mindless, weak woman who is no more than a rubber stamp for her husband.  A godly woman is a capable, formidable woman.  She is robed in strength and dignity.  She is charitable and extends her hand to the needy.  It was these qualities that I saw in my wife when I was courting her.

It also describes her husband.  It says that he has full confidence in her, and she renders him good and not evil.  This is the part that’s difficult for me.  Husbands always think they know better than their wives.  We are wired differently and approach problems differently.  I always think I know better, and that she should have done things differently or said things differently.  I found that I need to have full confidence in my wife’s many good abilities.  I need to trust her to do the right thing; not based on wishful thinking, but based on the good abilities I know she has.  When I don’t do this, it leads to frustration for us both.  Its a hard lesson for me.  I always want to orchestrate things.  Sometimes you have to let people be themselves and not push them to do things the way you think they should go.  I am a blessed man to be married to my wife.  As the scripture says, I am rising up and calling her blessed.

I’m my father’s son, and my dad, who was a wonderful man, dominated my mom.  I need to not be so domineering. I wind up arguing with my wife about what she does or says instead of trusting her good sense.   I need to learn to trust my wife to do the right thing, because I know that she renders me good and not evil all the days of my life.  These aren’t just words; they are a struggle for me to put into practice.  I struggle because I have been burned in the past.  It’s not my wife’s fault, its my struggle to overcome my relationships before her.  I am grateful that my wife is a strong woman, as well as a kind woman.  She is patient with me as I struggle with my past.  I look to God to help me always see my wife for who she is; a righteous woman who is a wife of noble character.

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8 thoughts on “Eishet Chayal, The Woman of Valor

  1. I don’t know personally, but I suspect this might be harder for a very highly educated and intelligent man such as yourself, regardless of how smart the wife may be. You do very well, Rabbi. Don’t berate yourself.

    For what it’s worth, I get a sense of pride when I just let my wife do her own thinking, because she almost always turns out to be pretty darn good at it.

    Dave

  2. I appreciate this so much. Every time my sweet husband recites this to me I take the opportunity to reasses my behavior and motives. Although I believe I will forever wince at the reference to being up early in the morning (me and sunrise don’t get along) it does encourage me to be a better woman/wife/mother.

    The struggles that you reference in your last paragraph are also issues women have now too because we’ve been told that we can (and should) be wonder woman – i.e., a full career and raise children at the same time. We can supposedly do it all, and do it all “well”. Of course, men/fathers are not necessary, they are merely optional.

    Like you, I carry heavy baggage from my past relationships, especially from my father and first husband. Those wounds don’t simply disappear. But then I married a terrific man, who loved me completely. Still, I resisted and girded myself for battle, frightened to let my defenses down “just in case” he turned out to be like what I’d known before. After about 5 years of marriage, I was sitting in church squirming as the pastor “read my mail”. I brushed it off several times but after the 4th week in a row I finally gave in to God and decided to trust Him enough to allow myself to be vulnerable to my husband. It was a big and scary step, but well worth it.

  3. I would love to meet a couple who models this passage. My family growing up was certainly not like this away from the public eye, and my x-husband REALLY was evil. I pray that I am not single forever, but I have not met any man who fits this type of mold either. I am not claiming perfection, but matching at 59 yrs old is seemingly impossible.

  4. Hello,
    I enjoyed reading your blog. I very much liked the picture you put and it added a lot. COuld you please tell me who drew it and when?
    Many thanks,
    Tamar

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