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Eshet Hayil
The Woman of Valor

by Rabbi Ariel Bar Tzadok
Copyright © 1997 - 2001 by Ariel Bar Tzadok. All rights reserved.

A Selection from: Sefer BíTzelem Elokim
(Kabbalistic Insights Into Men And Women Individually And In Relationships)

This entire work can be purchased in E-Book format by clicking here.

Of all that the Torah teaches about women, it is Solomon, husband to a thousand wives, who best describes the archetype of the righteous women. The last chapter in Proverbs (31) contains the verses for "A Woman of Valor", the Eshet Hayil.

Here Solomon reveals what a Torah woman is supposed to be.

Eshet Hayil

"A woman of valor who can find, for her price is far more that pearls."
(Prov. 31:10)

As wise Solomon has correctly ascertained, the greatest accomplishment any man can ever hope to achieve is to have a woman of valor as his wife. The Hebrew word for valor is "Hayil". The masculine form of the word, "Hayal", is the Hebrew word for soldier. So the context of the word "Hayil" implies one who conquers adversity. A woman of "hayil" (valor) is, therefore, one who triumphs over the difficulties of life.

The woman of valor successfully manages to fulfill her role as wife, mother and career person. From the words of Solomon can we learn the true role of the archetypal woman, who is praised beyond praise and who is loved beyond love.

"The heart of her husband relies on her, he will lack no gain."
(Prov. 31:11)

The first attribute that the woman of valor is praised for is that the heart of her husband trusts in her. While this might sound like an expected thing in many relationships, it is unfortunately more rare than common. The trust of one's heart is not a state where one simply trusts one's mate. It means that one's entire state of emotional stability is tied around that mate. What the wife feels the husband accepts, not because he has to, but rather because he knows and feels for himself how right his wife truly is. The husband of the woman of valor rests assured that everything in his household is in order, however that is to be, for he knows his wife is in charge. Where she is in charge everything goes smoothly. He knows it and, therefore, can dismiss doubt and concern from his mind.

"She requites him good and not evil all the days of her life."
(Prov. 31:12)

A woman of valor will still possess all the qualities of the feminine sefirot.

Severity, therefore, is her attribute. But the woman of valor shows no such expressions to her husband. Although he may goof up from time to time, the woman of valor does not know the meaning of "pay back".

"She seeks wool and flax, and she works with desirous hands."
(Prov. 31:13)

Here we learn that the woman of valor is a business person. Not only does she produce, she actively seeks the raw products needed for production.

"She rises when it is still night; she gives food to her household and a portion to her workers."
(Prov. 31:15)

Even though the woman of valor takes care of business in a very mercantile way, she nevertheless never forgets that her first priority is to her family.

Avoiding the luxury of late morning sleep, the woman of valor has a busy day.

But her day always starts by preparing the needs of her family. Not only this, she also provides for the needs of her workers. Loving-kindness, the attribute of Neshama consciousness is her trademark, above and beyond any other interest.

Many other attributes are ascribed to the woman of valor, but what has been said already includes the rest. It is the woman who has a great responsibility to maintain love and peace in the home. Truly the emotional stability of the home is always in the woman's hands.

By nature, I believe, most women wish to be good wives and mothers, and also contribute to the welfare of their communities. Women are required by Torah law to respect their husbands and follow their lead with regards to how responsibilities are to be fulfilled. Yet, there always seems to be one thing that always gets in a woman's way.

Even though a woman might wish to love, honor and obey her her husband, it is usually the husband himself that sabotages his own position and authority in the home. No woman can be subservient to her man if that man is not being a man. In other words, in order for a woman to fully be able to fall into her role, her husband must first fulfill his role.

If the husband is not filling the role of the man, then his wife will not fill the role of the woman. If the man is not worthy of respect, he will not receive it! If the man wishes for his wife to be subservient to him, he had better deserve it! Therefore, while the peace of the home is in the hand of the woman, the stability that underlies that peace must come from the man. Thus we learn that man and woman both play essentially equal roles in the Torah home.

The Talmud and the Kabbalah have a tremendous amount of information geared towards the man, instructing him on how to behave towards his wife. Let us turn now to these teachings. For without a man knowing what it is to be a man, he will never be able to merit a woman of valor. Only a man of valor will merit a woman of valor.

Other Biblical Examples

The Bible is full of many other examples of righteous female behavior.

Judges 4 speaks of Devorah the prophetess, who is said to be the wife of "Lapidot". According to some Rabbis, Lapidot was a synonym for the general Barak. This relationship between Barak and Devorah then takes on a whole new meaning. As man and wife their roles are clear. Barak performs the man's duty as soldier. Devorah performs the female duty of being spiritual, which in this case includes her doing some very masculine things such as being a Dayan judge and prophetess.

Yael, the wife of Heber, however becomes the hero of the Barak-Devorah story by assassinating the evil Sisera. And how does she kill him? She does not challenge him to war, nor does she fight him in any other man's way. Instead she lulls him into her tent and soothes him to sleep with warm milk. Sisera seems to be all too trusting. While he is asleep Yael takes a tent peg and drives it through Sisera's head. Now this is the best example that I know of a woman giving a man a headache!

In 1 Samuel 25, we read about Avigayil, the wife of Nabal. When her husband acts in a disrespectful manner towards David, the future king, David responds by coming to avenge his honor. Avigayil places her own life at risk by riding out and attempting to placate David. She acknowledges the sins and evil of her husband all the while blaming herself for this insult to David. David is indeed appeased by her. He blesses her and goes.

The following day Avigayil tells her husband of the fate he almost met, and instead of appreciating her sacrifice and thanking her, the verse says that "his heart died within him and he became like a stone" (1 Sam. 25:37). By the grace of G-d, ten days later G-d strikes Nabal dead. Avigayil is free of him, but never did she embarrass or disgrace her lord husband. As reward for her righteousness David, himself takes her as his wife.

The example of these women, like Miriam, the sister of Moses before them, totally disprove the chauvinist accusations of the feminists and modernists that the Torah is patriarchal and condescending to women.

We learn that the Torah encourages righteous women to hold leadership positions within the context and bounds of Halakha. What Torah also reminds women is that their method of leadership is different from that of men.

While the function might be the same, the manner in which it is executed is quite different and separate from the men. So, instead of having women impinging on "men's territory", they have their own "territory". Men and women, therefore, respect each other's differences and work together to create a collective whole. Instead of fighting one another for a state of dominance, each is allowed to be ruler of their individual domains. When everything is in its spiritual place, then, and only then, will everything be at peace.

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