It’s Friday night. Shabbat has begun. The candles are lit. The shul*-goers have returned. Everyone is gathered around the dining room table. The guests and the Shabbat angels have been welcomed with the singing of Shalom Aleichem. It is time for Eshet Chayil (Proverbs 31: 10 – 31).
Traditionally, men sing this blessing of praise to their wives. Modern women may shudder and struggle with the seemingly archaic poem meant to honor the work of women and mothers. Do not be turned off by the mention of a spindle or having to make all the clothes and bedspreads while your husband “sits with the elders”.
Eshet Chayil is a timeless blessing - praising women for all that they do. Allow its tune to penetrate your soul. Hear the essence of its words in your depths. Give your husband and your children an opportunity to express their gratitude for all that you do (it’s kind of like mother’s day – or moment, in this case - every week).
Eshet Chayil begins: “A woman of valor who can find”. We receive praise for our willingness and eagerness to take care of our families. We stay up late and rise early in order to accomplish all of our mothering responsibilities. We do so much and, still, we find time to “open our hands to the poor and reach out our hands to the needy”. Our mouths “open with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on (our) tongues”.
While it may appear to be a woman’s task list, Eshet Chayil is more about the endless, giving soul of women than it is about our job description. The mother creates the atmosphere in the home. She is dedicated. She is the one to nourish the souls of her children. She is the guide for her family.
Who doesn’t benefit from a bit of acknowledgment every now and then? Cherish the weekly “whoo whoo” (which is sometimes what it is in our house) and let your family “give it up” for you. “Give her the reward she has earned,” the hymn goes, “let her deeds bring her praise in the gates.”
It is said (Talmud – Sotah 11) that “in the merit of women the Messiah and the final redemption of the Jewish people will come”. A woman of valor is what you are. Let your family exclaim it each Friday night.
*shul = synagogue