A Woman of Valor אֵשֶׁת חַיִל

A Woman of Valor אֵשֶׁת חַיִל

ESHET HAYIL (Heb. אֵשֶׁת חַיִל; "a woman of valor"), are the opening words praising the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31:10–31. This poem enumerates the qualities of the ideal wife in a sequential alphabetic acrostic of 22 verses, one for each of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. (from the Jewish Virtual Library)

The ideal wife? Today it is the ideal person! Never mind about the PC police here (but if you want to get into it then try this and this). Why not simply learn to appreciate what the poem's real message is? This poem is sung at traditional Sabbath meals. You can hear and/or learn the traditional tune hereI also enjoy this version of the last lines by my friend, Yitzhak Attias. 

It's worthwhile to go right to the source and read the actual poem: Proverbs 31:10-31 (INCLUDED BELOW!)

** There are some more modern translations on line if you do some surfing. Try this one from Ritual Well or this one from The Velveteen Rabbi is a lot of fun! 

Okay - so let me get to the point (I know, I know - I often go off on tangents!). The reason why I am writing about this particular poem is because I want to honor some of the women who, in my life, are women of valor. Please note - there are so many women I have met, worked & sojourned with and whom have entered my life in a variety of ways - that I cannot possibly include all of you/them in this one blog post. However, know that they/you are most certainly not overlooked! Please consider this is also for you! For now I would like to limit my list to a few women in Israel whom I have most recently spent time with while here this time around.

1) My daughter, Inbal. My little girl who has turned into one helluva brave and courageous woman! She's always known herself very well - who she is and what she stands for. I remember I was worried during those teen years when she got additional piercings and tattoos. I worried about the friends she chose and the direction she seemed to be heading. What mother doesn't? I was worried she might be swayed away from Judaism. I was wrong on all accounts!!! This little "spice" girl, a headstrong teen, a confident young adult has grown into an amazing young woman. She is one of the mover and shakers in this world. She makes things happen and gets things done. Everyone loves her and she loves everyone (even if she growls at us sometimes!). I could not have asked for a better daughter! I love you Inbal!

כט  רַבּוֹת בָּנוֹת, עָשׂוּ חָיִל;    וְאַתְּ, עָלִית עַל-כֻּלָּנָה.29 'Many daughters have done valiantly, but you excel them all.'









2. My mom, Jacqueline May Alon (nee Greenberg) z"l. Sadly my mom lived her life in struggle because she lived in an era when women were expected to be good housewives and mothers. The reality that my mother finally came to acknowledge, though I only really learned about after she died, is that my mother was a very loving, generous, talented, smart and even wise righteous woman who was simply sorely misunderstood during her lifetime. She tried very hard to comply to the stereotypical roles & expectations of the times, Even though she finally came to realize her real role as a poet, artist and intellectual she still held tight to her desire to fulfill the role of the perfect wife and mother. Was that the reason why eventually it all fell apart for her? The reality was that she really did not fit the role. My mother was a hopeless romantic. She held onto the idea of the "happily ever after" dream that has been drilled into us women for decades. She loved music, people and LIFE! She was passionate about the things and the people she loved. She went out of her way to right the wrong and help others. She lived to the age of 88, the last five years bed-bound. She overcame all the obstacles that were placed in front of her in life. She certainly may have chosen the more difficult road, but she forged ahead nevertheless. My mother died on the eve of Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar. That made her officially a "tzaddikah" - a righteous woman. I didn't know it until then. She was most certainly a grand woman of valor whom, thank G-D, I finally came to know even after the fact. May Her Memory Be A Blessing. 

ל  שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן, וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי:    אִשָּׁה יִרְאַת-יְהוָה, הִיא תִתְהַלָּל.30 Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that fears the L-RD, she shall be praised.















3. Minna Leah. If anyone can fulfill every line of this poem it is my good friend, Minna Leah. I have spent a good part of my stay here in Israel welcomed and embraced by this very fine woman and longtime friend. She opened her home to me, gave me my own room, and fed me with the most delicious of meals that she whipped up in seconds. A seamstress, she insisted on making me beautiful new clothes for everyday and for performance. These, too, she whipped up in no time. It never failed to amaze me as I watched her create all these things out of nothing. She loves her garden and has made her home a paradise. She is caring, compassionate, giving... all that and fun to talk to and be with too! WOW. Minna Leah - I can't thank you enough. You embody "eshet hayil". You are the complete package! Don't change anything! 

י  אֵשֶׁת-חַיִל, מִי יִמְצָא;    וְרָחֹק מִפְּנִינִים מִכְרָהּ.10 A woman of valour who can find? for her price is far above rubies.






4. Dvorah Belinky. We started out as founding members of "Tofa'ah", the all-woman band. Dvorah taught me a lot back then in the first part of the 1980's. An observant young adult, she was very concerned about the way the music we were writing would represent the Biblical verses we were applying it to. Deep and profound discussions ensued about whether a particular note was appropriate for a particular word, or a melody was right for a phrase. I wondered back then why this was so important? I was fairly ignorant of Torah back then. It was Dvorah who enlightened me even if I thought at that time that those discussions were a bit over-the-top! Thinking about then, reuniting over the years and again now, I am very glad to have a friend in Dvorah. Today, with nine children and five grandchildren (so far), Dvorah is more casual, open and yet more wise (yes, I know that should be written as "wiser"). I'm still learning loads from Dvorah! Dvorah has produced numerous recordings with her family band, Shevet Achim. You will love the music! 

כו  פִּיהָ, פָּתְחָה בְחָכְמָה;    וְתוֹרַת חֶסֶד, עַל-לְשׁוֹנָהּ.26 She opens her mouth with wisdom; and the law of kindness is on her tongue.






5. Yona Yacabovitch. I've written much about my dear friend, Yona. So I will refer you to the blogposts to learn all about her. She rises very high in my books! 

כה  עֹז-וְהָדָר לְבוּשָׁהּ;    וַתִּשְׂחַק, לְיוֹם אַחֲרוֹן.25 Strength and dignity are her clothing; and she laughs at the time to come.



6. Linda Lown-Klein. Yup, you are a very long-time friend. You were my guitar student, roommate, my mom's friend too... we've seen good times and terribly difficult times together. We've been friends in Israel and friends in the USA and now again back in Israel. You've graciously taken me in, offered me a room and yummy meals. We've had fun meeting in cafes around Jerusalem. And wow, hosting Amavevane Acapella was scrumptious. Thank you for it all! 

לא  תְּנוּ-לָהּ, מִפְּרִי יָדֶיהָ;    וִיהַלְלוּהָ בַשְּׁעָרִים מַעֲשֶׂיהָ.  {ש}31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her works praise her in the gates.




I will stop here even though there are so many more women I want to openly honor here in Israel: Channa (author of In Pursuit of Trust - a page turner!), Hadassah (thanks also for the personal guided tour of Yad VaShem!), Shelley Brinn (doing great things for the Maaleh Adumim community), Daniella (my wonderful sister-in-law), Esther C. (Keep an eye out for the song we just co-wrote, Fan Letter: To Dylan from Israel. Esther is a poet, author and more - wow!), Esther F. (thank you for Shabbats and delicious quiches!), Annie Orenstein (check her out here), Friede & her daughters (you're on your way!)... so many more! I hope you know who you are and I thank you all for being my long-time and my new friends. 

Proverbs Chapter 31 מִשְׁלֵי

י  אֵשֶׁת-חַיִל, מִי יִמְצָא;    וְרָחֹק מִפְּנִינִים מִכְרָהּ.10 A woman of valour who can find? for her price is far above rubies.
יא  בָּטַח בָּהּ, לֵב בַּעְלָהּ;    וְשָׁלָל, לֹא יֶחְסָר.11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, and he hath no lack of gain.
יב  גְּמָלַתְהוּ טוֹב וְלֹא-רָע--    כֹּל, יְמֵי חַיֶּיהָ.12 She doeth him good and not evil all the days of her life.
יג  דָּרְשָׁה, צֶמֶר וּפִשְׁתִּים;    וַתַּעַשׂ, בְּחֵפֶץ כַּפֶּיהָ.13 She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
יד  הָיְתָה, כָּאֳנִיּוֹת סוֹחֵר;    מִמֶּרְחָק, תָּבִיא לַחְמָהּ.14 She is like the merchant-ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
טו  וַתָּקָם, בְּעוֹד לַיְלָה--וַתִּתֵּן טֶרֶף לְבֵיתָהּ;    וְחֹק, לְנַעֲרֹתֶיהָ.15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth food to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
טז  זָמְמָה שָׂדֶה, וַתִּקָּחֵהוּ;    מִפְּרִי כַפֶּיהָ, נטע (נָטְעָה) כָּרֶם.16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
יז  חָגְרָה בְעוֹז מָתְנֶיהָ;    וַתְּאַמֵּץ, זְרוֹעֹתֶיהָ.17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and maketh strong her arms.
יח  טָעֲמָה, כִּי-טוֹב סַחְרָהּ;    לֹא-יִכְבֶּה בליל (בַלַּיְלָה) נֵרָהּ.18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good; her lamp goeth not out by night.
יט  יָדֶיהָ, שִׁלְּחָה בַכִּישׁוֹר;    וְכַפֶּיהָ, תָּמְכוּ פָלֶךְ.19 She layeth her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.
כ  כַּפָּהּ, פָּרְשָׂה לֶעָנִי;    וְיָדֶיהָ, שִׁלְּחָה לָאֶבְיוֹן.20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.
כא  לֹא-תִירָא לְבֵיתָהּ מִשָּׁלֶג:    כִּי כָל-בֵּיתָהּ, לָבֻשׁ שָׁנִים.21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed with scarlet.
כב  מַרְבַדִּים עָשְׂתָה-לָּהּ;    שֵׁשׁ וְאַרְגָּמָן לְבוּשָׁהּ.22 She maketh for herself coverlets; her clothing is fine linen and purple.
כג  נוֹדָע בַּשְּׁעָרִים בַּעְלָהּ;    בְּשִׁבְתּוֹ, עִם-זִקְנֵי-אָרֶץ.23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.
כד  סָדִין עָשְׂתָה, וַתִּמְכֹּר;    וַחֲגוֹר, נָתְנָה לַכְּנַעֲנִי.24 She maketh linen garments and selleth them; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.
כה  עֹז-וְהָדָר לְבוּשָׁהּ;    וַתִּשְׂחַק, לְיוֹם אַחֲרוֹן.25 Strength and dignity are her clothing; and she laugheth at the time to come.
כו  פִּיהָ, פָּתְחָה בְחָכְמָה;    וְתוֹרַת חֶסֶד, עַל-לְשׁוֹנָהּ.26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and the law of kindness is on her tongue.
כז  צוֹפִיָּה, הילכות (הֲלִיכוֹת) בֵּיתָהּ;    וְלֶחֶם עַצְלוּת, לֹא תֹאכֵל.27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.
כח  קָמוּ בָנֶיהָ, וַיְאַשְּׁרוּהָ;    בַּעְלָהּ, וַיְהַלְלָהּ.28 Her children rise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her:
כט  רַבּוֹת בָּנוֹת, עָשׂוּ חָיִל;    וְאַתְּ, עָלִית עַל-כֻּלָּנָה.29 'Many daughters have done valiantly, but thou excellest them all.'
ל  שֶׁקֶר הַחֵן, וְהֶבֶל הַיֹּפִי:    אִשָּׁה יִרְאַת-יְהוָה, הִיא תִתְהַלָּל.30 Grace is deceitful, and beauty is vain; but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised.
לא  תְּנוּ-לָהּ, מִפְּרִי יָדֶיהָ;    וִיהַלְלוּהָ בַשְּׁעָרִים מַעֲשֶׂיהָ.  {ש}31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her works praise her in the gates. {P}



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