A Woman of Valor

By Tamara Cohen

Traditionally, Eshet Chayyil A Woman of Valor, from the Book of Proverbs, is sung to the woman of the household by her husband. Many women have objected to this text for a variety of reasons. Others still choose to sing it or have it sung to them. The following reading is offered as a negotiation between these positions.

From Book of Proverbs 31:25,26,31
עֹז-וְהָדָר לְבוּשָׁהּ;    וַתִּשְׂחַק, לְיוֹם אַחֲרוֹן
פִּיהָ, פָּתְחָה בְחָכְמָה;    וְתוֹרַת חֶסֶד, עַל-לְשׁוֹנָהּ
תְּנוּ-לָהּ, מִפְּרִי יָדֶיהָ;    וִיהַלְלוּהָ בַשְּׁעָרִים מַעֲשֶׂיהָ



Oz v'hadar l'vusha va-tiskhak l'yom akharon:
Pi-ha patkha b'khokhma v'torat khesed al l'shona
T'nu la mi'pri yadeyha v'yihaleluha b'sh'arim ma'aseyha

She wears strength and beauty and she laughs at the future.
She opens her mouth with wisdom and the learning of kindness is on her tongue.
Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates.

I remember well Shabbat evenings around our family table. When it came time for my father to sing Eshet Chayil, A Woman of Valor, my mother, the proud feminist, wanted the song. Every word of it. She'd worked hard. The bags under her eyes were dark. A three-course meal was ready in the kitchen even though she'd only left her office an hour before. She wanted the song. Yes, she knew the words. Written by men of another time, Eshet Chayil didn't exactly describe her own sense of the way things should be. But it was there: two minutes built into the traditional Friday night ritual that were just for her. Two minutes when she could sit back and close her eyes and feel, yes, yes, I deserve a song.

I deserve a song. I deserve a song and so much, much more. I deserve a song.
Because an Eshet Chayil is a woman of strength and woman of strength is not hard to find.
She is my mother, my grandmother, my sister, my friend.
She is my beloved, my teacher, my daughter, my companion, my neighbor.
I too am a woman of strength.
Eshet Chayil Bi Emtza.
A woman of strength within myself I will find.
This Shabbat, I will find her again and give her a song and so much more.



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