In addition, the root of the
word eishes, eish, which means fire. Thus, eishes chayil, is a
woman who is charged with a fiery love of Hashem, the Torah, her
husband, and her family.
In Shemos (18:21) the quality of valor is listed as the first
desirable attribute, even before fear of Hashem and
truthfulness. Valor refers to energy of character, which is
manifested by action. It thus includes all other desirable
Avigdor Miller, A Nation is Born, p. 241)
The Vilna Gaon points out how
precisely the metaphor matches the subject, in that the
numerical equivalent (gematriah) of the word chayil is
forty-eight, which corresponds to the forty-eight qualities that
are essential in order to acquire the Torah. Thus, in order to
"find" Torah, to truly merit to acquire genuine Torah, one must
develop himself in the forty-eight forms of the perfection that
are listed in Chapter 6 of Pirkei Avos.
Mi Yimtza - Who Can Find?
This phrase alludes to
Bereishis (2:20), where the Torah teaches that there was a
search to find a helpmate for Adam. First Hashem said (2:18):
"It is not good for man to be alone; I shall make for him a
congruent helpmate." We then find an unsuccessful search amongst
all of the creatures that Hashem had created, until the Torah
concludes: "And for the man he did not find a congruent
Why did the Creator conduct a search for Adam to find a wife?
Likewise, why does Shlomo HaMelech in Mishlei here teach that it
is difficult to "find" a virtuous wife?
Rabbi Avigdor Miller explains: "We realize that Adam was
being prepared for a wife. The Creator employed the stratagem of
having Adam search through all of the creatures that God had
created to emphasize the great need for an appropriate mate. If
Adam had been offered a wife without sufficient introduction, he
may have considered her an encumbrance or a competitor. Every
benefit is appreciated more fully if it arrives after its need
is felt" (The Beginning, p. 78)
This may be a reason why Hashem
seems to withhold from some people their finding of the “right
one” for a long time. They should contemplate the need for a
spouse and sincerely request Hashem’s assistance in their quest.
As Mishlei sums up this matter
in an earlier chapter (18:22): “He who finds a wife finds good,
and he obtains favor from Hashem!”
Her Value Is Far Greater
The connection to the first
part of the verse is now obvious. After a search, one realizes
that a wife is far more valuable than all of the possible wealth
in the world.
People tend to misjudge the
value of the marriage relationship. A person may feel if he had
made enough money, he could buy most of the services that he
would need and manage without marriage. But Hashem knows better.
“It is not good for man to be alone!” A wife is the “good”
helpmate that is that is the greatest find he will ever
discover. Let him make the best of it and utilize the
opportunity fully by appreciating Hashem’s gift to him in
fulfillment of the verse: ‘Rejoice with the wife of your youth”
(Mishlei 5:18). If you have the right attitude and you work on
understanding and appreciating Hashem’s ways, you will have
cause to rejoice endlessly. However, one who rejects a pious and
wise woman fails the test and loses the greatest wealth.
First, this verse obligates us
to continuously pray to Hashem for assistance in “finding.”
Tehillim (32:6) teaches: ‘Let every pious person pray to You at
a time of finding.” The Gemara (Berachos 8a) explains: “At the
time of finding a wife.” Thus, we must pray first to find the
right partner and then continue to pray all of our lives that we
should appreciate the fantastic find that Hashem has provided
Second, Berachos (8a) teaches that the Sages would ask everyone,
soon after they were married, whether they had “found” a wife or
whether they were “finding” a wife. This is explained as
referring to either of these verses:
“One who found a wife has found
goodness” (Mishlei 18:22)
“I find more bitter than death a woman” (Koheles 7:26)
This is puzzling. What is the
purpose of the question? The Vilna Gaon explains that the
difference lies in the tense of the word “found” or “finding.”
The verse in Mishlei is worded in the past tense, whereas the
verse in Koheles is worded in the present tense. This teaches us
that our happiness is in our hands! If we decide to appreciate
the great find that Hashem has bestowed on us, we are fortunate.
However, one who is still seeking will find trouble. We must
open our eyes and rejoice!
Her husband trusts her
wholeheartedly, and (as a result) he does not lack any treasure.
The word for trust (bitachon)
is usually used in connection with trusting in Hashem. Thus, we
may wonder why this verse considers it appropriate for a husband
to put his trust in his wife?
This issue becomes even more surprising when we study the
initial instruction Hashem gives man in regard to his
relationship with his wife: “Therefore a man should forsake his
father and his mother, and should cling (davak) to his wife, and
they should become [as] one flesh” (Bereshis 2:24). The word
“cling” is the same as that used in reference to “cling” to
Hashem (Devarim 10:20). A man is instructed to form a bond with
his wife to the degree that they become as inseparable as if
they were one person.
Thus, man’s reliance on his
wife is a directive (mitzvah) of the Torah, which teaches them
to form a union. Together, as one unit, they trust solely in
Hashem Who created them both and made them for each other.
The emphasis that he trusts her
with his heart indicates that it is not mere logical trust, but
one that is deeply rooted in his emotions as well.
The Torah’s emphasis “They
shall be as one flesh” and the Gemara’s expression “His wife is
as his body” (Berachos 24a) indicate that a husband should
consider his wife as actually apart of himself. Thus, his
feelings towards her supersede, in a certain sense, even his
relationship with his parents.
Why does the Torah describe marriage as “forsaking one’s
parents” (Bereishis 2:24), when the Torah itself teaches as one
of the Ten Commandments the obligation to always honor one’s
parents? The answer is that your spouse is like you, and your
care for yourself in a fulfillment of honoring your parents, who
desire your completion and achievements in perfecting yourself.
No Lack of Treasure
Hashem’s gift of a mate is
designed to provide countless benefits. We are expected to
consider the many benefits and to be as appreciative and excited
as one who finds infinite treasure!
The word shalal (treasure) usually refers to spoils that are
gained by a victor in battle or an unexpected gain. She fulfills
his expectations and then much more than he was able to imagine.
Good and Not Bad
She provides him with good and
not bad, all the days of her life. (31:12)
How do we imagine a person so
virtuous as to never cause someone harm? Is she an angel?
This refers us to the unique capacity inherent in a wife. The
Torah reveals Hashem’s miracle of a woman serving as a “helpmate
opposite him” (eizer k’negdo)(Bereishis 2:18). Only the Great
Designer could fashion a help that serves also as an opposite. A
man and his wife perfect each other through their differences.
They were not made alike: “Women are a people to themselves”
(Shabbos 62a). Each has his/her own ways and attributes, and
each is intended by Hashem to serve as a test to the other. Each
complements the other, so that each one can harmonize and
develop his/her potential to the fullest in the service of
Hashem. Thus, even a contentious wife is a precious gift from
Heaven, meant as a test in the service of Hashem (as the Gemara
illustrates in Yevamos 63).
When we understand the benefits
intended by Hashem even from the seeming bad that occurs in this
world, we realize that it is not bad at all. A challenge is
good, for it helps elevate and perfect a person when he
approaches life with the attitudes taught by the Torah.
The first three verses are a
general introduction to the subject.
A wife is:
1. the greatest treasure one
2. reliable and trustworthy,
3. all good.
We continue now by itemizing
some of her specific attributes in detail.
She seeks [to buy] Wool and
She seeks [to buy] wool and
linen, and she manufactures [does] them with willing hands.
The word used here for seek
(doreish) is generally used for seeking Hashem. We understand
that a virtuous woman’s efforts, even in her daily tasks, are
performed with the pure intentions of doing Hashem’s will. She
is always serving Hashem by building a loyal home of service for
Hashem. Thus, working with wool and linen is not an interruption
from the service of Hashem, but rather an intrinsic part of the
service. It is a form of seeking Hashem because it is done for
The phrase “and she does”
(va’ta;as) is reminiscent of the expression “to do” (la’asos) in
Bereishis (2:3), where Hashem ceased from the work He had
created “to do.” The addition of “to do” includes the lesson
that Hashem prepared the world for man to take over and do. He
is responsible to develop the world and use it for the service
She Seeks Out Wool and Linen
This reference includes her
concern to fulfill the prohibition against using materials that
are combined of wool and linen – shatnes (VaYikra 19:19, Devarim
22:11). A person looking for a suitable garment will check the
fabric, style, size, and many other considerations. But the
Torah instructs us to consider the separation of wool and linen
as a primary consideration. A Jew places this issue at the top
of his list.
With Willing Hands
This Torah attitude is taught
in the Talmud (Nedarim 19b): “How great is work!” The Mishnah
(Avos, ch. 1) also inspires us to “love work!”
We may ask why we begin with
her efforts for clothing before that of food? There is an
underlying explanation for the prohibition of shatnes (mixed
wool and linen) that teaches a perspective for everything else
that we do in life. Pirkei D’ Rebbe Eliezer (ch. 20) teaches
that the offering of Cain contained flax (Bereishis 4:3),
whereas the offering from Abel was from sheep, which included
their wool. Cain’s offering was not accepted by Hashem, and he
subsequently became the first to shed human blood. Thus, the
prohibition against wearing shatnes includes the symbolic lesson
that the offerings of Cain and Abel must not even mingle in the
weave of a garment. In order to succeed in life, we must keep in
mind the principle that one should not mingle with those of
The way we dress and clothing
we wear remind us of the need to stay apart, so that even when
we go out to earn our daily bread, we follow the Torah’s
guidance for all of our endeavors.
As a Merchant’s Ship
She was a merchant’s ship,
bringing her bread even from a distance. (31:14)
What is the meaning of this
metaphor? A ship may need to travel from place to place, even to
great distances, to accumulate its load. It may also need to
search for appropriate sources in order to secure adequate
profits. The virtuous wife is also committed to her tasks in a
determined way, to do whatever is required of her and more.
Bringing Her Bread
The process of obtaining bread
is demanding: “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread”
(Bereishis 3:19). One of the reasons for this requirement is
that it helps protect one from sin (Avos 2:2). Thus, it is an
ideal that she is actively involved in positive causes to avoid
“idleness which leads to immorality” (Kesubos 39b). Toiling for
a livelihood is referred to as the yoke of derech eretz (worldly
responsibilities) (Avos 3:5), which also means decent behavior.
While It Was Still Night
And she arose while it was
still night, to give food to her household and a portion to her
The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni)
relates this verse to “And Avraham arose early in the morning”
(Bereishis 22:3). The righteous are energetic to rise as soon as
possible to serve Hashem with alacrity. She rose at an early
hour to supervise her household personally in accordance with
the principle of “The energetic hasten early to do mitzvos”
(Pesachim), and “It is more of a mitzvah to do it personally
rather than through an agent” (Kiddushin 41a).
And She Gave Food
The words for food here, teref
and chok, are a reference to Mishlei 30:8 where Shlomo HaMelech
prays to Hashem for his basic needs. He pleads that Hashem
should not make him too poor or too rich. He then concludes with
the phrase hatrifeini lechem chuki0 provide me with the proper
amount for my daily needs. A righteous woman stays in control of
the situation to distribute her food supplies in a rational
In addition, the word teref implies procured in a sudden manner
(see Bereishis 8:11 and Yoma 39a, the first word of the
Mishnah.) This indicates that one should always acknowledge that
his food is a direct gift from Hashem, as if it had just
appeared on your table through Hashem’s unlimited kindness.
She planned to obtain a field
and she bought it; from the fruit of her hands, she planted a
This verse seems strange to us.
When we see a virtuous woman involved in producing clothing in
verse 4 or food in verse 5, we understand it as appropriate
activities. However, here she seems to embark on money-making
ventures that seem out of place for a righteous woman. Yet, we
must realize that her approach is to serve Hashem sincerely in
every possible manner. When she can make investments that will
help in the long run, she is involved with the same alacrity and
single-minded devotion that she invests in her daily tasks.
The word zamemah implies that
she planned and maintained a savings program though constant
thrift in order to accumulate sufficient savings to purchase a
She Planted a Vineyard
A vineyard has a prominent
place in her program because its product, wine, is useful in
promoting good deeds. When wine is used properly, as for
Kiddush, Havdalah, wedding celebrations, Bris Milah, etc., it
encourages the service to Hashem. “ Wine is called tirosh
because if one uses it meritoriously, it assists in elevating
him to a leadership position (rosh); but if it is misused, he
becomes a pauper (raish)” (Sanhedrin 70a).
After the Great Flood, Noach
began his agricultural rebuilding of the world by planting a
vineyard. His intentions were surely virtuous, but he is still
criticized for not beginning first with another plant, due to
the potential risk with wine (Rashi, Bereishis 9:20). Thus, the
virtuous woman, who has learned the Torah’s lessons from Noach,
begins with another field and then plants a vineyard.
She girds her loins with
strength, and her arms with power. (31:17)
Although she has many children
and many servants (as noted in v.15), she utilizes her own self
in the service of Hashem. Her valor invigorates her entire body
to join personally in the privilege of using her limbs
energetically for Hashem’s sake.
As she continues to amass
assets, she finds it necessary to gird herself in order to
maintain her balance and to protect against the potential
temptations that emerge with success. The Talmud uses the
expression of this verse in regard to clinging to Torah scholars
(Shabbos 63a). It indicates the fortification necessary to
combat negative influences and to further one’s advancement in
positive causes. Rashi says: “Cling to a Torah scholar, for
eventually you will benefit from his teachings.”
We also learn that initially a
person must struggle to accomplish a good deed. Mitzvos, as a
matter of course, do not come easily. It is only when one
perseveres and does his best that Hashem assists the person and
helps him succeed.
She tasted the goodness of her
efforts; she did not extinguish her light at night. (31:18)
Previously in verse 6, we spoke
of her rising early, while still dark, to begin her program. Now
we proceed to explain that when she sees success in her efforts,
she continues to advance full speed ahead. This is the principle
of mitzvah gorgers mitzvah (Avos 4:2) – one good deed leads to
Furthermore, the Moiré explains that the taste of success tends
to throw people off the proper track. Thus, this verse
emphasizes that although she was successful and grew wealthy,
she did not become lazy and relax from her efforts. Her lights
are still shining at night as she continues to produce.
She stretches out her hands to
her spinning (visitor), and her palms support her spindle
Although she is involved in
commerce and in business endeavors, she does not neglect
domestic arts (spinning, weaving, sewing).
The word visitor also means
“with kashrus" Vilna Gaon). She stretches out her hands with
attention to all the laws of keeping kosher that pertain to all
of one’s actions. Her efforts are in accordance with all of the
laws of the Torah.
The word palace is used in Yoma
(66b): “A woman’s wisdom is at her palace.” Her unique skills
are typified be the ability to build from scratch. She is able
to manufacture threads and develop garments. This capacity
carries into all aspects of life. She is the expert at building
her family, society, and the entire Jewish nation.
Her palm she spreads to a poor person, and her hands are
extended to the very poor. (31:20)
The word literally means to
“break off.” She even shares from her own portion of bread by
breaking off a piece for others.
Her Hands She Sends to the Very
Why does is say she “sends”
(sheltie) her hands? Pirkei Avos (5:13) teaches that the highest
level of giving is to say: “Mine is yours and yours is yours.”
We can explain “She sends her hands to the poor” as to say “They
She does not fear the snow for
her household, for her entire household is clothed in wool.
She prepares fine bedspreads for herself, linen and purple wool
for her garments. (31:22)
Her husband is famous in gatherings, as he sits with the elders
of the land. (31:23)
Garments she would make to sell, and belts she would give to
Strength and glory are her garments, and she rejoices in
expectancy of her last day. (31:25)
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teachings of kindliness
are on her tongue. (31:26)
There is a requirement here for a person to utilize the skills
of an actor. Even if a person does not feel up to it internally,
it is essential to always speak only that which is wise and
She watches the ways of her house, and she does not eat the
bread of idleness. (31:27)
To the Ways of Her House
Countless issues are included
in “the ways” that she supervises. Safety is one of the prime
requirements of a Jewish home and way of life. “Do not put blood
upon your home” (Devarim 22:8), which refers to a failure to put
up adequate safety railings. Parents must be on guard against
many similar situations in order to prevent and mishap from
She Does Not Eat the Bread
Her supervision extends to all
aspects of her household. As an example, we refer to the
preparation of bread, which is the staff of life. Specifically,
we are taught, “If there is no flour, there is no Torah” (Avos
3:21). Thus, she is energetic in preparing bread with
realization that it is not merely a material meal but that it
supplies the greatest spiritual benefits.
Her children arose and praised her, her husband [also arose] and
praised her enthusiastically. (31:28)
It is a mitzvah to rise in
honor of our parents. It is also certainly a mitzvah to praise
them. Clayey Adam (call 67) explains that there are three parts
to obligation of honoring parents: action, word, and thought.
The Talmud relates that when Rebbe Josef would hear his mother’s
footsteps, he would say: “I shall rise in honor of the Shoeshine
(Divine Presence).” Thus, he would combine aspects of action
(rising), speaking, and thinking. The more we consider greatness
and importance in our parents, the more we will be fulfilling
our obligation in this matter.
The husband’s moral obligation
to pay his unlimited debt of gratitude to his wife is fulfilled
in a small way be singing her praises all the time. Studying her
praises and voicing them enthusiastically is a minimal form of
hakaras hatov (gratitude).
Mosaic of Praise
Many daughters have achieved
valor, but you (v’at) have surpassed them all. (31:29)
There are people who excel in
one or more of the above qualities. But we are referring to one
who excels in all of them. This is one of the purposes of
alef-beis sequence of these verses. The virtuous wife is
compared to the Torah; thus, she is praised with all twenty-two
letters on the Hebrew alphabet, which forms all the words of the
The twenty-two praises compose
a mosaic of perfection. She is lauded with all the praises
possible. In order to be sure that we do not omit any
commendations, we must use every letter, for God initially
created the Torah composed of the letters of the alef-beis and
subsequently utilized the Torah as the blueprint for the
creation of the universe.
Charm is false, and beauty is
vain, a woman who fears Hashem is to be praised. (31:30)
Why did Hashem provide
exceptional physical to Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, and Yoseif (see
Bereishis 12:14, 24:16, 29:17, 39:6) if it is not considered
praiseworthy? We realize that these were people who achieved
perfection in their fear of Hashem. Hashem granted them external
beauty in order to advertise their unique virtue, as one who
puts jewels into an expensive box to highlight the value of the
Give her from the fruit of her hands, and praise her at public
gatherings for her deeds.
Her actions speak for
themselves. We do not have to fabricate material with which to
praise her. This verse underscores one of the primary themes of
these twenty-two verses.
“Say little and do much” (Avos 1:15). She is not even depicted
as talking until verse 26. She is constant motion, in the
performance of good deeds. She is energetic and active.
Although her speech in verse 26
only consists of wisdom and kindness, we still wait until now
before mentioning it. The priorities of the Torah are paramount
in her life, and we learn from her how to gauge our efforts.
“Say little and do much.”
This is her motto!
May each of us merit to
appreciate and emulate the infinite attributes of the true
eishes chayil – the woman of valor in our lives.
Rabbeinu Bachya, in his
introduction to the last Parasha of the Torah (VeZos HaBerachah),
elaborates on the lessons from Eishes Chayil.
We learn mussar and derech
eretz to search for a good wife, who will serve as the
foundation of one’s home and to build a proper edifice.
A good wife, who has all of the
good character traits, encompasses the entire Torah, for she is
his assistant for success in Torah and Mitzvos, just as the body
assists the soul to serve Hashem.
May we all aspire to these qualities of energy to serve Hashem
in every possible way, as we find with all of the great
personalities of Tanach, Talmud, and throughout our glorious
- Exert from: Gems from