A Woman of Valor

Commentary by Dr. Ursula A. Falk


Eishet Chayil


Eishet Chayil sometimes  pronounced Esches Chaye, is a Hebrew phrase meaning wife or woman whose life is honorable, good, worthwhile, holy, and more.  Chay in itself means life.  An esches caye is a life well lived.  The connotation is that of a good, kind honorable woman or wife who has a kind heart and engages her being in good deeds.  The story has it that if it were not for the esches chaye, Jewish life would have vanished, would no longer exist. 

When Pharaoh decreed that all first born Jewish males should die, the men decided to refrain from having intercourse with their wives in order not to bring any more children into this world.  The women realized that Hashem (G’d) would save them and bring them out of Egypt, so they persuaded their husbands to bring more Jewish children into the world.  The women’s faith and foresight were to have merited the redemption from Egypt of the entire Jewish people.

It is the Jewish woman who time and time again saved the Jewish people through her insightfulness, virtue, and belief in G’d.  Many examples can here be cited.  One was Rebecca, who helped disguise her son Jacob so that her husband Isaac would bestow blessings upon him and not upon Jacob’s brother, Esau.  She allegedly knew that it was Jacob who had the character to become the father of the Jewish people.  Later, it was his twelve sons who, it was said, “led the tribes of Israel.”

It is stated that it is the Jewish woman in whose merit will come the Messiah and will bring forth the final redemption of the Jewish people.  It was said that it is the Jewish woman who is the one entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the three mitzvoth (good deeds-blessings) central to the Jewish home: “Kashrut, Shabbath and Mikvah.”

If not for her there would be no home, no family, no Jewish people.  In the orthodox home she sits as the queen of her table while all those around her sing her praises.

As we look into our modern world, we realize the discrepancies in our Jewish beliefs.  In our prayers there is a phrase in which the men thank Hashem for not making them women. 

Today we believe in equality as well as differences between men and women.  We believe in peace, not only between nations but also between people.  It helps to let each person know his or her strength; it never hurts to praise a woman (or man) for her kindness, her help, her insightfulness.  Justified praise and recognition drives people on to do better to be helpful and appreciated. Knowing the difference between the personalities, the strengths, the abilities of both genders makes us educated and realistic.  Domination and ill will never helps to get the best from either the male or the female human being, nor from nations.

Our childhood, our healthy role models have an enormous influence on how we react as people regardless of our gender. With modern knowledge and the advancement of scientific findings, we have advanced considerably in our outlook our understanding of the universe and of people, to be aware of equalities and differences. 

We remember to appreciate our heritage, our mothers, our fathers, and all those who inhabited this world before us.  Our insights and beliefs will change with new learning but we will never abandon, nor will we ever lose our heritage.   The two words, the phrase for the woman of valor, the  “Esches Chaye,” or “Eishet  Chayil,” can still be seen on the tombstones of our always remembered, our beloved mothers.


 Dr. Ursula A. Falk is a psychotherapist in private practice and the author of several books and articles.

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