Eishet Chayil — a Woman of Valor — is a poem taken from the Book of Proverbs. It is traditionally sung on Friday evenings by a man to his wife. It honors the Divine Feminine is us.
Last year I began a ritual to sing Eishet Chayil every Friday night.
It’s been interesting to see how different lines resonate differently with me at different points of time. One line I always find powerful is
she opens her mouth with wisdom, and a lesson of kindness is on her tongue.
That line took on a new resonance this past weekend, on the first Shabbat after the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history.
We’ve had too many of these attacks in what are supposed to be sacred sanctuaries: churches, mosques, synagogues, schools.
The response after each one is the same: bury the dead and point a finger in blame at the people or systems we hold responsible.
The divisive discourse. The president. The NRA.
Hate and blame are both children of fear. The fear that someone will take something from us or that someone has already taken something from us.
When we react to hate with blame, we give credence to the fear.
How many more assassins will waltz into sacred sanctuaries, how many more innocent people will get caught in the crossfire, before we realize that our habitual reaction isn’t working?
The Jewish tradition places supreme importance on the power of words. Look through the confessionals we say on Yom Kippur — you will see that many relate to our sins of speech.
Words have the power to create and destroy.
Reflecting on this after the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in US history, it occurs to me that this is the task for Jewish women (and all women) in this time of division and hate.
The Eishet Chayil, the Divine Feminine, does not fear scarcity. She has faith that God will provide for her and her family and they will lack for nothing.
The Eishet Chayil opens her mouth with wisdom.
What is the wisdom?
The lessons of kindness on her tongue.
Not just kindness. Loving-kindness. This is the more accurate translation of the Hebrew word chesed.
The Divine Feminine instructs and educates those around her by modeling this behavior that brings compassion, love, and peace to the world.
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and lessons of loving-kindness are on her tongue.
As I sang these words, it struck me that this is a worthy goal. Or, more accurately, practice. It’s not a place we will reach. It’s a thing we can strive to do every day.
If that were all we accomplished each day, I bet we would see some profound changes, internally and externally.