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Eishet Chayil – verse two

April 2, 2010
Eishet Chayil, verse two, Proverbs 31:11

Eishet Chayil, verse two

Bet, beit, or beth, the second letter of the alef-bet, means house, within, with, or aean. The second verse of the ode to the wife, the lady of the house, begins with the word batakh (bet-tet-khet): trust. Bet has a numerical value of two.  Indeed, without two, there cannot be with.  This verse speaks of two dwelling together.  Trust and safety with each other is necessary for a marriage.  If either party is in a constant state of fear and tension, always afraid that the other will gamble or waste the family resources, will bring filth or degradation into the relationship, will commit violence, or will abandon the other, there would be a lack of batakh.  We need batakh, a sense that we can and will dwell safely and securely with each other and with our neighbors. Batakh frees us to do our best work.

Bah (bet-hey) simply means in her.

Lev (lamedbet) is the heart – the schoolhouse of the body – the place where we learn. In English, we speak of learning something by heart.  This is where our learning lives – where learning comes to active living.  The husband of an eishet chayil has learned to be secure in his relationship with his wife.  She will do him good and not evil, all the days of her life.

Baalah (betayinlamedhey) is a common word for husband.  This is the word and concept that sticks out to me like an onion in a petunia patch! We are most familiar with this word as the name of a pagan idol, and it is often translated as lord, or dominator; so to use this term to name a husband of a valorous woman seems a bit incongruous to me.  However, looking at the terms related to this word, it begins to make just a little more sense to me.  Baal can be a pagan dominator idol, a husband, or a master – as in master of a craft. Baalah can be a wife, a mistress of the house, or a mistress of a craft – including witchcraft or divination. Beulah means married. We see, then, the concept that most words, ideas, or matters can have either positive applications or negative applications. It is up to us to make the right decisions in our lives with all the circumstances that surround us.

V’shalal (vavshinlamedlamed) – another incongruity. Vav is the Hebrew conjunction (and, or, however -all of the English conjunctions would be translations of the letter vav.) Shalal is usually translated as spoils or booty, as in “spoils of war.”  In this verse, it is usually translated as rewards. But as often as the word shalal is translated as spoils, it brings up an incongruous image of a woman of war as the ideal woman or wife.

Lo (lamedalef) is simply a negative – no or not.

Yekhsar (yod-khet-samekh-resh) means he lacks.

So, her husband trusts in her, and does not lack for spoils, booty, or more acceptably, a reward.  For now, I will go with a simple reward for his trust in her and in her strength of character, but we will see where this passage will take us!

For now, we will remember that “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor of YHVH.” (Prov. 18:22).  “Houses and lands are the inheritance from the fathers, but from YHVH is a skillful wife.” (Prov. 19:14)

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