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Eishet Chayil – verse four

April 25, 2010
Proverbs 31:13

She seeks wool and linen (flax) and her hands work with delight

Dalet is the fourth letter of the Hebrew alef-bet.  It has a numerical value of four, and it represents a door. I think we get our English word delete from dalet.  If we want to delete something, we figuratively toss it out the door! We go in and out through the doors of our lives, seeking opportunities. (Opportunities is the way we like to translate the Hebrew word mitzvot. While the common translation is commandments, we see each of them as a blessing to be taken hold of rather than a command to be grudgingly obeyed.  All of the commandments are blessings.  Opportunities are facing the open door — the Latin words are op [the first letters of the Latin word for eye, the first letters in opposition, the first letters in open] and port – door, gate, or harbor.  The suffix is probably from unus- one).

The word darsha (dalet-resh-shin-hey) comes from the Hebrew word derash (seek), with a hey suffix, meaning she.  Dalet-resh-shin is active searching.  A midrash is the presentation of  a search for meaning, and it holds the same place in Jewish worship services as a Christian sermon.  Whereas the sermon has a connotation of a discourse or lecture, indicating a passive audience of entertaining, enlightening, or boring material, a midrash is an invitation to actively join and participate in the search for understanding.  The Eishet Chayil actively seeks the material she needs to do her work.

Tzemer (tzaddi-mem-resh) wool, also means an outer or upper covering, as in the wooly coat of a sheep or a person, a tent or a tree-top. It is related to words for plucking, pruning, cutting, protecting, guarding, or covering. A closely related sound-alike word zemer, means to pluck, to play, or to sing.  First the wool is plucked, cut, or shorn from the sheep, combed, carded, then spun, woven, or knitted, cut and sewn. The spinning wheel hums as a spinner draws fibers out and spins them into yarn or thread. Knitting and weaving are rhythmic processes that  turn thread or yarn into fabric.  The whole effect is as musical as an operetta.  The process can be drudgery without a song, or can be a delight as one works designs in music and in fabric.  Our Father not only wants us to be able to make a living and get the exercise we need by doing the work that needs to be done, He wants us to find joy and delight in our work.

Uphishtim (vav-phe-shin-tav-yod-mem) The first letter, vav, is the Hebrew conjunction. The three letter root, (phe-shin-tav) pashat means plain, spread out, fanned out, – or – plucked.  It refers to flax which is plucked, and spread to dry. The fibers are then pulled from the stalks, then spun and woven into fabric.   Rakhav (Rahab) the innkeeper (some translations make unsavory intimations about certain aspects of her profession) hid the Hebrew tourists, or spies in the stacks of flax on her rooftop.  Rakhav is a good example of en Eishet Chayil, for her diligence in business, for her courage in hiding the aturim (often rendered spies), for her understanding that the aturim were from an elohimly nation, and for her determination to protect her family during the coming attack.

Wool is a fabric of warmth.  It makes excellent outer coverings, and sheds water.  Linen is a better fabric for inner garments.  It is smooth and soft, and it absorbs and wicks moisture away from the skin.  What a wonderful picture of Our Heavenly Father’s care for the tiniest details of our lives! Not only does He want us to be warm and protected from the elements, he also wants us cool, and dry, and protected from ourselves – from perspiration and itchiness! He wants the roughness toward the exterior, and the smoothness toward our skins.  It is funny, but the coarser, rougher fabric requires a gentler treatment than the smoother, finer fabric.  We wash our wools in cool water, let them air dry on flat racks, and if any pressing is required, we do it with a relatively cool iron. Our linens, however, are usually washed in hot water, and pressed with a hot iron. The righteous ones often receive stricter treatment that the worldly. Now judgment begins with the household of Elohim.

Vata’as (vav-tav-ayin-shin) Vav is the Hebrew conjunctive prefix. The tav is a prefix indicating that the subject of the sentence is female. The ayinshin is the root word, meaning to do, work, or make.

Bekhefetz (bet-khet-phe-tzaddi) The bet is the second letter of the alef-bet, and here it is used as a prefix, meaning with. Khet Phe Tzaddi form the root word, meaning delight or pleasure. Pleasure is not as the world seems to think, a passive reaction to circumstances, but it is really the response that we can choose to make in and to every circumstance.  The Eishet Chayil is choosing to work with pleasure and delight, rather than with whining, grumbling, murmuring, or complaining.  She is choosing to beautify the mitzvot.  What must be done must be done, so it may as well be made beautiful.  If she must clother her family, why not clothe them warmly in the winter, cooly in the summer, and beautifully, whatever the weather!  And she delights in the process as well.

Kapeyha (kaphpeyyodhey) The kaph is the cup – the open palm of the hand. (It can also refer to the sole of the foot.)  Whereas the yod is an active, working, grasping hand, the kaph indicates receptivity; more an active readiness to receive than simply passive acceptance. The work that a woman does often involves preparing to receive.  A close Eishet Chayil friend of mine went into business for herself.  After studying tax laws, public relations, and her specific field of endeavor, she got her tax number, and set up her business with all of the proper licenses and permits, and then immediately opened a business account.  She had to get ready to receive all of her clients, do all of her work, pay all of her bills, AND she would need an account for the money that would have to flow through her business.  She had to have her cup ready to overflow.

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