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Eishet Chayil – verse five

May 26, 2010

The first letter of this verse is the letter hey, which has a numerical value of  five. Five is known as the number of grace, and hey stands for a window.  A window at the same time lets in a breath of fresh air and limits, frames, and defines a point of view.  The first word bears a strong resemblance to the tetragrammaton, the four letter name of the Almighty.  The two words do share a common root, to be. This four letter word uses the suffix letters tav and hey to indicate that the subject is feminine.  Simply, the first word, haytah, means she is.

The next word begins with the prefix caph, which means like or as. The word  aniyot is the plural form of the word ani, which means I, ship, or mourning!  The first time the plural form is used in the Bible is in Genesis 49:3, in the blessing/prophecy about Zebulun living by the coasts, by the coasts of the ships in Tsidon.  I is the first person singular subjective pronoun, which in Hebrew can be ani (alef nun yod), anoki (alef nun vav kaph yod), or simply the letter-prefix alef.  In Hebrew, even when words only share similar sounds, they often have related meanings, but something even more interesting to ponder is going on here with ani (I), ani (ship), and ani (mourning).  The same combination of letters, in the same order, produces different meanings in different contexts, just as water (H2O) is sometimes a liquid, sometimes a solid, and sometimes a vapor, while retaining its same chemical “spelling” of H2O. The Hebrews were not well known in history as great adventurous seafarers or traders, as their near neighbors the Phoenicians were, at least until the time of Solomon, and up to that point, family connections had been unusually strong, so it could be that there is an even closer connection between mourning and ships for them, a connection that we can understand.  Ships take our loved ones away from us for long and often dangerous trips.  Ships disrupt family life.  Of course, this passage emphasizes the great advantage of foreign trade, especially for the transport of foods, but danger is also implicit in the verse.

Sokher (samekh, vav, khet, resh) means to trade.  This verse not only stresses the strength — the adventurous sense — of the Eishet Chayil but  also introduces the Eishet Chayil as a woman of means and a woman of business acumen.

Mimerchaq (mem, mem, resh, khet, quf) from afar. The first mem is a prefix letter, meaning from. The second mem is another prefix letter, emphasizing distance.  The root word, r’khoq, means distance.

Tawvee, (Tav, vet, yod, alef). The tav is a prefix, meaning she.  The vet, yod alef is another form of the verb bo (bet, vav, alef), which means to come. In this case, it means to cause to come, or to bringshe brings.

Lahkmah (lamed, khet, mem, hey) has a suffix hey at the end of the word, meaning her.  The lekhem part means specifically bread but refers to all food: her bread or her food.

Sometimes we valorous women must undertake strenuous, adventurous, and even dangerous trips in order to care for and nourish our families. Occasionally we must face sorrow and mourning to do what is right.  We cannot be dissuaded from doing what is best for our families by fears and worries.

But the sense of adventure should not be overlooked either.  Yes, there can be trepidation associated with foreign adventures, but there is excitement too in the tastes of exotic places.  Often we improve our nutrition when we prepare foods from other lands.  Mealtimes can be greatly improved with homegrown foods and with exotic foods.  It doesn’t hurt either, to enjoy ethnic foods with clothing, decor, and words from another culture to enhance food and learning.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 31, 2010 6:54 pm

    I love how you’re able to get so much information in such a small space!

    • August 23, 2010 6:23 pm

      That is from working with Hebrew, which is probably the richest and yet most economical language of all!!

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