Most Jews have heard about the famous Eshet Khayil “a woman of valor” glorified in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs; which speaks about the virtues of a strong, active Jewish wife and mother. Among her many wonderful virtues is that a Torah of kindness is on her tongue (Proverbs 31:26)
But almost no one has heard of King Lemuel, whose own mother admonished him so wisely that he added her words about the Eshet Khayil “a woman of valor” to the Book of Proverbs. King Lemuel always remembered how his mother, admonished him that wine is not for kings since it impairs their judgment, and that the most important thing in life is to marry a woman of valor and to always respect her great capabilities.(Proverbs 31)
The Torah of King Lemuel’s mother was a perfict ending for the Biblical book of Proverbs because it states not once but twice; “My son, heed the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the Torah of your mother.” (Proverbs 1:8) and then restates: “My son, keep your father’s Mitsvot, and do not forsake your mother’s Torah.” (Proverbs 6:20)
Two historical examples of women of valor that all rabbis should teach about are Deborah and Yael. Deborah was a Prophet and a Judge who held court under a palm tree named after her. (Judges 4:4-5) Deborah was the best known female prophet since the time of Miriam (Exodus 15:20), two to three generations previously.
Deborah had inherited from her mother some of the wooden tent pegs that secured Miriam’s tent, which was always erected close to Miriam’s well, that according to the Midrash followed the Jewish People in its travels in the Sinai wilderness.
This connection between Miriam the prophet and Deborah the prophet is why the story of Deborah’s leadership is the haftarah to Be-shallach where the Torah states that Miriam was a prophet.
Deborah started the liberation of northern Israel from Canaanite domination when she called the tribes of Israel to battle; and summoned Barak to lead them.
Prophet Deborah’s revolt was successful and was finished off when in a tent dwelling, a convert to Judaism, Jael the Kenite, killed the Canaanite general Sisera with a wooden tent peg (Judges 4:18-22) that had first belonged to Prophet Miriam, which Jael had received from Prophet Deborah on the twentieth anniversary of Jael’s conversion to Judaism.
But an Eshet Hayil is rarely like Deborah or Yael. Most of the time they are simply wonder-filled loving Jewish women. As Rabbi Tanhum said: ‘When a man lives without a wife, he lives without joy, without blessings and without goodness’.
I would add that an unmarried man also lives without the ongoing feeling that God’s presence rests on him. To view your spouse as a gift from God is a blessing. First of all, I thank God that my wife and I met.
If I hadn’t taken a position in the city where she lived, if somebody hadn’t given me her phone number, if she had already been involved with someone else, we never would have gotten together.
Very few of us marry the girl next door anymore. A dozen factors, most seemingly quite random, govern who we meet. So I thank God for bringing my wife and I together; and I celebrate Mother’s Day as Eshet Khayil Mother and Wife Day every year, and every day.
Second, I thank God that we are such a perfect match. We beat the odds in the love game.
Third, I thank God that she is such a good wife and mother; patient, sensitive, enthusiastic, supportive, always concerned, very intelligent, with a positive Jewish neshamah and much more.