Gershon Hepner

Mighty woman

A mighty woman who can find?
Hard to put her out of mind!
More than precious pearls her worth,
bringing to her husband mirth.
Always he relies on her,
keeping loving eyes on her.
Goodness always she bestows,
never evil like his foes.
Wool she works and weaves with flax,
for her hands are never lax.
Like a merchant’s ship she brings
from afar the many things
that her husband always needs,
thoughtful always her kind deeds.
In the middle of the night
she provides with all her might
for her children and her workers,
bread providing in the circus
which her husband calls their home,
regular as metronome.
On a field she casts her eyes
which, if promising, she buys:
grapes in vineyards she will plant,
but she’ll never be bacchante.
Strongly girding loins she charms
all the neighbors with her arms,
lifting with them heavy loads
for the poor in their abodes.
Business always seems to thrive;
always keeps a flame alive.
Working distaff with the spindle,
efforts never seems to dwindle,
hands stretched out to those in need,
eager all the poor to feed,
nightly working with computer,
internet her special tutor.
Snow is no cause for alarm,
family is always warm;
crimson is the color bold
of clothes that keep out cold.
Purple linen is her cover,
favored greatly by her lover,
husband prominent in gates
where he always sits and waits
for the elders of the land
whom he seems to understand––
sometimes they reciprocate,
sometimes not, such is his fate!
Adolescents she will teach
concepts far beyond their reach,
but explaining them in ways
they’ll remember all their days,
for with wisdom ways this wench
knows most poets English, French
and, omnivorous as reader,
many lovely German lieder.
Cloth she makes as merchandize,
showing it to merchants’ eyes.
Selling for her is no hurdle,
least she sells may be a girdle.
She is clothed with strength and splendor,
not a borrower, but lender––
Polonius would have disapproved,
but the neediest are moved
by her generosity
more than P’s pomposity.
Till the last day she will sport
in the ways a good wife ought.
Full of wisdom you can hear
from her mouth the wisest cheer.
More important than her mind
is the fact that she is kind.
Since the day that she was bridal
she will eat no bread that’s idle.
All her children giving praise,
with her husband glasses raise,
hailing with this special toast:
“You are she whom we love most.
Many women have done well:
over all these you excel.”
Grace and beauty are deceptive,
to her fine points we’re receptive.
Clear to her the fear of God
is decidedly not odd.
This is why we must extol her:
every point I’ve made is polar.
Every one of my examples
daily her good husband samples.
By her works let her be praised
far from gates where she was raised,
now, tomorrow, all the time
inspiration of my rhyme.

In Pirqei Avot 4 we learn the following:

בֶּן זוֹמָא אוֹמֵר, אֵיזֶהוּ חָכָם, הַלּוֹמֵד מִכָּל אָדָם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קיט) מִכָּל מְלַמְּדַי הִשְׂכַּלְתִּי כִּי עֵדְוֹתֶיךָ שִׂיחָה לִּי. אֵיזֶהוּ גִבּוֹר, הַכּוֹבֵשׁ אֶת יִצְרוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (משלי טז) טוֹב אֶרֶךְ אַפַּיִם מִגִּבּוֹר וּמשֵׁל בְּרוּחוֹ מִלֹּכֵד עִיר. אֵיזֶהוּ עָשִׁיר, הַשָּׂמֵחַ בְּחֶלְקוֹ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קכח) יְגִיעַ כַּפֶּיךָ כִּי תֹאכֵל אַשְׁרֶיךָ וְטוֹב לָךְ. אַשְׁרֶיךָ, בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה. וְטוֹב לָךְ, לָעוֹלָם הַבָּא. אֵיזֶהוּ מְכֻבָּד, הַמְכַבֵּד אֶת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמואל א ב) כִּי מְכַבְּדַי אֲכַבֵּד וּבֹזַי יֵקָלּוּ:

Ben Zoma said: Who is wise? He who learns from every man, as it is said: “From all who taught me have I gained understanding” (Psalms 119:99). Who is mighty? He who subdues his [evil] inclination, as it is said: “He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32). Who is rich? He who rejoices in his lot, as it is said: “You shall enjoy the fruit of your labors, you shall be happy and you shall prosper” (Psalms 128:2) “You shall be happy” in this world, “and you shall prosper” in the world to come. Who is he that is honored? He who honors his fellow human beings as it is said: “For I honor those that honor Me, but those who spurn Me shall be dishonored” (I Samuel 2:30)

Recalling the rhetorical question of Ben Zoma אֵיזֶהוּ גִבּוֹר, who is mighty? and his answer הַכּוֹבֵשׁ אֶת יִצְרוֹ, he who subdues his (evil) inclination, my translation of אשת חיל as “mighty woman” is based on her ability to  suppress the inclination  of a man which should be describe only parenthetically as evil since the first commandment that God gave Firs Man and Woman,   פְּרוּ וּרְבוּ, be fruitful and multiply, depends on it, and is followed by a command to behave in a mighty manner, וּמִלְאוּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְכִבְשֻׁהָ, and fill the earth and conquer it.

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at
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