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Eshet Chayil – The Dignifier

“Distinctive in the councils is her husband, when he sits with the elders of the land.”
Clearly, the Midrash credits the accomplishments of the great men of the bible to their wives. However, not every husband merits or deserves to sit among the elders of the land. Is the Woman of Valor defined by her husband’s position in the community?

The Midrash sees God bringing honor and dignity to the elders of the land: “Rabbi Avin said, ‘In the future, the Holy One, Blessed is He, will set up the elders of Israel in a semicircle, and He Himself will sit at the head of all of them.’ King Solomon said, ‘I saw Him sitting with them and judging with them, as it is stated, ‘Her husband is well-known at the gates, as he sits among the elders of the land.” (Tanchuma, Shemot #29)

The Woman of Valor raises her husband’s dignity, not only by virtue of her accomplishments and bearings, but by constantly treating him with dignity for who he really is.

I recall meeting the newly engaged bride of one of my father zt”l’s students, someone not known for his great scholarship or accomplishments. “You can ask my future husband any question and he’ll be able to answer you,” she said. I was about to accept her dare when I noticed the look on my father’s face, and chose to behave politely. I later asked my father what would happen when she found out that her husband was not the great scholar she believed. “Every spouse has to identify what makes their spouse special, and honor him or her for that quality. Either she will be more generous than you and see what makes him unique, or she’ll be sorely disappointed.”

Project Dignity must be part of every marriage. We have to identify the best qualities in the other and dignify them for who and what they really are.

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