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Eshet Chayil – The Resourceful Woman

“Her hands she stretches out to the distaff, and her palms support the spindle.”
The common explanation of this verse is  that it describes the industrious woman who applies herself to the task of making clothing for her family, or to sell at a profit. (See “The Privilege of Purpose”) It seems to me that such a reading creates crushing demands on a woman who aspires to be a Woman of Valor.

The Midrash (Batei Midrashot 2) understands this verse as a warrior woman, Jael, who killed Sisera with a tent-peg rather than a weapon to demonstrate that she did not need a man’s weapon to slay the mighty general. The Woman of Valor is resourceful. She will use whatever she has at hand to deal with whatever comes her way. The Tanchuma (Chayei Sarah #4) describes Sarah, the original subject of the Eishet Chayil, as always finding a way to welcome guests into her home.

This verse is not a demand for more work; it is praise of resourcefulness, of managing the challenges of life with whatever is available.

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