Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Proverbs 31 Woman

Those of you raised in or currently a member of the evangelical community probably either rolled your eyes or groaned at my post title.  Personally, I used to wonder why God had recorded such an over-achiever for us women to emulate when the men had nothing remotely similar held up as their standard. (Unless you count the cursory, "Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church." reminder during the frequent sermons on subservience submission.)

Well, guess what, fellow exhausted moms?  Our Jewish sisters know a bit more about this passage and its intent that we do, and I'm going to share their insights with you.

First of all, Proverbs 31 is NOT. A. TO-DO. LIST!  No, really.  It's a poem of praise for the eshet chayil, often translated into English as virtuous woman.   

Ok, you ask.  Then who is this eshet chayil and why is she important?

Eshet chayil is more accurately translated "woman of valor" or even "warrior woman."  You see, chayil has the idea of being strong and valiant, like a mighty army!  The Proverbs 31 woman is no doormat, but a strong, capable individual who not only cares for her family but is also concerned with social justice. (Prov. 31:20)  She's obviously a hard worker.  (Do you know a mom who isn't a hard worker?)

As to why this woman is important...well, we don't know for sure if the eshet chayil in Proverbs 31 was a real woman, but we do know she is an everywoman.  Apparently, Jewish women use the title eshet chayil as a sort of, "You go, girl!" or congratulation for one another.  Get a deal on new furniture? Eshet chayil!  Donate your hair to Locks of Love? Eshet chayil!  Reached your new year's fitness goals...from 8 years ago?  Eshet chayil!  Engage in an argument with your spouse and refrain from immature behavior? Eshet chayil!  Find your children have taken 5 lbs. of flour into the bathroom to "make a blizzard" and you firmly but calmly supervise their clean up and amends process?  Eshet chayil!  Finally get a decent hair cut?  Eshet chayil!

Another point I'd like to make is that waaaaay, way back when the Hebrew scriptures were written, only men were allowed to study them.  From that aspect, it becomes obvious women were not actually the original intended audience for Proverbs 31.  It serves as a reminder to husbands of all the hard work their wives put into making a home.  In fact, the Eshet Chayil is still sung all over the world by Jewish husbands to their wives every Friday evening as Shabbat begins!

Now, my Love Language is Words of Affirmation.  I guarantee you, if my husband were to tell me just once a week how much he appreciates me and goes through a laundry list of the things I've done for our family and our community, I would be putty!  (Obviously, he does affirm me more than just once a week, but a weekly serenade based on my greatness would not be turned down.)

So, stop looking at Proverbs 31 as a to-do list.  Stop letting the eshet chayil give you an inferiority complex.  Instead, take your place beside her.  Don't be afraid to list your accomplishments, even if it is only to yourself.  Because after all, you go, girl!  Eshet chayil!