Rebbetzin Tamar Taback
Founder, Nexus, School of Transformational Torah for Women
A woman of valour, who can find? Her worth is far beyond that of rubies.
אֵֽשֶׁת חַיִל מִי יִמְצָא וְרָחֹק מִפְּנִינִים מִכְרָהּ.
Contrary to prevailing wisdom, the sages teach that King Solomon’s ode to the Jewish woman at the end of Proverbs is actually extolling the praises of the Torah and that the Jewish woman is merely the analogy for the beauty and power of Torah.
Why is the Torah compared to a woman, you may wonder?
In the book of Ruth, Boaz encounters the lonely convert whose selflessness and modesty in the field and granary left him so moved that he says to her, “the entire nation knows that you are a woman of valour”.1 This is the only time in the whole Torah that the title “Eishes Chayil” is used to refer to an actual woman.
The Vilna Goan furthers the connection between the Eishes Chayil and Shavuos by making a correlation between the 22 verses of the poem (which are arranged according to the aleph-bet) and the 49 days of preparation leading up to the giving of the Torah (the period of the counting of the Omer). The numerical value of the word Chayil, “valour”, is 48. This is reminiscent of the mishna in tractate Avos, “there are 48 ways to acquire the Torah”.2 Like a woman who must be legally “acquired”, the Torah is Hashem’s gift that comes to one who prepares for it. The 48 ways delineate a serious path of vessel-building and inner refinement so that we are worthy to receive this priceless gift. The one extra day of the 49th day of the Omer serves to convert the many steps into its gestalt.
The woman-Torah connection is further demystified when we understand the essence of femininity as per the teachings of our sages. Like the Torah, of which it says, “she is not in Heaven”,3 a woman’s wisdom and beauty lie in her ability to coax Divine truth into the crevices of everyday consciousness and life. This exalted state of communion with G-d, as we find Him within the real world, is where the potential for the most passionate and eternal bond resides.
Therefore, the Torah, whose instructions guide us in living an elevated life within the physical world, is compared to a woman. Without the Torah, we remain incomplete and unsatisfied. With her, we are in ever-growing soul connection and rapture.
(Taken from the Eishes Chayil series 22 verses, 22 women from Torah, lead-up to Shavuos series for women at thenexus.org)