Rereading Eishet Chayil for Mother's Day with Sinai Live's "More Precious Than Pearls"
Mother's Day always makes me wonder: How do we convey the love, respect and gratitude we feel for the women in our lives – and for the fortitude and accomplishments of women everywhere?
Jewish tradition offers one option in "Eishet Chayil," an ancient poem from the Book of Proverbs. Sung before the Sabbath meal on Friday nights, the song opens with a question and a declaration: “A Woman of Valor, who can find? She is more precious than pearls.” It then praises women for a range of attributes and behaviors.
Just in time for Mother’s Day, Mark Pearlman of Sinai Live is releasing More Precious Than Pearls: A Prayer for the Women of Valor in Our Lives, a collection of reflections and essays on "Eishet Chayil." The contributors are rabbis, scholars and laypeople, spanning denominations and generations.
JWA’s Executive Director Gail T. Reimer contributed a chapter to the collection titled “Rereading Eishet Chayil.” Acknowleding the prayer’s seeming emphasis on old-fashioned ideas of women’s domestic roles as wife, mother, and homemaker, Reimer shares a subversive interpretation by Lillian Wald, a public health pioneer who was neither a wife nor a mother. Wald’s interpretation encourages us to read the poem metaphorically, opening the door to recognize women as producers, patrons, athletes, advocates, experts, rebels, and entrepreneurs. “With each recitation of 'Eishet Chayil,'” Reimer writes, “we have the opportunity to see ourselves as links in a long chain of powerful women.”
The final chapter, an "Eishet Chayil" Study Guide from JWA and Hillel’s Joseph Myerhoff Center for Jewish Learning, is a post-modern Talmudic dialogue between Biblical and modern “Women of Valor” from JWA's online exhibit of the same name.
More Precious Than Pearls is free to download in a number of digital formats, and available for minimal cost in print. “Our goal is not to make a profit but to put wisdom out there in a short, engaging way.” Pearlman told the Jewish Week. Needless to say, this collection makes a great Mother’s Day gift.
Get your copy at Sinai Live, or click here to send More Precious Than Pearls as a Mother's Day gift.
How to cite this page
Berkenwald, Leah. "Rereading Eishet Chayil for Mother's Day with Sinai Live's "More Precious Than Pearls" ." 8 May 2012. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on April 21, 2015) <http://jwa.org/blog/rereading-eishet-chayil-for-mothers-day-with-sinai-lives-more-precious-than-pearls>.