A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.”—Proverbs 31:10–11
Every Friday at the Sabbath meal, it is the Jewish tradition for the husband to sing the words from Proverbs 31:10–31 to his wife, praising her as an eishet chayil, a “woman of valor.” It is the highest compliment one can bestow upon a mother, a wife, a daughter. But what constitutes a woman of valor? During this month as we celebrate the women in our lives, enjoy these devotions from the timeless teachings of Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein on what it means to be an eishet chayil.
What is it that makes one marriage succeed and another fail? Certainly, viewing marriage as a gift from God and including Him at the center of our marriage will do much to strengthen those bonds. But I think another clue for a successful marriage can be found in the very Hebrew word we use for marriage.
The Hebrew term for marriage is kiddushin, meaning “sanctification.” It comes from the root word kadosh, or “holy,” which in biblical thought means “separateness.” In the Jewish faith, men and women consecrate each other through marriage and set each other apart from all others.
Being holy, or set apart, is something that God had commanded His people when they left Egypt as former slaves and were made into a holy nation and people. All the laws given to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai were designed to help them become that holy nation. Holiness was not developed just through philosophy or theology, but through the daily practices of sanctified living.
So, too, with marriage. We express our “set apartness” for each other through acting with respect and consideration for the other’s needs and circumstances. In the Jewish faith, the husband has a biblical obligation not only to provide for his wife’s physical needs — food, clothing, and intimacy — but also to show respect to her. As the Jewish tradition states, “Let a man be scrupulous about honoring his wife because whatever blessings prevails in a man’s home are there because of his wife.”
Another Jewish tradition that underscores this respect and honor that a husband is to show his wife is the blessing that is given at each Sabbath Friday night meal when the husband recites Proverbs 31, extolling his wife’s noble character! Imagine how a wife must feel when her husband praises her “as worth far more than rubies,” as someone who “speaks with wisdom,” and as one who brings honor to the entire household.
Certainly, a marriage that is built upon a foundation of honor and respect, of being acknowledged from the beginning as “set apart” from all other relationships, has a better chance of surviving.
If you have been given the gift of marriage, consider the ways you can show your partner honor and respect. How do you let your spouse know he or she is valued? What is one thing you can do this week to express your appreciation for your spouse?