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Eishes Chayil is a song sung traditionally on Friday nights. It's the last 22 verses of Mishlei/Proverbs. It speaks about a "Woman of Valor", and literally does nothing but sing her praises. Well, almost.

Every verse is about something admirable about this woman1, except for one verse, Mishlei 31:23 (Chabad.org):

כג. נוֹדָע בַּשְּׁעָרִים בַּעְלָהּ בְּשִׁבְתּוֹ עִם זִקְנֵי אָרֶץ

23: Her husband is known in the gates, when he sits with the elders of the land.

While this is nice and all, this seems a little out of place; how is this a praise of the Woman of Valor?

Bonus points if you find an explanation of why Shlomo Hamelech chose to phrase it this way, instead of just stating her praise directly.

Yes, this is a bit of a softball. But it was a real question that I had. Best answer wins.


1: Interpreted as referring to the Jewish woman, and also to the Shabbos and the Torah.

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1: ...or al pi pshat as a eulogy for Lemuel's mother (Metzudos and Ibn Ezra) –  Double AA Apr 21 '13 at 21:00
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3 Answers

There are many interpretations. Here are a few.

  • Rashi connects the previous verse of making "beautiful bedspreads for herself; fine linen and purple wool are her raiment" with the this verse:

ניכר הוא בין חביריו מפני מלבושיו שהם נאים

He is recognizable among his peers because of his garments, which are beautiful.

The verse is not out of place, since he is known because of her handiwork.

  • Akeidat Yitzchak (Parashat Chai Sarah) equates the tzadik with his wife:

ולענין הנמשל הוא מבואר כי בעל האשה השלמה נודע בשערים, הם שערי צדק צדיקים יבואו בם לעולם החיים

The lesson is that the husband of a complete woman is known in the gates; they are the gates of righteousness that tzadikim come to in the world of the living.

  • Alsheich similarly attributes the elders's recognition of the husband with the wife:

הם הזקנים אשר בשער הסנהדרין ובתוכם נודע שהוא בעלה, כי לרוב חכמתו מכירים הכל ואומרים זה בעלה של פלונית לרוב חכמתו, שאומרים הכל הנה נודע וניכר הדבר, שזה בעלה של פלונית שזנה ופירנסה אותו ואת ביתו כדי שיעסוק בתורה שנים רבות, כי על כן הוא נודע ורשום בין זקני ארץ, כי הגדיל חכמה ובינה מאשר למד, בראותה כך מה עשתה

These elders are the ones at the gate of the Sanhedrin...and they say "This is the husband of a Mrs. X that fed and supported him and his home in order that he could engage in Torah for many years." And because of this he is known and listed among the elders of the land, since he increased in wisdom and understanding from what he learned and they thus see what she has done.

When we see the talmid chacham, Shlomo HaMelech seems to be saying, we should point to his wife, who made him what he is.

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In the olden times the judges sat at the gates. Like it says one should put judges in all your gates. A woman does not have her own 'tafkid'. Her biggest praise is that her husband has reached his through her.

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To state the answer briefly, Eishes chayil is either a hymn to the Torah or a hymn to the kollel wife. His success is her's.

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