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.

  • 2
    1: ...or al pi pshat as a eulogy for Lemuel's mother (Metzudos and Ibn Ezra)
    – Double AA
    Apr 21, 2013 at 21:00
  • Why not say that it's a testament to her valor, having attracted and been wedded by a man of such standing?
    – Tamir Evan
    Jul 25, 2014 at 15:43
  • 1
    also the verse "She seeks wool and linen, and works with her hands willingly" implies she is intentionally producing shatnez Jul 25, 2014 at 16:39
  • @ClintEastwood This made me curious too. But presumably she is using them for separate garments. She can "seek out milk and meat," can't she?
    – SAH
    Sep 6, 2015 at 14:05

7 Answers 7


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.


In the Zohar it gives two related interpretations of this verse. First, the context it places this in is that this is a reference to The Jewish People as the Eishes Chayil. Within that, her husband is a reference to Hashem.

Known in the gates, the Zohar then gives two ways to understand. One is שערים related to the word השערה - estimation. We can't truly understand G-d, only have an approximate understanding.

The second is שערים as related to שעורים - measurements, that G-d creates a finite world so that we can know Him.

So it is praising the relationship between Jews and G-d.

Some elaboration here and here.


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.

  • But every other pasuk is listing a praise for her, it seems that there are many praiseworthy things that a woman does that doesn't involve hee husband's accomplishments. And why is becoming a judge a man's tafkid?
    – HodofHod
    Jul 25, 2014 at 19:50

This is an answer based on my own interpretation of Aishes Chayil, so take it for what it's worth.

I am a woman. I have always felt that Aishes Chayil was deliberately written with women as the intended audience. (Not saying it was or it wasn't actually written for women, just that it reads that way in a certain sense.) What I mean is that it focuses on aspects of the woman's experience that could be appreciated by other women, and it highlights rewards that have currency for all women.

In regards to the first point, Aishes Chayil describes the woman's own experience, not just her results. It doesn't just say "She always has food ready on time"; it says, "She arises while it is yet nighttime and gives food to her household." We hear about how she "seeks out wool and linen" and "girds her loins with strength" and "envisions a field and buys it." All of these are parts of the woman's own story. They are little details ofher daily life, small things she does and sacrifices she makes that often go unappreciated. But in Aishes Chayil, they are brought out into the light and lauded.

This is not only important because it sets the record straight and helps men appreciate the women in their lives, nor only because it makes women feel good to be praised for their efforts. It's also key because it gives women the sense that this song is really speaking to them. And this is achieved by pointing out details that ordinarily would be apparent only to the woman herself--in a way, by assuming her point of view.

The fact that Aishes Chayil speaks to women by speaking as if a woman can also explain the passage about her husband in the gates. Perhaps this is an example of the Torah getting as close to chick lit as it ever does. We are reading about all the nice things this woman has--"Her entire household is clothed with scarlet wool. Luxurious bedspreads she made herself, linen and purple wool are her clothing. Her husband is known in the gates when he sits with the elders of the land. She makes [cloaks] to sell..." Perfect, right? She has beautiful clothes and an elegant home; her husband is important; and she runs an Etsy store. What more could a woman want? And why else would these hypothetical "nice things" be listed than because they are what women want?

It's her song, her time, and her moment of pleasure at the beginning of Shabbos. That's why it is allowed to be so "superficial" (although of course it's not, since ruchniusdik and gashmiusdik pleasures come together, on Shabbos as in life).

So why do we hear that her husband is well-known in the gates? Because Aishes Chayil isn't only a praise of her--it's written for her. ...For her to hear, and for her to enjoy while she hears it.

P.S.: There is possibly another note of female empowerment and pleasure in the overturning of the husband-in-the-gates passage by the last two lines of the song, which state "Give her the fruits of her hand/and let her be praised in the gates by her very own deeds." In that light, the original lines about the husband can almost be seen as a setup for this final, fierce coup.

  • This has nothing to do with my main answer, but I think it's worth noting somewhere in this discussion that the aishes chayil is really supposed to be a metaphor for the Jewish people, where I guess the husband is Hashem. Source: people frummer and more knowledgeable than me told me
    – SAH
    Sep 6, 2015 at 14:06

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.

  • "Kollel wife" l'afukei mai?
    – HodofHod
    Jul 25, 2014 at 19:45
  • l'afukei "farmer's wife", "tinker's wife", tailor's wife, doctor's wife, professor's wife, etc. True story, my father does not sing eishes chayil because he feels it doesn't apply to his situation and talks about all the great things my mother did all week instead.
    – Yitzchak
    Jul 27, 2014 at 16:13
  • Interesting! I've never come across this practice. You might want to consider explaining why "his success is her's" in your answer, especially for if "her" refers to the Torah. (though it may seem largely self-explanatory, it will make your answer more self-contained and approachable). Also, any sources would be very helpful.
    – HodofHod
    Jul 28, 2014 at 0:51
  • You probably would not come across it unless I were to invite you over on Friday night. :)
    – Yitzchak
    Jul 28, 2014 at 16:21

I will add to meir and Yitzchak only because they didnt quote chazal. See Brachos 17a and Sota 21a, women get their zchus Torah by taking their children to yeshiva and waiting for their husbands till they return from Beis Medrash.

  • Moving on! It's great to give people credit! But you should make sure to at least quote and/or paraphrase them, so that your answer isn't completely dependent upon their post. (This can cause issues if, for example, they delete theirs, or more answers are added and then people have to go to page two just to understand your answer). If one answer is so dependent on another, it may be a better idea to leave it as a comment instead. In this case, you're adding sources, so that does add new info, but it should at least include an explanation of those sources, else it should be a comment.
    – HodofHod
    Jul 28, 2014 at 1:07
  • My apologies as well. I too have been having issues with comments and editing that put me on a different plane of phrasing. I've also been thinking about taking a hiatus, but i just found this sit recently and really enjoy it so I figured I won't give in to the bullying but at the same time its hard to keep certain verbal morals.
    – user6591
    Jul 28, 2014 at 14:39
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    Don't give up! My "hiatus" was not really intentional, and now I'm trying to get back into it (and having trouble). The site's worth it, we just have to figure out how to either avoid or change the behaviors of some. @Monica and I (and others) have discussed this in chat several times, and if you have any input I (and they, probably) would love to hear it!
    – HodofHod
    Jul 28, 2014 at 17:40


In lev Eliyahu from R' Elya Lopian tz"l (written by R' Shalom Schwadron tz"l) he quotes a story he had with the Chofetz Chaim tz"l. As the Chofetz Chaim tz"l was singning Aishes Chayil he stopped by the words "Noda bashearim ba’la, Beshivto im ziknei aretz" and said ba'la is referring to Talmidei Chachamin as they are the "Noda" - the ones who know Torah

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