Who is Serenaded on Friday Night: the Woman of the House, or the Divine Presence?

Before the meal on Sabbath eve, the prayer book offers a song of praise to the ideal woman.

Detail from Moritz Oppenheim, The Return of the Volunteer from the Wars of Liberation to His Family Still Living in Accordance with Old Customs, 1834. Wikimedia.

Detail from Moritz Oppenheim, The Return of the Volunteer from the Wars of Liberation to His Family Still Living in Accordance with Old Customs, 1834. Wikimedia.

Atar Hadari
Observation
Nov. 30 2017
About the author

Atar Hadari’s Songs from Bialik: Selected Poems of H. N. Bialik (Syracuse University Press) was a finalist for the American Literary Translators’ Association Award. His Lives of the Dead: Poems of Hanoch Levin earned a PEN Translates award and was released in 2019 by Arc Publications. He was ordained by Rabbi Daniel Landes and is completing a PhD on William Tyndale’s translation of Deuteronomy.


After the invitation to the angels to bless the household, and before kiddush is recited and the family sits down to the Friday-night meal, the prayer book offers a song praising the ideal woman. Known as Eyshet Ḥayil, or “woman of valor,” the song is organized as an alphabetical acrostic (i.e., each verse starts with a new letter, in alphabetical order), and is in fact the concluding passage of the biblical book of Proverbs (31:10-31).

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More about: Hebrew Bible, Kabbalah, Proverbs, Religion & Holidays, Shabbat