A Woman of Valor, called Aishet Chayil in Hebrew, is a hymn which is customarily recited on Friday evenings, after coming home from synagogue. Aishet Chayil is a twenty-two verse sonnet that King Solomon wrote as a conclusion to the book of Proverbs (Proverbs, chapter 31). The verses of the sonnet are arranged in the order of the Hebrew alphabet, from Aleph to Tav. It praises the woman of valor as virtuous, righteous, and capable. According to the Midrash, Aishet Chayil was originally composed by our forefather Abraham as a eulogy for his wife Sarah.
Singing Aishet Chayil at the Shabbat table after Shalom Aleichem and before Kiddush is very conducive to marital bliss. It's a lofty way for a husband to display his high regard for and his gratitude to his wife. According to Kabbalah, Aishet Chayil refers to the Shabbat Queen, the spiritual soul-mate of the Jewish people. It is also a reference to the Shechinah (Divine presence) and to the neshama, the soul. The fact that Judaism describes these exalted concepts using the Jewish woman as the metaphor shows the enormous regard that Judaism has for women. Aishet Chayil is a tribute to her.
Yosef Karduner and I recorded the following clip so that you'll be able to sing the original Breslever version of Aishet Chayil at your Shabbat table. For your convenience, below the video player are the complete lyrics in transliteration and in translation.
Aishet chayil mi yimtza v'rachok mip'ninim michrah
An accomplished woman, who can find? Her value is far beyond pearls.
Batach bah lev ba'lah v'shalal lo yechsar
Her husband's heart relies on her and he shall lack no fortune.
G'malathu tov v'lo ra kol y'mei chayeiha
She does him good and not evil, all the days of her life.
Darshah tzemer ufishtim vata'as b'chefetz kapeiha
She seeks wool and flax, and works with her hands willingly.
Haitah ko'oniyot socher mimerchak tavi lachmah
She is like the merchant ships, she brings her bread from afar.
Vatakom b'od lailah vatiten teref l'vetah v'chok l'na'aroteiha
She arises while it is still night, and gives food to her household and a portion to her maidservants.
Zam'mah sadeh vatikachehu mip'ri chapeiha nat'ah karem
She plans for a field, and buys it. With the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
Chagrah v'oz motneiha vat'ametz zro'oteiha
She girds her loins in strength, and makes her arms strong.
Ta'amah ki tov sachrah lo yichbeh balailah nerah
She knows that her merchandise is good. Her candle does not go out at night.
Yadeha shilchah vakishor v'chapeiha tamchu felech
She sets her hands to the distaff, and holds the spindle in her hands.
Kapah parsah le'ani v'yadeiha shil'chah la'evyon
She extends her hands to the poor, and reaches out her hand to the needy.
Lo tira l'vetah mishaleg ki chol betah lavush shanim
She fears not for her household because of snow, because her whole household is warmly dressed.
Marvadim astah lah shesh v'argaman l'vushah
She makes covers for herself, her clothing is fine linen and purple.
Noda bash'arim ba'lah b'shivto im ziknei aretz
Her husband is known at the gates, when he sits among the elders of the land.
Sadin astah vatimkor vachagor natnah lak'na'ani
She makes a cloak and sells it, and she delivers aprons to the merchant.
Oz v'hadar l'vushah vatischak l'yom acharon
Strength and honor are her clothing, she smiles at the future.
Piha patchah v'chochma v'torat chesed al l'shonah
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and the lesson of kindness is on her tongue.
Tzofi'ah halichot betah v'lechem atzlut lo tochel
She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Kamu vaneha vay'ash'ruha ba'lah vay'hal'lah
Her children rise and praise her, her husband lauds her.
Rabot banot asu chayil v'at alit al kulanah
Many women have done worthily, but you surpass them all.
Sheker hachen v'hevel hayofi ishah yir'at Hashem hi tit'halal
Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears God shall be praised.
T'nu lah mip'ri yadeiha vihal'luha vash'arim ma'aseha
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.
Your wife deserves to hear you sing Aishet Chayil this Shabbat. Wait and see how she smiles at you!
This Shabbat is very special - Shabbat Miketz, Chanuka, and Rosh Chodesh. May your Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Chanuka be especially lovely. Don't forget how much Hashem loves you, and the smile will never leave your face, amen.