Eishet Chayil (lit., “Woman of Valor”) is the name of a Biblical ode, sung on Friday night, extolling a woman’s virtues. Read on for more on this classic, meaning-laden song.

1. It Begins With a Question

The opening verse poses a rhetorical question: “Who can find a woman of valor? Her value surpasses that of pearls!” The subsequent verses go on to enumerate the many coveted qualities of the quintessential Jewish woman.

Read the text of Eishet Chayil

2. It Is Sung on Friday Night

In many Jewish homes, Eishet Chayil is traditionally sung on Friday night between “Shalom Aleichem,” which welcomes the angels to our homes, and kiddush, in which we declare the sanctity of the day. It is an opportunity for the family to express gratitude to the woman of the house who has worked tirelessly to prepare the Shabbat foods and ensure that the Shabbat Queen is greeted in royal fashion.

Read: Why Sing Eishet Chayil on Friday Night?

3. It Was Composed by King Solomon (Some Say Abraham)

This beautiful hymn is found in the closing verses of Proverbs,1 one of the three books of the Bible composed by King Solomon. Indeed, according to one tradition, King Solomon wrote it in honor of his mother, Queen Bathsheba, wife of King David.2 According to another tradition, it was originally composed by our forefather Abraham as a eulogy to his wife, Sarah, and then later included in the book of Proverbs.3

Read: King Solomon

4. It Follows the Hebrew Alphabet

The 22 verses of Eishet Chayil form an alphabetic acrostic, where each verse begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. While King Solomon’s father, King David, employed alphabetic acrostics several times in Psalms,4 Eishet Chayil is the sole extant example composed by King Solomon.

Read: Letters of Light

5. It Is Said to Correspond to Specific Women in Jewish History

One Midrashic source matches the verses of Eishet Chayil with 19 great Jewish women throughout history: Sarah, Rivkah, Leah, Rachel, Batyah, Yocheved, Miriam, Chana, Yael, the widow of Zarephath, Rahab, Bathsheba, Michal, Tzlelponit (mother of Samson), Elisheva, the wise woman who saved the city of Abel (identified as Serach), the wife of Obadiah, the Shunamite woman, and Ruth.5

For example, the second verse reads, “Her husband's heart trusts in her and he shall lack no fortune.” This corresponds to Sarah, who brought wealth to her husband Abraham.6 A later verse reads, “False is grace and vain is beauty; it is a G‑d-fearing woman who is to be praised.” This hints to Ruth, who forsook material wealth to join the Jewish nation.

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6. It Has a Deeper Significance

Every section of the Torah includes layer upon layer of meaning, and Eishet Chayil is no exception. Rashi sees the Woman of Valor as a metaphor for the Torah, with the song enumerating the many benefits of studying it and following its ways.7 Alternatively, she can be understood as representing the Divine Presence and the Shabbat Queen.8 The Zohar offers yet another interpretation: Eishet Chayil is a song of praise of G‑d to His wife, the Jewish Nation.9

7. The Popular Tune Was Composed by Ben Zion Shenker

The verses of Eishet Chayil have been set to numerous soul-stirring melodies. One melody in particular has become a classic, sung in thousands of Jewish homes worldwide—a tune composed in 1946 by the well-known Chassidic composer and chazan, Rabbi Ben Zion Shenker (1925–2016).

Listen to the Tune

8. Sephardim Say It at Women's Funerals

Many Sephardic communities recite the Eishet Chayil hymn when a woman is laid to her final rest, serving as a fitting tribute to the irreplaceable life of the mainstay of the home.10

Read: 13 Little-Known Jewish Funeral Traditions

9. It Prioritizes Family

In Eishet Chayil, King Solomon recognizes that there are women in the workforce: “She considers a field and buys it; from the fruit of her handiwork she plants a vineyard … She fashions garments and sells them, and she delivers girdles to the peddler.” However, he makes it clear that the primary mission of the Woman of Valor is to raise and care for her family: “She rises while it is still nighttime and provides food for her household … She anticipates the needs of her home … Her children arise and celebrate her; her husband praises her.” This is why Eishet Chayil is sung specifically in the home, and on Shabbat, when work is forbidden.11

Read: The Eishet Chayil School of Business

10. It Highlights Kindness and Sagacity

The song not only commends the woman’s deeds but also extols her character, describing her as blessed with both kindness and intellectual prowess: “She spreads out her palm to the poor and extends her hands to the destitute;” “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

Watch: The Woman of Valor

11. It Provides Perspective on Beauty

The penultimate verse of Eishet Chayil states, “False is grace and vain is beauty; it is a G‑d-fearing woman that is to be praised.” This conveys the idea that beauty holds no intrinsic value; it is only when coupled with fear of G‑d and kindness toward others that physical attraction becomes a virtue.12

Read: Jewish Feminism