11 Introduction A woman of valor who shall find? Her price is far above that of rubies […] grace is deceitful, beauty is vain, but a woman who feareth the Lord, she shall be praised, give her the fruit of her hands and let her works praise her in the gates. These are the opening and closing words of “Eishet Chayil”, the poem found in the last chapter of Proverbs describing “A Woman of Valor” according to Jewish belief. Traditionally sung by Jewish husbands to their wives on Friday night, the poem succinctly summarizes the ele- ments which the author of Proverbs believed should typify the “Woman of Valor”: capable, industrious, wise, kind, charitable, faithful, fear- less, heroic and G-d-fearing. This was the guide that the virtuous Jew- ish woman was supposed to use as an example for her behavior; the template that should mold her female identity. This was the pattern from which she was to replicate her actions and beliefs, a straightfor- ward design that combined daily examples of heroism in her never- ending household tasks, the pillars of her female identity at that time, with an unwavering religious belief, the pillar of her spiritual identity, as noted by the poem’s author. The concepts behind and the connections between these various pillars is the starting point in our journey through the elements which compose the framework for this book: identity, heroism and religion. Our study opens with three chapters that focus on various aspects of Jewish women’s identity at...
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