The Proverbial Woman: A Laden Vessel

Proverbs 31:14  She is like merchant ships.  She brings her food from afar.

The Hebrew letter associated with this verse is the letter 'Hey' (prounounced hay).  It means 'look! behold!' and the pictorial representation is the figure of a man with his arms raised skyward. It represents the divine breath, revelation and light.  It is said by the Jewish sages that the sound of breath leaving God's mouth refers to the sound hey.  Holy Spirit is called Ruach Hakodesh and the word Hakodesh means Holy Breath, so Ruach Hakodesh is the breath of the spirit of God.   It is in many ways the source of  inspiration.

In our verse, the word associated with hey is haiteh and it means 'she is'.  You might have already noticed, but most of the words we'll be studying are verbs.  It certainly shows how actively involved the Proverbial woman is...and I do say 'is' in the present tense because all of the verbs used to describe her are present tense.  Surely a sign that there are still Proverbial women!

I struggled with this verse more than the previous ones. At some point I'd written the word haiteh by the verse in my Bible.  I have these words courtesy of a Hebrew teacher I studied under very briefly.  To write these posts  I had been using a Bible website with a lexicon to break down the meanings of the original Hebrew text.  In that text, the word put before me was cachar (sha khar).  The meaning of the word completely threw me off. The meaning of that word was merchant and yet there was already a word for merchant.  I looked for two days for a Hebrew version of the verse that contained the word haiteh.  I was completely stumped with the meaning 'she is'.  I had to walk away and pray for three or four days before I could come back to it. 

Of course, as a homemaker, I related it at first to her provision for her family.  I thought long and hard about the implications of her role as the planner of meals and all that entails. As with all these verses there is a physcial earthly meaning to each of them... So yes, she likely did provide foods for her household, buying them from merchants, perhaps even stocking a pantry.  Haven't I myself referred to 'shopping' when I retrieved items from my own pantry?    But I felt strongly I missed a great deal in relegating her to just that role in this verse. 

As I prayed, I saw those ships, sails filled with wind,  moving along the ocean towards harbor...I wondered about what cargo they held, where they came from.  I wondered how the Proverbial woman knew what to buy...or if she even lived near a sea port!  I pondered on these things but felt in my spirit I was still missing the point of the verse.

I began to let go of the concept of cargo and food for a bit and dwelled simply upon the ship.  Ships follow routes. In those days they navigated by a plotted course, using sun and stars and moon to guide them.  When the ships were unloaded, the goods were moved inland via trade routes. I went back to the original Bible lexicon I'd been using and to the word cachar.  The word also has an interpretation of 'to go about'.  Back to the letter 'hey',  I found sages also related it to the five fingers of the hands, the  five physical senses and the five spiritual dimensions.  This verse is not merely about the purchase of home goods as I might have thought long ago,  but about her physical passage as a female: from infancy to adulthood, from daughter to wife, from student to teacher. 

It is also about  her spiritual growth in her relationship with God. Hey is seen as a window, open between man and God, allowing the breath of God to touch him.  According to an ancient commentary hey is God within the 'open window' of the heart of man.  As proof of this the commentary points out the name change of Abram to Abraham (in Hebrew the English 'h' is represented by the letter hey)  and Sarai to Sarah., the change coming about after Adonai appeared to Abram.  (Genesis 17: 1-15).  In Jewish wisdom there are five levels of spiritual sense: instincts (Nefresh), emotions (Ruach), mind (Neshamah),a bridge of transcendence (Chayah), and oneness (Yechidah).

So the Proverbial woman has grown in the spiritual sense, keeping her heart open to God and allowing him to fill her spiritually.   This portrays a true sense of Deuteronomy 6:5 in which  we are commanded "and you are to love Adonai your  God with all your heart, all your being and  and all your resources."

Jesus  was asked by a Torah teacher, "What is the greatest mitzvah (commandment) of them all?"  Jesus replied, " The most important is, "Sh'ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad (Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One) and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, wtih all your soul, with all your understanding and with all your strength."  Mark 12:30

Jesus was in synagogue and was asked by a Torah teacher and asked what he needed to do to obtain eternal life.  Jesus replied 'What does the Torah say?  How do you read it?"  The man answered up, "You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your understanding; and your neighbor as yourself."  "That's the right answer," said Jesus. "Do this and you will have life."  Luke 10: 27-28



1 comment:

Lana said...

I've been turning this over in my head all day but have no intelligent thing to say. But, I wanted to share the link for Ann Voskamp's encourage America email today and be sure to watch the video at the end. It is all a balm for us weary Americans.

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