Chagrah boz matneha v’taametz zeroteha
“She girds her loins with strength and she makes her arms courageous”
There is a lot of skepticism in society today. Speak to people about belief or religion and it is going to be a touchy subject. People like proof. Something they can see, touch, calculate. Stick to the amorphous and it is tricky. It requires that leap of faith that not everyone is willing to take.
And yet, ironically, one of the most natural things there is, something very tangible, practical, understandable and scientific, is always referred to as a miracle: the miracle of birth.
Of all times, here is a situation where it is easy to say that this man and woman created life. Together they formed this pregnancy and this woman, all by herself, then birthed this baby. And yet, as natural as the process is, anyone who has been through it is recognizes that something greater than the two of them was involved. It is somehow connected to nature and yet above nature simultaneously. Birth seems to bridge the finite into the Infinite.
On a physical level, birth is also the eternal bonding of an individual man with an individual woman. This baby contains the essence of these two, and will forever connect them, regardless of whether or not the relationship survives. The baby is the future, what continues who they are and who they come from. Our children will hopefully outlive us and their children them but with each and every generation we live on both in the physical and in the spiritual.
This 8th verse of Eshet Chayil relates to birth and refers to two separate regions of the body, one which represents the power of the internal, the other the external. The loins are where are procreative organs are located and our ability to birth life. Giving birth requires strength. Clearly physical strength to carry a child and then go through the labor of giving birth, but emotional and spiritual strength as well to then care for and raise that child.
In addition to the strength she must have, she also must have the courage. Her arms are what allows her to hold that child, to reach out to others, to extend herself in ways she didn’t know she was capable of.
But what about women who can’t have children? Who don’t have children? How would this then apply?
The first commandment in the Torah is that of pru u’revu, “to be fruitful and multiply.” The basic explanation is that this means to procreate. But there is a deeper understanding as well. We were created to create. And this is a commandment that applies to all, not only to women in their childbearing years, but to women who have not yet had children and may never have children. More so, it is a commandment that is specific to the male even though he will never physically carry or birth a child.
The idea is that we were all imbued with talents and abilities that we are able to use to impact the world around us. When we create, in whatever format that may be, we then fulfill this commandment. Some of us are artists, others writers, some good at sports, others at negotiation. The abilities are endless, and the impact each and every one can have is enormous.
But it is hard. We doubt ourselves. Others tell us we may not succeed. We fear failure. And all too often we choose the safe path, the easy direction, because doing something new, something risky, just may not be worth it. Or so we think. Yet, we were created to do what only we can do. It doesn’t matter if there are better writers, no one can write what we write. No one thinks just as we think. Or the music we may create, or the paintings, or how we teach and connect with others. We are all unique. There are no copies…we just need to have the strength and courage to explore who we are and what we are capable of.
This is why this 8th verse is speaking of our ability to birth. For we all must give birth new realities and new insights. We all must create. And to do so, first we must strengthen our creative abilities on the inside, and then we must have courage once we have given birth to use our arms to hold and nurture and ultimately send out to the world what it is that we have created.
The word for ‘arms’ is matneha, which contains within the word for a ‘gift’ or ‘present,’ matanah. In Hebrew grammar, the feminization of a word is created when a Yud and a Hei are added to the end. These two letters also represent one of the names of our Creator, so it is a beautiful way to read the word for “loins” as “gift of/from G-d.”
And the strength from her loins comes when they are girded. To gird is to encircle, to surround, to secure. We are strong when we are supported. When we know we are not alone. When we know others are there for us.
Beautifully, the very word for girding in Hebrew is ‘chagrah’ which is the same root as ‘chagurah,’ which means a “belt.” The belt is the line that forms the circle (this will be discussed at length in the piece on the letter Chet that begins the verse) which is taking the masculine and feminine concepts of line and circle and unifying them. The belt is what holds up and supports our garments when it encircles our center.
Furthermore, the word for ‘arms’ is ‘zeroteha’ which contains the root zerah which means ‘seed.’ So the arms that bring forth life from the loins and then bring that life to the world are intrinsically connected to the seed that began that life from the beginning. And just as matneha (her loins) is the idea of “gift of/from G-d” so too, with zeroteha, it likewise can be read as “the seed of/from G-d.”
This verse reminds us that we all have incredible strength within, we just need the support and safety to be able to tap into it. And when we do, we can birth incredible new realities, utilizing our unique talents and fulfilling our purpose in creation. And as we use that strength to bring forth life from within, there are courageous arms waiting to catch what we birth, hold that new creation, comfort it and help it enter the world in order to impact and transform it, in the way that only it can.