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Woman of Valor

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It's almost Passover and Shira is cleaning under the kitchen sink, making sure the cleaning solution gets into all the cracks to to clean out any chometz. This is the first time she's made Passover on her own, and it's hard work. She takes a moment to feel sympathy for her mother.

Purim was difficult for Shira. All she could think of was Esther and her death on Purim last year. She doesn't want Passover to be like that too.

She hears Yochay coming in the door and scrambles to her feet. "I'm finished cleaning under the sink but I still have to do the stove," she says, panting slightly. She hates cleaning the stove for Passover and always made Esther help her mother with that when they were growing up.

Yochay smiles at her. "I'll do the stove," he offers.

"I can do it!" Shira protests.

"It's not that I think you won't do it right. It's that I know you hate cleaning the stove."

Esther must have told him. Shira does not say that, because she still doesn't like talking about Esther with Yochay. Sometimes she still wonders if he compares the two of them and finds Shira wanting.

"Mordechai's awake," Shira lies, and flees the room. Yochay treats her so well, always praising her housekeeping, always looking into her eyes when he sings Aishes Chayil, the song praising illustrious women, on Friday night. Yet she still wonders if he loves her. She knows she isn't being fair to him, but it's not easy to replace someone like her sister. Growing up, Esther was always praised for her accomplishments, and everyone was thrilled when she got married to Yochay. Shira wonders if Esther prepared for Passover better too. If Esther was the real woman of valor.

She can't bear to wake Mordechai up from his nap just to have an excuse not to talk to her husband. When she goes back into the kitchen, Yochay is still there.

"Is something wrong?" he asks her.

"No," she answers.

"If there is you can always talk to me about it." Yochay says.

Finally Shira pushes out the words. "Sometimes I feel like Leah."

"In what way?"

"Well, isn't that obvious? In theTorah Yaakov loved Rachel more than Leah. She wasn't the one Yaakov really wanted, and in the Torah it seems like she felt unhappy about it for the rest of her life."

Yochay remains silent for a minute, then reaches out and twines his fingers through hers.

"I was about to give you a speech," he says. "About Leah and how she was still very loved by Yaakov and wasn't unhappy all the time. About how she's one of the mothers of the Jewish people. But you aren't really talking about Leah. You're talking about yourself, so I will too.

"When I married your sister I didn't know all her flaws. I don't mean that she had a lot of them, just that she was human like anybody else. I had flaws too, and she didn't know either. So to me she was like the perfect woman, the most beautiful woman in the world, like you said to me once. And then after we were married, reality set in. I'm not saying I was disappointed. That's just the way it happens."

Shira winces and looks away. This is too hard for her to hear.

"But while I was married to her she told me all about you. She said you could sing well and bake delicious cakes and always liked to help little kids and older people. And she also told me how you used to follow her around when you were younger, until she yelled at you to stop. She told me about the time you got caught watching television in the electronics store, and the time you didn't speak to each other for three days, and the time you locked her in the bathroom--"

"It was an accident!" Shira protested.

"What I'm getting at here is that I knew your flaws. And I still wanted to marry you. So you're not like Leah at all, not in the way you're thinking. Yaakov never chose Leah, and I chose you, knowing who you really were."

When he says that something breaks inside Shira and tears begin to roll down her cheeks. She isn't sad though; she is relieved. Yochay reaches out and she leans against his chest while he strokes her back. "And you love me?" she asks.

She wonders if he'll say something like "You know you don't have to ask me that," but he just says, "Yes. I love you more than I can say."

"I knew your flaws too," she says. "But Esther made me promise never to tell anyone. Especially the part about the time you set the dryer on fire."

Yochay begins to laugh, and soon Shira joins in. She stands in the almost-clean kitchen, holding him, and knowing that she doesn't have to worry about being the perfect woman anymore.