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    Spear & distaff – Ask the Rabbi

    Q. In the chapter about the woman of worth, what is the meaning of a “distaff” (Prov. 31:19)?

    A. The accepted translation is, “She lays her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle”. “Distaff” is an Old English word meaning the rod on which wool or flax is wound preparatory to spinning. Because this was seen to be women’s work, the distaff side of a family are the women; men are the spear side. The Hebrew word rendered “distaff” is kishor, which does not appear anywhere else. It may come from a Sumerian root sur, “to spin”; “kissura” is an instrument used in spinning, and a place called Kissura is so named because woven material was its main product.

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