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Beautiful Deeds

Beautiful Deeds

Rachel, wife of Rabbi Akiva

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By chassidic artist Hendel Lieberman
By chassidic artist Hendel Lieberman

Rabbi Akiva stated, “Who is a rich man? One who has a wife full of beautiful deeds” (Shabbat 25b).

The commentaries explain that Rabbi Akiva was reflecting on his spiritual fortune, as opposed to material wealth. (Maharatz Chayot and Maharsha ibid.)

Akiva was a shepherd for one of the wealthiest men in Jerusalem, Kalba Savua. When his daughter, Rachel, saw that Akiva was modest and of fine character, she offered to marry him if he would go and study Torah. Although he was then a 40-year-old ignorant shepherd, she intuited that if given the opportunity, he could become a great scholar.

When her father heard of the marriage proposal, he banished Rachel from his house and eliminated her from his written will. This did not deter her, and she married Akiva. Eventually, Rabbi Akiva became one of the greatest scholars of his generations. Thus, women with beautiful deeds truly enrich their husbands’ spiritual life.

Alternatively, in the above phrase, “beautiful deeds” refers to acts of tzedakah, charity. Women encourage their husbands to distribute their wealth to poor people, which enables G‑d’s blessing to infuse their businesses and bring them riches. (Iyun Yaakov ibid.)

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