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The Coveted Pendant

The Coveted Pendant

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I used to think she was a martyr. Rachel, wife of the great Rabbi Akiva, lived alone for 24 years while he studied Torah away from home and ultimately became one of the greatest Torah sages. Poor Rachel.

But then I learned about the necklace. In appreciation ofI used to think she was a martyr his wife’s sacrifice, Rabbi Akiva presented his wife with an elaborate gold pendant, engraved with the domes and hills of the holy city of Jerusalem. When the wife of another great Torah sage, Rabban Gamliel, saw Rachel’s necklace, she enviously asked her husband to gift her with something similar.

He replied, “Would you do for me what Rachel did for Rabbi Akiva?”

The necklace symbolized the mutual commitment the couple had for each other and for their values.

When Rachel met Akiva, he was just a simple shepherd. In fact, her wealthy father disowned her for marrying the simpleton. But she believed in his potential, and in the value of learning Torah. After his first 12 years away, when he was finally returning home, he overheard a neighbor challenging his wife, “Why are you still married to this fellow? You’re practically a living widow!” Without hesitation, she responded, “On the contrary, I support my husband! I would encourage him to go learn for another 12 years!” Hearing her words and conviction, Rabbi Akiva did an about-face and spent another 12 years away from home studying.

Upon Rabbi Akiva’s return from over two decades of study, surrounded by 24,000 students, he announced to them with much admiration, “All I have, and by extension all that you have, truly belongs to my wife. For she gets all the credit.” Rachel's story is one of love

Now I realize that Rachel’s story is not one of martyrdom, but of love. Love for the Torah, love for her husband, and an appreciation for what he was devoting his life to.

Thoughtstream: Today, I will support my husband out of love.

(Jerusalem Talmud, Shabbat 6:1;Talmud, Shabbat 25b.)

Sara Blau is a teacher and extracurricular director at Beth Rivkah High School. She is a wife, mother, and author of several children“s books.
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