A friend of mine feels it is wasteful to purchase jewelry for his wife. She, however, disagrees. Their 30th anniversary is coming up. He's not poor—actually gives a lot to many charities, and quite observant. I've been trying to tell him that women see jewelry differently than men do. But he wants to know whether the Torah demands he provide jewelry for his wife.


Although it's hard for men to see jewelry as an essential feature of life, that is the way many, if not most woman conceive of it. Perhaps because the first woman, Eve, started off life with jewelry. Here is the Midrash on that:1

We find that G‑d...adorns the bride, as it is written, "And the L-rd G‑d built...". Rabbi Yochanan said, "He built her [interpreting the word binyan as b'naeh=with beauty] and adorned her with jewels and showed her to him."

Said Rabbi Abahu, "Perhaps you will say that He showed her to him from some carob tree or bush? But no, after He adorned her with 24 kinds of jewelry, only then did He show her to him. For it says, 'And He brought her to the Adam.'"

Ever since then, jewelry has taken a very central role in the female psyche, as our sages point out, "Jewelry is more precious to a woman than all pleasurable things,"2 meaning, guys, even more than roast beef.

The fact is reflected in halachah. In the Code of Jewish Law's discussion of the rules of rejoicing on our holidays,3 we men are instructed to buy our wives new clothes and jewelry before every festival, each husband according to his financial means (meaning that the struggling office clerk does not have to go broke over that diamond studded choker, but neither can the CEO get away with cubic zirconia). Men, the halachah says, are happy when they drink wine and eat meat. Women, however, would rather wear diamonds.

Knowledge of this discrepancy between male and female psyches is not trivia. Your livelihood depends on it. In the Talmud,4 we are told:

Rebbi said that Rabbi Chelbo said, "A person should always be careful about the honor of his wife, for blessing is found in a person's home only due to his wife, as the verse states, 'And he did good to Abram for her sake.'"

So how is one careful about the honor of his wife? Obviously, he needs to speak to her with respect and dignity, never ever G‑d forbid speak poorly of her—neither to her face nor before others—and be ever-sensitive to her needs. He also has to know that her needs include jewelry. In fact, when G‑d provided the needs of the Children of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai by parachuting manna from heaven, the tradition tells that He also provided the women with jewelry.5 G‑d walks the walk.

Right after that statement about honoring your wife, the Talmud goes on to cite Rava, speaking to the people of his town, "Honor your wives, in order that you will become rich." Now, receiving blessings is one thing, but what does honoring your wife have to do with getting rich? Again, the obvious connection is that Rava is talking about providing your wife with jewelry. That seems implicit in the verb he uses for honor, okiru—often used in the context of adorning with jewels. In fact, we see Rava make the connection to jewelry explicitly elsewhere in the Talmud:6

There are three things that bring a man to poverty…and one is when his wife curses him. Rava explained, "When she curses him about jewelry, because he can afford it and does not provide her."

So now the logic fits neatly: You provide your wife with riches and G‑d rewards you in kind.

The logic fits even better when we get into the Kabbalah behind it. The Shelah Hakadosh (Rabbi Yeshaya Horowitz) writes7 that when a man buys his wife fine clothes and jewelry, he should have in mind that he is beautifying the Divine Presence, represented in this world by none other than his wife. He cites Rabbi Moshe Cordovero, who taught that every man must see himself as standing between two women—the Shechinah (Divine Presence) above, providing him with all his needs, and the Shechinah below, i.e. his wife, to whom he provides in turn. He is simply a conduit, and according to how he provides, so he will be provided for. Here again, the Talmud8 says much the same:

A man should eat and drink less than his means, clothe himself according to his means, and honor his wife and children beyond his means. For they depend upon him, and he depends on the One that spoke and the world came into being.

Let's take this one step further. What does it mean to be rich? Again, the Talmud enlightens us. When discussing how much charity a community is obligated to provide an individual, the Talmud cites the verse that instructs us to provide the pauper, "…sufficient for his needs which he is lacking." The Talmud interprets:9

You are obligated to provide him "sufficient for his needs," but you are not obligated to make him rich. When the verse adds, "which he is lacking," this implies even a horse to ride upon and a servant to run before him."

Meaning that if a person is used to luxuries (such as a servant running before him) and you provide him with that, you are not making him rich. Being rich goes beyond having all your needs fulfilled. Being truly rich is a state of being where needs are no longer a concern. And how do you merit to such richness? By providing your wife with jewelry.

You see, when you get down to it, the male attitude is a pragmatic one: He values that which fills a need. But jewelry goes beyond fulfilling a need. If it fills a need, it's not called jewelry, it's called an accessory.

And that is precisely what distinguishes a marriage from a commercial transaction: If your marriage functions by fulfillment of needs, as in, "you provide this and I provide that," then it is not a marriage at all. Marriage means that two people become one, and to do that you need to reach into your wife's soul—and that lies far deeper than her needs.

As a husband, I can tell you this: It's nice to buy your wife a new high-capacity washer-dryer combo, but it doesn't show her your love. To show love, you need to buy something that has no purpose whatsoever—other than showing love. And that's jewelry.

As it turns out, a true marriage is true wealth.

The Jewish relationship with G‑d, as described in the prophets and many midrashim, is as a wife to a husband. He provides for our needs—material needs such as an honest means to make a living and skills to keep that job, a wife, a home, a family—and spiritual needs, meaning Torah to instruct us in our daily life so that we may remain ever-connected to Him, along with the inspiration to do so.

But we also demand from Him something beyond needs. We demand a real relationship that goes beyond doing His bidding and being provided for in return. That's the jewelry part of the relationship, and it comes in the form of revelations of the deepest secrets of Torah, and ultimately the Torah of Moshiach in a time very soon to come.10

If so, if you want to hasten the coming of Moshiach, when all Jews will be adorned with the innermost secret wisdom, provide your wife with jewelry so that He will provide the same for us.

It also makes her look prettier.