QUESTION: The Gemara cites three statements taught by Rebbi Chiya. "A wife is
only for beauty, a wife is only for children... a wife is only for wearing
jewelry." Why does Rebbi Chiya extol the importance of beauty and jewelry in
ANSWER: The HAGAHOS MAHARSHAM explains that the Gemara in Yevamos (63a)
relates that although Rebbi Chiya's wife tormented him, Rebbi Chiya consoled
himself by saying that "it is enough that our wives raise our children and
save us from sin." The sin to which he was referring was "Hirhurei Aveirah,"
thoughts of immoral behavior. The way the wife saves her husband from
Hirhurei Aveirah is through her beauty, and if she is not naturally
beautiful, through applying makeup and cosmetics to make herself beautiful to
her husband (as it says in Yevamos 63b and Ta'anis 23b).
That is what Rebbi Chiya means in our Sugya as well. At the very least, any
woman can serve her husband by bearing him offspring and by being beautiful
(or properly jeweled), which saves him from Hirhurei Aveirah.
The VILNA GA'ON (Bi'ur ha'Gra EH 1:1) points out that these three elements of
a wife correspond to the three groups of women mentioned in the Beraisa at
the end of Ta'anis. The Gemara there (31a) says that when men were choosing
wives on the 15th of Av, three groups of women would try to attract the men's
attention in three different ways. The women of distinguished lineage
(Yichus) would tell them to marry a woman in order to bear children. The
women who were attractive, but had no Yichus, would tell them to marry a
woman for her beauty. The unattractive women with no Yichus would tell the
men to marry a woman l'Shem Shamayim, with pure intentions, and to make sure
to decorate her with jewelry. The Vilna Ga'on explains that this third group
corresponds to Rebbi Chiya's statement that a woman is to be decorated with
jewelry, meaning that if she is not naturally beautiful, when she is
decorated with jewelry she will look attractive to her husband and serve her
purpose in that manner. (Rashi explains the women's statement about jewelry
in the end of Ta'anis differently.)
Although the *Beraisa* in Ta'anis lists three types of women that attract men
in three different ways, the Mishnah there lists only the group that tells
the men to marry a wife for the purpose of bearing children. The reason for
this, the Vilna Ga'on explains, is like the Mishnah there (26b) continues:
because, "Sheker ha'Chen v'Hevel ha'Yofi" (Mishlei 31:30) -- external beauty
("Chen," see Megilah 13a) and intrinsic beauty ("Yofi") is false and vain.
The true reason to marry a woman is to bear children who will follow the
Mitzvos and fulfill the Mitzvah of Piryah v'Rivyah.
The Vilna Ga'on (Kol Eliyahu #30) points out that the verse, however,
concludes, "Ishah Yir'as Hashem, Hi Sishalal" -- "the woman who fears Hashem
-- she is to be praised," teaching that when a woman fears Hashem, then her
beauty is not in vain. On the contrary, she is praiseworthy for using her
beauty to serve Hashem (as the Maharsham described).