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Saturday, December 01, 2012

The city of gold

In Saturday's Daf Yomi, the Talmud explains various laws that center around various types of jewelry and the Sabbath. One of those items mentioned is called a "City of Gold," which is a piece of gold jewelry  that Jewish women would wear that is shaped to represent Jerusalem.

As described by Rav Adin Steinsaltz:
What is the meaning of: With a city of gold? Rabba bar bar Ĥana said that Rabbi Yoĥanan said: Jerusalem of Gold, a gold tiara engraved with a depiction of the city of Jerusalem, like the one that Rabbi Akiva made for his wife.

Rabbi Akiva, who lived just after the destruction of the Second Temple, was one of the greatest of the tannaim [Mishnaic rabbis.] Unlettered until the age of 40, Akiva was encouraged by his wife Rachel to devote himself to the study of Torah. After years of study under the tutelage of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, Yehoshua ben Hanania and others, he returned with thousands of students and established his own academy in Bene Brak.

The "city of gold" ornament that Rabbi Akiva made for his wife is mentioned several times throughout the Talmud. The Gemara relates that when they lived in abject poverty they resided in a hayloft. When he saw that the hay got into his wife’s hair, Rabbi Akiva told her that if he ever became wealthy he would make her a "city of gold" ornament. Eventually, he kept his promise. In the Jerusalem Talmud, it is told that the wife of the Nasi, Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel, complained to him that she does not have so expensive an ornament. He asked her: Would you have done for me what Rabbi Akiva’s wife did for him? Rabbi Akiva’s wife sold the braids of her hair so that he could study Torah and she earned that ornament.

According to the descriptions of the Sages, the "city of gold" was a tiara on which the form of a city and its walls were depicted in gold. The Jerusalem of Gold specifically depicted the walls of Jerusalem. Apparently, this ornament was quite expensive and only a very limited number of aristocratic women wore it.
Jewish women were adorning themselves with jewelry depicting their love for Jerusalem some six centuries before Islam was born (and probably earlier than that.)

Just something to keep in mind as people show anger at Jews building houses in the suburbs of that same city today.