This year, my husband read something that explained that it's very important for the husband to buy his wife a piece of jewellery, for an upcoming Jewish holiday. The pamphlet explained that buying the jewellery was an investment in his marriage; and an investment in his shalom bayit (marital peace) and a show of love for his spouse. It was as though he was 'picking' her anew.
At the same time, I also went to a torah class for women that said the same thing, with an important codicil that whatever your husband buys you, even if you hate it, wear it happily.
My husband is a great husband. He started up his own business several months ago, so we are currently in that 'inbetween' time of sending out bills, and actually having them paid. It was a miracle that we got through Pesach and Shavuot. It was a bigger miracle that we managed to buy new clothes for all the family to wear. The crowning miracle was that he managed to squeeze enough out of Bank Mizrachi to also pay for some jewellery.
I opened the boxes a few minutes before the Pesach holiday began: pearl-drop earrings and a silver bangle.
I'd been after pearl-drop earrings for ages, but once they were out of the box, I took an instant dislike to them. 'Are they real?' I asked my husband, knowing how skint we are at the moment. 'Yes!'
Hmmm. They looked so perfectly similar and symmetrical that I didn't really believe him, but I put them on anyway and tried very hard to smile in a 'real' way.
The bracelet was not so much my taste, but it had character and I actually quite liked it. It was real silver, quite chunky, and was an 'arrow' design. It was like a looping arrow, with one sharp 'arrow head', and two sharp points at the tail.
I slipped it on my wrist, and went down to light my candles.
Very soon afterwards, the three sharp bits of the bracelet started to stab quite painfully into my wrist. I twisted it around. I pushed it together. I adjusted where it was on my wrist. But all evening, I kept getting stabbed by my real silver jewellery that my husband had put so much effort into buying for me.
I got into a bit of a funny mood.
The last bit of jewellery I had was five years' ago. Despite myself, I couldn't help thinking that it was a bit of a shame that my latest piece could have come in very handy in the torture chambers of the Vietcong.
But my husband had bought it for me! So I wore it all evening long. I didn't sulk Seder night - but the following morning, I woke up in a really bad mood.
I went out for some urgent hitbodedut (personal prayer), to work out why I was grumpy. Of course, I knew why right from the beginning: it was the jewellery. Yes, I really still am that shallow.
After about five minutes of me complaining, G-d reminded me that my husband was only an agent, or middle-man. G-d was the one that had really picked out the bracelet and the too-perfect pearls for me.
Then, he reminded me that the jewellery was meant to be a 'representation' of me, and how I appeared to my husband.
That's when the penny dropped. The bracelet was actually quite nice to look at. It was 'real', it had character. It was shaped as movement incarnate - an arrow chasing around, trying to reconnect itself back into something 'whole' again.
But it was so sharp and spikey, and painful to wear for more than five minutes! The edges were so sharp you could cut a salami with them.
In short, my husband had found me the perfect bracelet.
I came back quite chastened.
I had a chat with my husband, and I thanked him for picking me the bracelet. I thanked him for all the time, effort and money he'd spent - and then I explained to him that it was drawing blood every time I tried to wear it.
I also explained that even though I couldn't really wear it, I still liked it very much, because it really showed me where I'm actually holding as a wife.
Rosh Hashanah is only two months away.
You should know, I'm aspiring to be the sort of wife that G-d can send something delicate-and-solid-and-beautiful-and-simple-and-modest-yet-still-attractive too. But I'll settle for something that's not dangerous. Even that would be progress.