A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies. — Proverbs 31:10
Proverbs chapter 31 contains the famous tribute to the woman of valor. In the opening phrase, we read: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.”Simply put, a woman of valor is a precious and rare gem. However, in the original Hebrew, the verse compares this woman to pearls. Understanding the comparison to pearls instead of rubies can teach us a lot about what it means to be a woman – or man – of uniquely noble character.
Rubies are a naturally occurring gemstone. While they are beautiful, valuable, and hard to find, they do exist given the right environment. A pearl, on the other hand, has to be earned. It is created by a process that begins with an irritation. Something uncomfortable enters a clam, such as a grain of sand, a parasite, or even a piece of itself that was damaged. As a result of the irritation, the clam responds by sealing off the contaminant and ultimately producing a pearl — a beautiful, valuable, and rare gem that all began from something irritating.
Now we can appreciate the value of comparing the woman of valor to a pearl over a ruby. A woman may be lovely like a ruby, but even greater is if she became beautiful through difficult circumstances that she overcame and became better for it. It’s one thing to have been born especially kind, patient, and God-fearing, but it’s another to master those traits in the face of adversity.
Yet, the verse calls the woman of valor “worth far more” than pearls. What could be more valuable than a person who became great through challenges?
There are two ways a person can go through a fiery test and come out better on the other side: the one is with a bitter attitude and the other is with joy. Many people go through trials and, indeed, emerge greater individuals, but during the period of testing, they complained, they quarreled with others, and made those around them miserable. Rare indeed is the person who can face a challenge, overcome it, and do so with a pleasant spirit.
There’s only one way to become that rare specimen of beauty who can go through difficulties without losing joy, and that’s to believe that it’s all for a really good reason. As we read in Jeremiah 29:11.“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you . . .” When we can focus on the good that God is bringing about through our challenges, we can get through them with a good attitude. Then we will become more precious than rubies, more valuable than pearls, and priceless to God.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President