KESUVOS 59 (7 Elul) - Dedicated in memory of Esther Miryam bas Harav Chaim Zev and her husband Harav Refael Yisrael ben Harav Moshe (Snow), whose Yahrzeits are 7 Elul and 8 Elul respectively. Sponsored by their son and daughter in law, Moshe and Rivka Snow.

QUESTION: The Gemara cites three statements that Rebbi Chiya made with regard to a wife: "A wife is only for beauty, a wife is only for children... a wife is only for wearing jewelry." What is Rebbi Chiya's intent when he extols these three virtues of a wife, particularly the relatively superficial virtues of beauty and jewelry?
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, or, if she is not naturally beautiful, through applying cosmetics and jewelry to make herself beautiful to her husband (as the Gemara says in Yevamos 63b and Ta'anis 23b).
That is what Rebbi Chiya means in here as well. At the very least, any woman can serve her husband by bearing him offspring and by being beautiful (or nicely adorned), 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 the young men would choose for themselves wives on the fifteenth of Av, three groups of women would try to attract their attention in three different ways. The women of distinguished lineage (Yichus) would tell the men 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 groups of women who 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 Vilna Ga'on explains that the reason for this is inherent in the continuation of the Mishnah there (26b): it is 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 concludes, "Ishah Yir'as Hash-m, Hi Sis'halal" -- "the woman who fears Hash-m -- she is to be praised." The verse means that when a woman fears Hash-m, her beauty is not in vain. On the contrary, she is praiseworthy for using her beauty to serve Hash-m (as the Maharsham describes).