Friday, November 18, 2005

Not the Rabbi's Center

Walking by Yeshivat Merkaz haRav today, I was surprised to see its name translated as "The Rabbi Kook Universal Yeshiva". That got me thinking as to how the English could correspond to the Hebrew. Apparently it's not the Yeshiva of Merkaz haRav, but the Yeshivat Merkaz (central Yeshiva) of the Rav. Thus, all the people who call it simply "Merkaz haRav" are WRONG. Of course, now I get to be the pedantic one who corrects them all the time.

I would have thought 75

"...This [70 degrees F] is a temperature at which manual labor for white peoples is very trying. When the annual average is above this point, coloured labour is essential." ("The World", p.259, published 1936)

I'm less offended than bewildered that anyone could seriously, in all honesty, believe such things. I guess "the world" was different back then. Nature has changed, or something.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Back to posting

"Kol mitzhalot chatanim mechupatam" (from Sheva Brachot, and contrary to popular perception, a rabbinic phrase instead of one from Tanach)

Recently, for fun, I've asked a few people to translate this phrase for me, specifically the word "chatanim". The usual answer they come up with is "bridegrooms". Which is what I would have thought at first glance, too.

But why then is the next word "mechupatam", "from their bridal canopy"? If there are multiple bridegrooms, should they not have multiple bridal canopies? (If you're wondering, I believe the singular form of the word is attested to in the gemara, most of the rishonim, rambam, machzor vitri, etc., and all modern texts I've seen.)

If you wanted to be funny, you'd say it's talking about gay marriages. But I think it's safe to assume that the author(s) of Sheva Berachot didn't care for such things. Or, if you were the Chatam Sofer, you'd bring the famous line that God dwells with the married couple, so that there are really three beings under the canopy, two of them gramatically male and thus deserving the word "chatan". But I don't think that's the simple meaning.

Rather, I think "chatanim" must be translated as the married couple - the groom and the bride. Just as a "ben" is male and a "bat" is female but both are included in the plural "banim", similarly the "chatan" and "kalah" would both be included in the plural "chatanim".

With this understanding, "mechupatam" makes perfect sense, and the prayer takes on a beautiful parallelism:

"...the sound of rejoicing, the sound of happiness, the sound of the groom, the sound of the bride, the sound of the married couple exulting from their canopy..."

Is this in fact the correct translation? I couldn't find a precedent for the word "chatanim" being used in any context except for the text of Sheva Berachot. So without such evidence for or against, I'll just say that it makes the most sense and explains things better than any other translation I could come up with. I'd like to hear other ideas though, if anyone still reads this blog. :-)