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. :-)


Anonymous said...

yay! you're posting again!

Your interpretation makes sense, but then again, my rabbinical hebrew is rather shaky. Not that any rabbinic rabbis would talk to me [since I'm an unmarried woman.] Oh wow. I said "rabbinic rabbis." That's pretty redundant. :-p

Jewish Exile said...

You would have to make sure that chatanim mechupatam isn't an acceptable grammatic form in rabbinic hebrew when talking about multiple subjects. Otherwise, sounds good. Pose it to "steg" or "S" (onthemainline.blogspot), they seem to know dikduk like nobody's business.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

Makes sense to me... your solution is the one that i thought of when you first posed the question at the beginning of the post, although i never really thought about it before.

If you want a second (third?) opinion, you can ask Mar Gavriel.

Phillip Minden said...

You would have to make sure that chatanim mechupatam isn't an acceptable grammatic form in rabbinic hebrew when talking about multiple subjects.

That was my first thought. Or rather, my first thought was the question occurs only to somebody who's used to English (which doesn't mean it's not legitimate). English has "They lost their lives," whereas most other languages have the equivalent of "They lost (their/the) life."

manuscriptboy said...

Samuel Krauss suggested the same (hatanim meaning hatanim ve-kalot) in regard to other sources. In an article titled Huppat Hatanim, in: Hochmah LiShelomo, Bergsas 1936, p. 100.

Phillip Minden said...

Right! Thanks, manuscriptboy.

Beisrunner said...

Thanks for the comments. Great minds think alike, and apparently so do ours.