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הַמְאָרֵס אֶת בִּתּוֹ קְטַנָּה וּתְבָעָהּ הַבַּעַל לְנִשּׂוּאִין. בֵּין הִיא בֵּין אָבִיהָ יְכוֹלִין לְעַכֵּב שֶׁלֹּא תִּנָּשֵׂא עַד שֶׁתַּגְדִּיל וְתֵעָשֶׂה נַעֲרָה וְאִם רָצָה לְכָנְסָהּ כּוֹנֵס. וְאֵין רָאוּי לַעֲשׂוֹת כֵּן

Though English translations of the Hebrew text already exist, what I am particularly interested in (or rather, puzzled by) are the following three closely-related topics, taken under consideration, and which I felt needed to be brought under closer scrutiny, the former relating to matters of vocabulary or thesaurus, the second to the subject of literal translation, and the latter to grammatical issues:

  • finding out the various possible [dictionary] meanings of the words כָנְסָהּ and כּוֹנֵס;

  • translating the phrase וְאִם רָצָה לְכָנְסָהּ כּוֹנֵס as plainly or as literally as possible;

  • determining whether the aforementioned expression grammatically relates to the future husband, on one hand, or to the girl's father, on the other.

Could someone with working knowledge of (ancient or medieval) Hebrew lend a helpful hand, and assist in this undertaking ?

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    Preliminary to all this is ascertaining the correct text. Some editions have רצו in the plural – Joel K Nov 16 '20 at 15:58
  • @JoelK: I am well aware of that, both from your translation, as well as from the note to the text on Chabad. – Lucian Nov 16 '20 at 16:16
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לכנסה to bring her in. כונס he brings in or enters. Literally, כונס means to gather something into a building or home, as in נדחי ישראל יכנס. It is normally used about a person entering a building himself. This is also a standard expression of entering into the active stage of marriage (as opposed to betrothal, which is legally marriage in many aspects). So, אם רצה לכנסה כונס literally means "if he wants to bring her in, he brings in." This sentence alone, then, would be referring to the husband.

Of course, in context, the subject of the wanting must be the father, not the husband. We already said that the husband is demanding to take her into his home, and the father or the young girl can delay him. It makes no sense to say that the husband may or may not want. We might say if the husband takes her that it could work, meaning against the opposition of the father, but that would be expressed ואם כנסה נכנסה or ואם כנסה כנסה.

The correct translation then must be "If [the father] wants [to allow the husband] to bring her in, [the husband] brings [her] in [as he requested].

The manuscript version is ואם רצו לכנסה כונס "if they [the father and the girl] want [to allow the husband] to bring her in, he brings in." This more closely matches the previous sentence, "both she and her father can prevent [the husband], that she should not marry until she grows up and reaches puberty."

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  • This is incorrect. In the context of marriage "כונס" always means to "bring her into his house", i.e. to marry her. It only refers to the husband, never to the father. Here the rule is that until she reaches maturity she or her father may push off consummating the marriage, but once she reaches maturity, if the husband wants to marry her immediately he may. – simyou Nov 22 '20 at 14:30
  • @simyou Do you have a source to read Rambam that way? Why is it אין ראוי לעשות כן if it’s discussing after she reaches maturity? – Joel K Nov 22 '20 at 16:38
  • @simyou, thank you for pointing out the need for clarification. – Mordechai Nov 22 '20 at 20:18
  • @JoelK Even though one is allowed to marry young girls it was considered improper and always discouraged. See Magid Mishna here, ואין ראוי לעשות וכו'. שם אין פוסקין על הקטנה להשיאה כשהיא קטנה וכבר כתב רבי' פ''ג שאפילו קידושין שאין ראוי שיקדש אדם את בתו כשהיא קטנה: , that a your girl should not even be engaged for marriage. – simyou Nov 23 '20 at 6:13
  • @simyou Right. It is improper to marry a קטנה. But you said in your comment that the last line of the Rambam is referring to a girl who has reached maturity ie she is no longer a קטנה. And yet Rambam still says that it is improper. – Joel K Nov 23 '20 at 6:18

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