It says in Avos (5:21), "At eighteen years old לַחֻפָּה."

What does לַחֻפָּה mean? Most people translate it to mean for the [marriage] canopy, [enter] the marriage canopy or enters the wedding canopy.

Therefore, does this mean by 18 he should've been engaged? Or that at 17 he gets engaged and by his 18th birthday he should already be entering the wedding canopy?

  • 1
    Related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/68723/men-need-to-get-married-before-24/68733#68733 regarding whether any of the ages associated with marriage are halachic, or merely general advice that varies with time, place, and individual circumstances. Also related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/66818/… regarding significance of 18 in regards to marriage.
    – mevaqesh
    May 18 '16 at 16:23
  • @mevaqesh also interesting is that there is dispute about what, exactly, chuppah means in the Talmud. What we call chuppah is not necessarily the part of the kidushin process that the Talmud calls chuppah... May 18 '16 at 17:21
  • chupah (really nisuin) essentially means bringing into your (the grooms) house. This can be done in many ways @IsaacKotlicky. See aruch hashulchan. There is not just one way to do it. The chupah today should "belong" to the choson.
    – newcomer
    May 18 '16 at 19:45
  • @newcomer That's only one of several different interpretations of the word chuppah as it appears in the Talmud. That's my point. May 18 '16 at 20:03
  • Yes but my point is that they are all valid. @IsaacKotlicky. As long as they bring the bride to the grooms house. There is no other interpretation of it. Only different ways to do it. The talmud as far as I know doesnt have an interpretation of how to do it. If it does please let me know. Anyway it is not part of the kiddushin process but the nisuin. If it is valid for kiddushin is a big machlokes in the g'moro and poskim.
    – newcomer
    May 18 '16 at 20:13

The word in your source is marriage not engagement, (I do not think it is specificly on the birthday)

The numbers are not specific (18 just means with the ability to learn the whole Torah)

You can not make practical decisions from the Mishnah, you need to know the reason of the law.

From learning hilchos Talmud Torah of the Rav 1.1 and 3.1(in the end).

The reason of the number 18 is
that a person should first learn and know the whole Torah and then get married, (even though the mitzvah on having children is greater then learning Torah, and he is obligated to do it from age 13, it is permitted to delay it (for him to be able to know the whole Torah ).
If you See the "Mishna" you will see that in those days they started to learn the written Torah at age 5, (and they learnt it for 5 years to know it good).
then at age 10 they learnt the Mishnah (halochos).
then at age 15 they learnt Talmud (the reasons of the halocho)
so by age 20 they knew the whole Torah and should use there time making a living for there family, and learn only part of the day.

The number 18 comes because 2 first years of marriage the yoke of supporting a family is not so heavy yet and you will have time to finish and know the whole Torah by age 20

From Bais shmuel 1.3
it seems that only the Bach holds that 18 years means 18 full years (not counting year 0) the rest say that 18 means after the 17th birthday

Might be of interest.
Rambam I shut 15.2 Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 1.3

The practical halacha is:
you should not get married until:.
you know the whole entire Torah (unless you can support your family without spending time, then the mitzvah is from 13 years old), or until
you do not have your yetzer horo under control (since it is better to learn less but with holiness (without the yetzer horos control))

After you know the whole Torah you have no excuse not to get married


In spite of Hazoriz's answer, I'd like to provide a source to the contrary.

The Sefer HaChinuch, Mitzvah 1, denotes the proper age at which one should get married:

וחיב אדם להשתדל בה משהוא ראוי לה והוא הזמן שנתנו חז״ל (אבות ה:כא) לישא אשה.

And one is obligated to involve himself in [the Mitzvah to bear children] from when he is fit for it, which is the time Chazal gave (Avos 5:21) to marry a woman.

Notice that this is the very Mishnah which the OP quoted, which the Chinuch brings as his source of when one should get married. Although there's no proof from here halachah l'maaseh, it's certainly a proof that this was the Chinuch's personal opinion.

  • Is 18 for engaged or married? I'm confused what your conclusion is.
    – Double AA
    Dec 27 '16 at 15:48
  • @DoubleAA "The Seder HaChinuch, Mitzvah 1, denotes the proper age at which one should get married."
    – DonielF
    Dec 27 '16 at 15:55
  • First of all, please edit in response to comments seeking clarification and don't put imporatnt info in the comments. Second, how do you see that? From the word לישא? Please be explicit in your edits about your derivation
    – Double AA
    Dec 27 '16 at 15:56

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