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Parsha Halacha – Parshat Ki Teitzei

Customs and Laws Relating to Shadchanim

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The Torah portion of Ki Tetzei includes many mitzvot that relate to marriage. Specifically, we learn:
  • how important it is to marry a righteous woman, as the character of one’s children will be largely dictated by their mother. (This is based on the comment of Rashi that if one marries an eshet yefat to’ar, a gentile woman captured in battle and forcibly converted, he will have a rebellious son.[1])
  • that it is critical to marry someone whose family has positive traits. (This can be derived from the fact that the Torah forbids us to marry Amonites and Moabites because their ancestors refused to provide bread and water for the Jewish people.[2])
  • that a couple should avoid getting divorced if at all possible. This is especially true when it is their first marriage. This is based on the verse that implies one should only divorce one’s wife if she has committed adultery. (Although the Talmud[3] cites this interpretation in the name of Beit Shammai, in the case of a first marriage[4] this is the accepted view.[5])
Seeking Out a Shidduch
The Lubavitcher Rebbe wrote,[6] “The words of our holy Rabbeim (Rebbes) are well known, that a person must put in an effort in finding a shidduch (match) as one would put towards finding a lost object and even more so. Although, understandably, it should be done in the way of Torah and yirat shamayim (fear of Heaven). At the same time, it should be done energetically, with the help of one’s friends and family… One must try to work within the natural means to accomplish this. Based on the teaching of the Torah of life, the Creator and Administrator of the world, who oversees every person with His Divine Providence, will lead him in the good and true path.”
Using a Shadchan (Matchmaker)
On another occasion, the Rebbe wrote,[7] “My intent (in writing that one should follow the natural means) is simple. That one should follow the custom of the vast majority of the people in this country at this time and be in touch with a good shadchan who can act as a go-between, one who is well acquainted with the streams of Jews who are observant of Torah and Mitzvot and can explain to him the proper ways to go about this search.”
Try Again and Again
“In this matter, one must bear in mind the teaching of Reb Zusha of Anipoly that one can take a lesson from everyone, even a thief. When a thief tries once and doesn’t succeed, he tries a second and third time, until eventually he is successful. This is even more appropriate regarding positive matters, especially regarding matchmaking, concerning which our Sages, of blessed memory, have said[8] that it is as difficult to make as the splitting of the sea. One must try time and again until he will find the proper match in the end. One should not be afraid of the effort that may be necessary in this matter.”[9]
Don’t be Stingy
The Previous Rebbe wrote,[10] “One must seek out a good shidduch. One should not be stingy on the time it takes to travel to meet someone.”
The Mitzvah of Matchmaking
It is a great mitzvah to help a young man or woman find his or her match. According to the Midrash,[11] G-d Himself works on making matches for three hours every day. In fact, G-d was the very first shadchan (between Adam and Chava). In addition, when G-d gave the Torah to the Jewish people, He did it with the help of a shadchan (Moshe Rabeinu).[12]
Rabbi Avraham Halperin of Brezhan said[13] that if one makes a shidduch for someone else, it is a tikkun (spiritual repair) for sins relating to one’s sexual urges (tikun hayesod). As such, it accomplishes what fasting for 234 days would accomplish.
Great Sages of Israel who were Matchmakers
The Maharil (Rabbi Yaakov ben Moshe Mulin, one of the leaders of Ashkenazic Jewry in the 14th century) supported himself with money he received from making matches. He would send letters with shidduch recommendations to many countries in this capacity.[14]
The Chatam Sofer once worked on completing a shidduch between a poor young man and an orphaned young lady on Erev Yom Kippur, just before the fast began. When it was completed, he proclaimed, “Baruch Hashem, now I have with what to go to Kol Nidrei!”[15]
The Money Earned from Matchmaking is Kosher
It has been said that the reason the Maharil would support himself from the money he earned making shidduchim (although it seems that his wife was independently wealthy) is because money earned in this capacity is considered “kosher money.” The (possible) reason for this is that, generally, when conducting business, there is some dishonesty involved, thus rendering the money not 100 percent kosher. Regarding shidduchim however, it is permissible to be (somewhat) dishonest. As such, this money is considered to have been earned in a proper manner.[16]
Dishonesty in Matchmaking
The Alter Rebbe explains[17] on a spiritual level why it is that usually, shidduchim are completed with some dishonesty. The reason is that the spiritual source of shidduchim is from a level that is beyond logic, dictated by G-d Himself, who announces people’s mates before they are born.[18] As such, the match reaches this world in a way that is not logical and is therefore (often) only accomplished with some dishonesty.
For Gentiles
It is permissible (although not recommended) to make matches between gentiles.[19]
Paying the Shadchan
It is customary to pay the shadchan for his or her services in making the match. This is a financial obligation which can even be demanded (should it be necessary) in a Bait Din (Jewish court of law). This obligation is similar to the obligation of paying a real estate agent or any other middle man.[20]
The Details
Here are some of the laws relating to this matter:
  • The customary fee that is paid to the shadchan should be paid by the two sides equally. If one side cannot afford to pay, the other side should add a small amount to their payment in order to appease the shadchan.[21]
  • The custom in America currently is that each side pays at least $1,000. In a case where there was a big effort involved, or if the parties are wealthy, it is proper to add to this amount.[22] In this matter, the custom of each particular community should be followed. If the parties agreed on a different amount, whether more or less, they should honor the agreement.[23]
  • When the parents are marrying off their children (as is usual in cases of first marriage), it is the parents who pay this fee.[24] If the chattan and/or kallah approached the shadchan themselves, it is considered their obligation to pay this fee.[25]
  • If there were two shadchanim involved, one for each side, each side should pay their respective shadchan his or her fees.[26]
  • The money to pay the shadchan cannot be taken from ma’aser funds (tithe for charity) as one may not pay one’s debts with ma’aser funds.[27]
  • One must pay a shadchan whether it is a first or second marriage.[28]
  • If a shadchan says that he is doing the match as a mitzvah and does not need payment, there is no obligation to pay him.[29]
  • If the shadchan does not expressly demand a fee nor does he expressly state that he doesn’t want it, he must be paid.[30]
  • The fee must be paid even if the shadchan did not need to work hard on completing the shidduch.[31]
  • As to when the shadchan gets paid, there are various customs. In some places, it is customary to pay the shadchan as soon as the couple gets engaged. In such a place, the fee need not be returned even if the engagement is broken off. In places where it is not customary to pay the fee until the wedding, if the engagement is broken off, the fee need not be paid at all. In a place that has no fixed custom, the fee need not be paid until the wedding.[32]
  • Paying the shadchan, in addition to being an obligation, is a segulah to have healthy children.[33]
  • Some people are particular to pay a shadchan a small amount for every shidduch that they try to make, even if it is not successful.[34] (This is not necessary by the letter of the law.)
  • If more than one shadchan was involved, the fee should be divided between them.[35]
  • One may not switch shadchanim in the middle of a shidduch process unless there is a good reason to do so. Even so, as mentioned, the fee must be divided between all the shadchanim.[36]
May all those who need a shidduch soon find their bashert (intended mate) in an easy and pleasant manner!

[1] See Rashi on Deut. 21:11
[2] Ibid, 23:5. But see Ramban that it was the Amonites who didn’t bring bread and water to the Jewish people. The sin of the Moabites, according to the Ramban, was that they hired Bilaam to curse the Jewish people.
[3] Gittin, 90a
[4] The Pri Chadash (on Even Ha’Ezer 119:3) and Rashash (Gittin 90a D.H. Bait Shammai Omrim) say that this refers specifically to a case when it is the first marriage for both the husband and the wife.
The Maharam Shif (Gittin, 90b on Rashi D.H. Zivug), however, says that it is referring to a case where it is the husband’s first marriage, even if it the wife’s second marriage.
[5] See Gittin 90b, and Even Ha’Ezer, 119:3.
The Vilna Gaon (cited in Zera Efraim by Rav Efraim Zalman Margalot, Piska Asseret HaDibrot, 4) says that the two views of Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel (that one should only divorce his wife if she committed adultery and that one may divorce his wife if she purposefully burns his soup) are both true and were said to Moshe at Sinai. The view of Beit Shammai was said about a first marriage and that of Beit Hillel was said about a second marriage. When there were students who didn’t reach the stature of learning as those of the previous generations, they thought that Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel actually argued about this matter in both of these cases.
[6] Igrot Kodesh, 14, page 23 and 24
[7] Ibid, vol. 13, page 68
[8] Sotah, 2a
[9] Igrot Kodesh, vol. 5, pg. 119
[10] Igrot Kodesh (Rayatz) vol. 12, pg. 113
[11] Midrash Sechel Tov, end of Parshat Toldot, (28:76)
[12] Pachad Yitzchak, entry Zivugim
[13] Imrei Yehuda, Parshat Chayei Sarah, D.H. Hahitzli’ach
[14] Sefer Maharil, Minhagim, Beginning of Hilchot Chanukah
[15] Cited in Nitei Gavriel, Shidduchim Utena’im, pages 32 and 33
[16] Ibid, pages 33 and 34
[17] Me’ah She’arim, Imrei Kodesh, 21
[18] Sotah, ibid
[19] Pachad Yitzchak, ibid based on Chavot Ya’ir 185. The basis of this ruling is that generally gentiles nowadays aren’t pagans.
[20] See C.M. 87:39 with Biur HaGra, 185:10 and 264:7
[21] Nitei Gavriel, Shidduchim VeTena’im, 37:3
[22] Ibid, 39:1
[23] See Rama, Y.D. 264:7 that in some cases, one need only pay the customary fee, even if they promised more. But see Nitei Gavriel, ibid, 4, that, since nowadays, there is no fixed fee for a shadchan, one must keep their word.
[24] Ibid, 38:3
[25] Ibid, 5
[26] See Pit’chei Teshuvah, Even Ha’Ezer, 50:16
[27] Responsa of Zichron Yehuda (Rabbi Yehudah Greenwald), vol. 2:192
[28] Nitei Gavriel, 37:1
[29] Pit’chei Teshuvah, ibid
[30] See Responsa Maharash Engel, vol. 3:15 regarding fees paid to middlemen in business deals.
[31] See ibid
[32] Rama, 185:10
The Aruch HaShulchan (Even Ha’Ezer, 50:42) says that nowadays the custom is to pay as soon as the couple gets engaged. But see sources quoted in Nitei Gavriel (ibid, note 14) who say that the custom is not to pay until the time of the wedding.
[33] Nitei Gavriel, ibid, 9, quoting various sources.
[34] Ibid, 12
[35] Ibid, 40:1
[36] Ibid, 9
Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom!
Aryeh Citron

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