LAWS OF MATCHMAKING

Q. A common question that is asked to the YUCONNECTS - SYAS office- What is the going rate that one should pay to a matchmaker if they successfully match you with your spouse (regardless if this is a friend, relative or volunteer matchmaker)?

The current rate is approximately $2,000 per couple. The actual amount though should be discussed between the singles and their Rabbi.

Shidduchim According to Halachah

By

Rabbi Doniel Neustadt

Yoshev Rosh, Vaad Harabbonim of Detroit

It is a mitzvah to arrange a shidduch[1] [colloq: a match] between a man and a woman for the object of matrimony.[2] It is permitted to arrange a shidduch on Shabbos,[3] and if necessary, it is even permitted to discuss the financial arrangements on Shabbos.[4]

        The poskim debate whether or not it is permitted to arrange or promote a shidduch between non-observant Jews who will not observe even the minimum halachic standards of family purity. Some permit doing so only for a professional shadchan whose livelihood depends on making shidduchim, while others do not permit it even in that case.[5] But if the shidduch is made for the purposes of potential kiruv or in order to avoid the tragic alternative of intermarriage, then the shidduch may be proposed and followed through regardless of payment. Even a professional shadchan, however, is advised by the poskim not to get involved in arranging a marriage between non-Jews.[6]

Question: During the shidduch process, what type of information may or may not be withheld from the other party?

Discussion: It is prohibited for either party in a prospective match to give false information or to withhold pertinent information about themselves.[7] In certain cases, withholding or falsifying information could result in the invalidation of a marriage.[8]

        The poskim give some examples of information that may not be withheld in a prospective match [and which, if withheld, may invalidate a marriage]: serious physical or mental illness,[9] infertility,[10] accurate financial status,[11] lack of religious observance,[12] previous marital status,[13] previous illicit relationships,[14] conversion,[15] adoption.[16]

        One is not required to divulge a deficiency which most people do not consider to be an impediment, such as a minor illness,[17] a physical weakness or a minor blemish in one's lineage.[18] Similarly, it is not required to divulge a transgression in the distant past for which the sinner has repented.[19]

        Since it is often difficult to gauge and judge minor drawbacks versus major deficiencies, a rav must always be consulted.

Question: When being asked for information about a prospective shidduch, what type of information may be shared with others?

Discussion: An individual who is asked for [or is aware of[20]] information about a shidduch must divulge what he knows regarding a “major deficiency,” as detailed above. One who deliberately withholds such information transgresses the prohibition of lifnei iver lo sitein michshol and other Biblical prohibitions.[21]

        Detrimental information about a shidduch may be conveyed only with the proper intention—for the benefit of one of the parties, not in revenge or out of spite. Even then, the information may only be relayed when[22]:

  1. The condition is serious.
  2. The condition has not been exaggerated.
  3. There is a reasonable chance that the information will be accepted and acted upon. If it is likely to be ignored, it is prohibited to relay it.

One who is unsure if a particular point of information is a major deficiency or if the above conditions have been met should consult a rav before divulging or withholding any information.

Question: Is it a requirement to pay a shadchan for his services or is it just proper etiquette?

Discussion: As with any other business transaction, a shadchan must be paid a fee for arranging a shidduch.[23] It makes no difference if the shadchan was engaged by one of the parties or if he volunteered his services or even if the shadchan is non-professional; in all cases the shadchan must be paid for his services.[24] The shadchan may petition a beis din to force the parties to pay his fee.[25]

        The amount to be paid is divided equally between the two sides, even if the shadchan spent more time with one of them.[26] At the shadchan’s discretion, he may charge only one of the parties involved half of the going rate and forgo the other half. He may not, however, charge more than half to one side, even if the other side is poor or for some reason refuses to pay.[27] The shadchan may forgo payment altogether, in which case there is no compelling reason to pay him.[28]

        Although the obligation to pay is the bride’s and groom’s, it has become customary for the parents to pay.[29] In light of this, if the parents fail to pay, some poskim rule there is no obligation for the bride and groom to pay the shadchan.[30]

        If the match is not completed, the shadchan need not be paid, even though he invested a great deal of time and effort in pursuing the match.[31]

        The poskim debate the division of payments in a situation where more than one shadchan is involved, or when the match began with one shadchan and ended with another. Whenever there is a dispute, a rav should be consulted, since there are many details involved and no two cases are alike.

        A shadchan whose fee is outstanding should not be a witness to the marriage ceremony.[32]

Question: Is there a set amount of money that one must pay a shadchan?

Discussion: The amount to be paid to the shadchan is based on the customary local fee.[33] Once the standard fee is agreed upon, the shadchan may not ask for additional compensation to cover special expenses that he may have incurred in arranging the shidduch.

        Our custom is to pay the shadchan immediately after the shidduch is completed.[34] Even if the shidduch is broken later, the shadchan does not have to return his fee[35] as long as he did not give erroneous information which led to the termination of the shidduch.[36]


[1]         The word shidduch is Aramaic for “peaceful” or “tranquil” (see Targum on Sefer Shoftim 3:11), referring to the peacefulness which a woman senses when she finds her match and establishes her home (Ran, Shabbos 12a). Others maintain that the word shidduch means “to bind or tie together” (Aruch).

[2]         Shulchan ha-Eizer 3:1, based on the Midrash Rabbah, Tzav 8:1, that Hashem himself arranges matches. See also Chikrei Lev, C.M. 135.

[3]         O.C. 306:6.

[4]         Ketzos ha-Shulchan 107:8. See Kaf ha-Chayim 306:50 who says that whenever possible, it is best to delay discussing finances until after Shabbos.

[5]         See Teshuvos Meishiv Davar 2:32, Teshuvos Maharam Brisk 1:82 and Yismach Lev, vol. 1, pg. 20, quoting Chazon Ish and Rav C. Kanievsky. See also Igros Moshe, E.H. 4:87-1.

[6]         Be'er Heitev, Y.D. 2:15 and Darchei Teshuvah 154:6, quoting Chavos Yair 185. See also Chelkas Yaakov 1:174.

[7]         Sefer Chasidim 507.

[8]         See Igros Moshe, E.H. 1:79-80.

[9]         E.H. 39:5; Igros Moshe, E.H. 4:73-2.

[10] Otzar ha-Poskim 39:7. See Kehilos Yaakov, Yevamos 38 and ruling of Rav Y.S. Elyashiv (quoted in Nishmas Avraham, vol. 5, pg. 118).

[11] Teshuvos Chasam Sofer, E.H. 72, quoted in Pischei Teshuvah, E.H. 38:14.

[12] Chafetz Chayim, Hilchos Rechilus, Klal 9, tziyur 3:6, 11.

[13] Noda b'Yehudah 2:50, quoted in Pischei Teshuvah, E.H. 39:4.

[14] Igros Moshe, O.C. 4:118; Minchas Yitzchak 3:116. See, however, Maharsham 7:152.

[15] Minchas Yitzchak 7:90; Tzitz Eliezer (quoted in Nishmas Avraham, E.H. pg. 252).

[16] Minchas Yitzchak 5:44.

[17] Such as an ulcer; Rav Y. Zilberstein (Emek Halachah, Asyah, pg. 160).

[18] Chavos Yair 120. See Teshuvos Knei Bosem 1:121 and Nishmas Avraham E.H., pg. 26, for an elaboration. See also Titein Emes l'Yaakov, pg. 85, who quotes a dispute between contemporary poskim as to whether it is permitted to slightly "adjust" the age of bride or groom, such as from age 20 to age 19, etc.

[19]         Minchas Yitzchak 6:139. Such information, therefore, may not be repeated by others when they are asked for information, ibid.

[20]         Tzitz Eliezer 16:4.

[21]         Chafetz Chayim, Hilchos Rechilus, Klal  9:1, tziyur 2:3. See also Pischei Teshuvah, O.C. 156 and Chelkas Yaakov 3:136. See also Practical Medical Halachah, 3rd edition, pg. 166, quoting an oral ruling by Rav M. Feinstein that a disability which may impact negatively on an individual’s functioning as a spouse or as a parent must be revealed.

[22]         Chafetz Chayim, Hilchos Rechilus, Klal 9:2.

[23]         Rama, C.M. 87:39 and 185:10.

[24]         Beiur ha-Gra, ibid. See Teshuvos Maharash Engel 3:15.

[25]         Rama, C.M. 87:39 and 185:10.

[26]         Erech Shai, E.H. 50.

[27]         Beis Yitzchak, E.H. 115; Halichos Yisrael 20.

[28]         Rav Akiva Eiger, C.M. 185; Pischei Teshuvah, E.H. 50:16, who reject the mistaken notion that a shadchan must be paid even if he forgoes his payment.

[29]         Avnei Nezer C.M. 36. See Halichos Yisrael 3.

[30]         Erech Shai C.M. 185. See Yismach Lev, vol. 1, pg. 22, for other opinions.

[31]         Beis Yosef, C.M. 185.

[32]         Otzar ha-Poskim 42:45-15; Rav Y. Kamenetsky (oral ruling, quoted in Apiryon l'Shelomo, pg. 40). See also Yismach Lev, vol. 1, pg. 108, quoting Rav C. Kanievsky.

[33]         Pischei Teshuvah, E.H. 50:16. If there is no clear custom as to the amount a shadchan receives, a rav should be consulted.

[34]         Aruch ha-Shulchan, E.H. 50:42; Beis Yitzchak 1:115; Halichos Yisrael 4; Pischei Choshen, sechirus, pg. 337. When a shadchan does not get paid on time, the Biblical prohibition of delayed payment (bal talin) may apply; see Halichos Yisrael 1-2. See also Yismach Lev, vol. 1, pg. 23, quoting Rav C. Kanievsky

[35]         Aruch ha-Shulchan, E.H. 50:42. But in a locality where the shadchan is customarily paid after the wedding, and the couple in question do not get married, the shadchan does not have to be paid; see Chut Shani, Shabbos, vol. 3, pg. 243.

[36]         Levushei Mordechai C.M. 15, quoted in Pischei Choshen, ibid. See Halichos Yisrael 11, who discusses whether the shadchan should be paid if the shidduch was broken because of information of which the shadchan was unaware.