How Much is Finding Your Beshert Worth? Paying the Shadchan

This is the seventh part of a series on dating and marriage in the religious Zionist community in Israel.

I: Dating Readiness, II: Meeting the One, III: Genetic Testing, IV: Dating VenuesV: Shidduch Crisis?, VI: Internet Dating, VIII: Wedding Costs, IX: Planning Tips, XI: Diabetes,Genetics and Shidduchim, XII: Parents Pushing Young Marriage

Today we leave the topic of dating and move on to the engagement.

One of the first decisions an engaged couple and their parents will make is how to reward the shadchan (matchmaker).

In the haredi world, each side pays $1000 to the shadchan. But in the religious Zionist community, where  most matches are made through friends or teachers, money rarely changes hands. Few charge for their services.

Apparently, some years ago Rabbi Eliyahu recommended that every institution assign a shadchan to look out for its students. Isramom’s son’s yeshiva gave the job to one of the student’s wives. When Isramom’s son received NIS 1000 for suggesting a girl he had dated to a fellow student, the shadchanit joked, “All I ever get are sets of glasses and vases.”

In a community where marriage is valued so highly, yet with few opportunities for young people to meet, is it reasonable this yeshiva student’s wife to receive less than the value of an average wedding present for making a shidduch?

Shadchanim have to inquire about the young people and encourage them to date. They may be working with the parents, too. Just reaching everyone on the phone can take a dozen attempts. And young people are resistant to formal matchmaking, so it’s common for the shadchan to find a friend to make the suggestion.

Rabbi Shlomo Aviner has written that each side should pay the shadchan, whether professional or not, NIS 5000. This may not be such a large sum, especially when put into the context of wedding costs. While people have been cutting extras in menus and decorations, 300-400 guests is still the norm. Everyone has to set priorities in their wedding budgets, but 300 guests is not a bare-bones affair. If people are still making such large weddings, perhaps the effort of the person who brought the couple together is worth more than the cost of a wedding meal or two.

Rabbi Aviner, who has been attacked for his position, argues that a shadchan is similar to a real estate agent who shows dozens of apartments for free, but earns a hefty commission when a sale is made. If we want singles to meet, we need to do more to encourage shadchanim. And the best encouragement is to pay them well.

There are down sides to paid shadchanut. Disreputable people are more likely to get involved, and put pressure on singles to go on unsuitable dates. Paid shadchanim would have more of an incentive to hide damaging information.

Dear readers, please weigh in. Should informal shadchanim get paid? Or is a set of glasses enough?

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Comments

  1. There is no doubt he has to be paid. Shadchan rashei teivot, sheker dover kessef noten. You get what you paid for.

    • Abe, let me translate: The Hebrew letters spelling out shadchan are the first letters of the words in the phrase, “speaks lies, gives money” (really, is given money).

  2. I don’t think 5000NIS is anywhere near the average wedding present, even in chiloni circles (400- 500 NIS per person is the norm; at religious weddings, like ours, the standard present was 180 or a nice vase! or pots- we got a lot of cheap pots that aren’t even good for pesach). I think as long as shadchanim are going to stay informal in the DL community, it’s going to be hard to get people to cough up actual money for the service.

    The shadchan who brought my husband and I together was a family friend of my in laws and a friend of my extended family. I think our parents split the cost of a nice diamond pin for her. It was kind of awkward to give her money because of the connections and she didn’t really need it (she’s quite well off). But she appreciated the pin.

  3. For our first shidduch we insisted we didn’t need anything we got a very “interesting” piece of art! Next shidduch we learned and told the couple our plata blanket was falling apart, so we got a new one. I’m fine with that. What bothers me more is that when my husband does chatan classes (5-7 sessions) no one has ever even given him a gift!

    • Yael, I assume that most amateur shadchanim don’t mind not getting paid, or they wouldn’t do it. The question is whether there is enough “manpower” when it comes to making shidduchim. Annoying about the chatan classes. Chatan/kallah classes might be a good topic for a post, do most people go privately?

  4. Our shadchan was a mutual friend. We actually asked him if there was anything he would like. When he practically begged us not to get him anything, my chosson wisely suggested we give a nice donation to an organization he was very close with that was in the midst of a Sefer Torah writing project. So we gave what for us was a sizeable donation – maybe a perek or a sedra (I don’t remember exactly). The shadchan was VERY appreciative of the donation made.

  5. I doubt that what we did would count as standard… we took our shadchan along on our honeymoon.
    Then again, nothing about us is standard…

    To clarify, our “honeymoon” was a juggling festival in Ireland, and we were camping on a campsite with hundreds of other people – we paid his airfare so that he could come. I met our shadchan because he was a juggler, so I tried to date him, and he set me up with my husband because my husband is another juggler… We had a very juggling-themed wedding, and it seemed right, all things considered.

  6. We’re American, and were set up by cousins of mine. We felt uncomfortable giving them money, but wanted to get them something they’d appreciate, and offered them a weekend in the city – hotel, dinner, a show, and we’d babysit their two small children. We figured that young parents probably wanted time to themselves more than anything else. They instead asked if we could pay $500 for them to go to a Shabbaton weekend, which we were happy to do; the kids went to the grandparents, although we were still willing to take them. They loved it, and we were glad to have gotten them something they really wanted.

  7. My husband and I met at the home of mutual friends. It was not a set up–they actually had different people in mind for each of us–but we got a great story out of it. We’re close to their families as well (we all met in our teens/early 20s), who hosted us for many shabbatot, so the fathers of this young couple were the eidim at our wedding.

  8. I think it depends how much time the shadchan/it put into the shidduch. Sometimes you can just suggest a name and the couple takes off on their own. But sometimes you need to call both sides, talk through issues and really invest a lot of time. I have helped some friends informally on shidduchim (at their request) where I invested lots of time and nothing came of it. On the other hand my daughter met her husband at her job. Would you say the boss was the shadchan? We didn’t have anyone but G-d to thank for the shidduch!

    • Hi Bonnie!
      Well, of course your daughter’s boss shouldn’t get credit. Sometimes there is no shadchan.
      But when someone “just suggests a name,” it should count, like with a real estate agent. It’s a matter of knowing the right name to suggest. My son’s first pediatrician complained that doctors don’t get paid extra for diagnosing correctly. With a doctor, you pay whether or not s/he cures you. With a shidduch, the success is what counts, not the time and effort.

  9. I’ve always felt slightly uncomfortable with such large weddings. We only had 110 guests at ours and it still felt large. An average Israeli wedding seems like a huge rally to me!

  10. A difference in expectation can lead to people feeling positively insulted. I posted about someone’s negative reaction to being informed by a relative that she would only set up his daughter if she were paid for it. See http://kallahmagazine.blogspot.com/2009/11/shadchanus-and-family.html

  11. I think it’s considered bad luck not to pay your shadchan, even if it’s only a symbolic gift or donation. My son and his girlfriend made a shidduch recently and the parents insisted on giving them something, just to avoid bad luck. Superstition? Who will take the risk? 🙂

  12. Yes, a shadchan should get paid. This is something that is extensively discussed in Halacha, and goes back far enough that you can’t say that it is, or is not, a Chariedi / Chardal / DL / whatever eidah thing.

    Regardless of whether or not the shadchan gets paid, parents (or mentors) should always help a couple resist any inappropriate pressure from a shandchan, and all involved should learn a lesson going forward.

    Yes, mentors should generally be involved (not making the final decisions!) because having a mentor to work with when making any life altering decision is a good idea at any age. Asei Lecha Rav u’Knei Lecha Chaver is not limited to young people.

  13. My husband and I were set up by the menahelet of my seminary, who my husband was referred to by a friend at his yeshiva who had married someone from my seminary (got that?) It was the most “proper” shidduch I had ever gone on (all other set-ups had been friends, rabbanim, internet, etc). She was VERY involved as a middle person through the entire dating stage and beyond, and we ended up paying her 1000 NIS (of which he contributed the majority). She did not require, or even expect this, and she donated the entire sum to a hachnasat kallah fund. She said in complete earnestness that money was not the reason she did it, and that being the conduit for helping bring to fruition what is ultimately all Hashem’s doing, was enough of a reward for her.

    When I was still single I set up my former roommate with a guy I had been out with once. After the initial suggestion, I handed it over to a rav, not thinking it appropriate to be involved any further (though as her roommate, I certainly heard much about the process as they were going through it!) I didn’t receive anything beyond sincere hakarat hatov, and it certainly doesn’t bother me!

    Although meeting your zivug is unarguably priceless, had I been “required” to pay 5000 NIS for a successful shidduch, at the time I met my husband, I had recently graduated university (with requisite student loan debt), moved to Israel on my own, and was cleaning houses to pay my way through seminary. I would have been out of the running before I started.

  14. I would love to get married again. I was widowed 22 years ago. I am poor and do not have the money to pay anyone anything.

    What is someone in my situation to do?

    Rivka Esther

    • Rivka, and Emuna too: My point is that if people are spending so much on weddings, they should also spend on the shadchan. There will always be people who cannot afford necessities, and the community must provide for them in one way or another. But just because some people can’t afford to pay a shadchan does not mean that shadchanim should always be volunteers. Just like a commenter mentioned an entertainer who sings at weddings of the poor.

    • And Rivka, I wish you much hatzlacha in finding the right one.

  15. Menachem Mendel Shlomo says:

    Shalom everyone and especially those seeking their Basherts,
    It is imperative we do something about this catastrophe of people in mass quantity are not finding their Basherts. So many are alone and praying. G-d wants us to act in many ways of course by letting as many people as possible to know we are search, dating sites, shidduchs, but because of the size and severity of this issue we must do something much more. I am developing and planning on building a huge database from all around the world for Jews to find their Basherts. This is not a dating site but for finding our soulmates. It will ask pages of questions, some very private, some very personal about everything that matters about a person with the intent of a high match rate and longevity for life such that divorce rate should be 10% instead of 50% or more.
    We need help on a volunteer basis initially until profitability then with pay and bonuses: programmers, Software designers, Graphic Artist, Psychologists, psychotherapists, Psychiatrists, Staticans, Writers, Publicists, Marketing experts, etc.
    Initially I have set-up http://www.Eshidduch.info
    It is essential to find donors and Philanthropists who can back this very important project.
    Thank you and G-d Bless!
    MMSS

  16. Yashar koach to Menachem Mendel Shlomo-
    bhatzlacha!Keep in mind second time arounders, over 25 year olds too,please

  17. Robert Stein says:

    BS”D

    It is extremely interesting reading the reviews herein.

    That said, I am finding it extremely difficult to locate a shadchan who assists on a for-payment basis. A few 100 $’s, few 1,000, 10,000, quite frankly we have to relate this to a Mitzvah of the greatest importance which will affect many generations to come G-d willing.

    I’m based in London but wish to be blessed with a wife who is prepared and very happy to make Jerusalem our first home then London & New York etc ‘extensions’. I’m willing to sell my businesses pre-marriage and spend some time daily learning Torah. I’m seeking a Tznius, G-d fearing young woman who is truly lovely within and a caring, calm person whose beauty is reflected in her demeanour. Maybe she has had a difficult life and although young has ‘luggage’. This is fine, none of us are perfect anyhow. I am ba’al Tshuva of some years, modern in ‘look’, very energetic, and now wish to marry albeit a little (wrongly) ‘late’. Am prepared to meet a young Jewess of any nationality (helpful if English/American/Israeli)from any sort of background who sincerely wishes to be/is frum for Hashem not me. Someone who wishes to ‘grow’ together. I am not ‘aligned’ to any particular Dati Jewish ‘group/ing’ and get on with all, I do mean ‘with all’, I understand most ‘groupings’ and both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic ‘worlds’. We are all Jewish. Period. (PS: I haven’t forgotton how to be fun or funny or the fact travelling still interests me Only if it interests my wife-to-be G-d willing. Just cos i was brought up on karate not Gemarah doesn’t mean I expect to see her tzniusly at the karate dojo!!

    Daniel
    E:america1@usa.com
    C:+44(0)787 321 8991

  18. I think it depends on who the shadkhan is. If one of my classmates, or one of my teachers, or someone I eat Shabbat by – i.e. someone I know personally – made a shiddukh, there’s no way in hell I’d pay them. First, I shouldn’t have to pay friends to look out for me. Second, it’s not they sat down and met me, in a meeting, to get to know me, like with a job interview. My friends all know me from constant interaction with me, and presumably, the shiddukh they suggest is based on their stam happening to have met (??? not ????) some woman somewhere that they thought suited me, so it’s not like they invested tons of time. One friend of mine called me once, and told me that he had dated someone that he thought might suit me. Why should I pay this guy $1000 for his having dated someone on his own volition and then having made a five minute phone call to me? I’m not going to pay him $12,000 an hour!

    • Plus, I am paying about 1000 NIS / $300 for two months of ulpan, and I’m supposed to pay 15 times that much for someone who took five minutes for me?

    • Michael, I see your point. But it does require effort. It’s rare for a couple to get married because of a five-minute phone call. Just reaching the person on the phone can take a long time, not to mention the efforts to convince the person, the phone calls back and forth, the missed attempts. Then there is the effort to keep the couple going–not always necessary, but once you make the suggestion, you never know. Then there is the risk that the person will be insulted by the suggestion, or annoyed with you if it doesn’t work out. And the vast majority of the time, it doesn’t work out. I really think you’re minimizing the efforts of “amateur” shadchanim. You should keep that in mind, especially since I have already met you and could theoretically think of someone for you. (But I won’t expect $1000, don’t worry.)

      • Efforts to convince? Back-and-forth calls? Efforts to keep it going?

        Maybe I’m weird, but if someone tells me to go out with someone, I’ll go out with her. There won’t be an effort to convince me, and the shadkhan probably won’t need to ever speak to me again. I’ll take the woman out myself and let the relationship go where it will, between me and her, autonomously and independently, the same as if I had met her myself on the street.

        I probably spend more time every week calling people to find a place for Shabbat, than a shadkhan ever would have to spend on me.

        • A real estate agent doesn’t take less when he makes an easy deal, perhaps the same should apply here. Also, you have no idea whether your future wife will agree as easily.

          • But what if all the real estate agent did (hypothetically) was tell you that you should check out a certain house on your own, independently, and you did so, and bought the house directly from the original owner? Maybe the owner of the house will pay the agent, but I myself sure won’t!

          • Agents are careful to make people sign before giving out details. And in your hypothetical case the real estate agent could go to court against you, and win.

          • I edited the previous comment because of tone.
            I know of someone in the haredi world, who got a call offering a few choices for a shidduch for the daughter. Apparently, the shadchan was covering her bets by giving out a lot of names, so that if the girl ended up marrying one of them she could make a claim for the fee. So I was told. THere are court cases where a real estate shows an apartment, and the client buys it through a different agent or independently after some time has passed.

          • Let’s say this: payment should be based on how much effort the shadkhan went through, and to what extent that effort yielded fruit.

            If my friend makes a five minute call to me, and I date the woman myself, with no further input from the friend, I won’t pay him. But if he does more than that, then yes, maybe I will pay him.

            My family has a (now deceased) family friend. Before she was married to her husband, they were dating, but became angry at each other (I don’t know the details), and broke up. My father’s mother invited them each separately to dinner, and when my the family friend and her husband arrived, they were both disgusted at the other’s presence, and shouted, “What are you doing here?” My father’s mother exclaimed, “Oh, shut up! You’re both meant to be together. Now be quiet and sit down.” Soon enough, they were married. When the family friend’s husband died, and we went to the funeral, I was standing there when my mother said to her, “Oh, I’m {my father’s name, i.e. my mother’s husband’s name> wife, and my mother-in-law is {my father’s mother’s name}.” I was there when the family friend sighed and said, “Oh, if it weren’t for {my father’s mother’s name}, {family friend’s husband} and I never would have been married.”

            In that kind of case, maybe my father’s mother should indeed be paid something.

          • Michael, that logic only makes sense if amateur shadchanim get paid for their effort even when it doesn’t work out.

      • “Michael, that logic only makes sense if amateur shadchanim get paid for their effort even when it doesn’t work out.”

        That’s exactly why I specifically said, “and to what extent that effort yielded fruit.”

        “You’ve clearly never bought real estate. Agents are careful to make people sign before giving out details. And in your hypothetical case the real estate agent could go to court against you, and win.”

        That’s why I said “hypothetical.” The case I described was unlike normal situation in real estate, but it was the best I could do, because shiddukhim are not (necessarily) like real estate. My hypothetical example was something like if you happened to meet a real estate agent in “real life,” and in the capacity of just a person, and not as a real estate agent, he told you to look at a certain property, and you yourself went off and did just that, without any further help from you. This real estate agent. Similarly, if your personal friend happens to be a real estate agent, and he recommends a property to you, but again, he does nothing further than that. In that case, why should you pay him?

        And if he did do more effort than that, or if the shadkhan went to a great deal of effort, then of course you pay him! In that case, is there even a question?

        • “without any further help from you”

          I meant “him”

        • Michael, we keep dancing around the same issue. The problem is that there is too fine a line between professional and amateur shidduchim. Rav Aviner’s point is that if we keep it so casual, people are not able to find each other. Especially since so many activities/schools/colleges are now gender-separated. Relying on amateur shidduchim doesn’t seem to be working. Requiring payment for “amateurs” (and I still maintain that there is much more involved than you imagine, for example having a large number of people to choose from and that they are available) is a step in that direction.

    • I’m going to call the middle on this. If a friend sets you up, they should not ask for anything, but you should give them something as a sign of appreciation It should be based on what you can afford. If you’re making a $10,000 wedding, then you should be able to give the shadchan $500 (or something worth that). If you can’t afford to, you should look at what you can cut from your wedding, because actually without the shadchan, there wouldn’t even be a wedding.

      On the other hand, if you’re the shadchan, and they don’t give you anything more than a ‘thank you,’ you should realize that you did something good, and that should be enough for you.

      If it’s a professional thing, people can charge whatever they want. Those looking to get married shouldn’t have to rely on a paid shadchan, though. There are plenty of other ways to meet one’s spouse.

  19. I am familiar with all these fees and agree that once there are thousands to be made, there is too much hanging in the balance for shadchanim who charge to have the best interest of the couple. They just want to “shtell a chupah” as they say in Yiddish – loosely translated – make a wedding.

    I do shidduchey mitzvah, for no fee ever and people register only online and contact is by email so they’re not bombarded with potentially embarrassing phone calls. Contact information is given out only once the two people both consent to the match. It can take longer because I will only make a match that I think is good and has potential.

    My method is progressive and very different but also saves on energy and costs and is win/win.

    Rabbis are notorious for twisting things to suit their motives, just as a lawyer would. Unless people are top professionals earning lots of money, gifts can also be in the hundreds of shkalim and some people get married in the Rabbanut or other less expensive halls to save expenses. Charging exorbitant fees only pads their pockets – it does not make people more serious!

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