The Spurned Shadchan

In honor of the 15th of Av, I am presenting:

The Spurned Shadchan

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The phone rings. Mrs. Weinberg,* a Lakewood* shadchan who often calls to ask shaylos, is on the line.

“I suggested that a local girl meet a bachur who is currently learning in Eretz Yisroel,” Mrs. Weinberg began. “Both families did their research and agreed that it sounded worth pursuing, but they decided to wait until the summer when the bachur would be visiting his family here.”

“When the summer arrived,” Mrs. Weinberg continued, “I called the families back to arrange for the young people to meet. However, they told me that someone else suggested the shidduch, and that they are following up through the other shadchan. Are they permitted to cut me out of the arrangements? After all, it was my idea first!”

Does Mrs. Weinberg have a claim? If she does, for how much money and against whom?

SHADCHANUS GELT

Before we discuss these issues, we need to establish whether paying a shadchan is indeed a halachic requirement.

I often find that people feel that one is not required to pay a shadchan. However, this is a misconception, since the Rama (Choshen Mishpat 264:7) requires paying a shadchan a fee, usually called by its Yiddish name, shadchanus gelt.  Just as you expect to pay your real estate broker, so, too, you should assume you will pay the shadchan. (We should be aware that, according to the Rama, a shadchan’s claim for services rendered has a stronger foundation than a doctor’s fee for an office visit, see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 336:2; but that is a topic for a different article.)

Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with a shadchan requesting payment for services rendered, just as an attorney or accountant has every right to demand payment for services.

BROKERAGE FEES

Although it sometimes sounds strange, shadchanus fees are halachically categorized as brokerage fees. Just as one pays a real estate agent for arranging a transaction, so, too, one pays a shadchan for making the arrangements necessary for the engagement and marriage to transpire. Therefore, we must first explain the halachic sources for brokerage fees.

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 63b) mentions the responsibility to pay a broker’s fee to the person who arranges the sale of property or merchandise (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 185:1; Rama 87:39). This is a standard business practice, similar to paying a commission to a stockbroker, real estate agent, or personnel recruiter (sometimes called a “headhunter”).

BUT WHAT IF I DIDN’T ASK HIM?

People easily understand that if you approach a broker or agent, you thereby obligate yourself to pay him for his services. However, some people assume that if you did not solicit the service, you are not obligated to pay. Does this distinction have any basis?

According to halacha, you are required to pay for any unsolicited benefit that you would usually pay for. Providing unsolicited benefit is called yored lesoch sdei chaveiro shelo birshus, entering someone else’s field without authorization, and the provider of the benefit is referred to simply as the yored (Bava Metzia 101a).

HOW MUCH DO YOU OWE THE YORED?

You are required to pay the yored as much as you have benefited. If he performed work for you that would normally require you to hire someone, you must pay him the market rate for hiring someone for this work (Bava Metzia 76a; Sma, Choshen Mishpat 375:1).

WHY MUST ONE PAY THE SHADCHAN?

When a single person or the parent of a single person asks someone if they know of any marriageable prospects, they are asking them to perform a valuable service on their behalf. This service has a market value, just as any other brokerage or recruiting fee has a market value (Rama, Choshen Mishpat 264:7).

WHAT IF YOU DID NOT ASK THE SHADCHAN?

Although there are halachic differences whether you approach the shadchan or the shadchan offers his/her service, in either case you are required to pay the shadchan. The basis for this requirement is as follows:

Even if his service is unsolicited, the shadchan is considered a yored, since you received benefit from him for a service for which you would normally pay (Gra, Choshen Mishpat 87:117). As explained above, you must pay him whatever you would have otherwise paid for that service (Bava Metzia 76a, 101a).

AM I REQUIRED TO PAY SHADCHANUS TO A FAMILY MEMBER OR CLOSE FRIEND?

This shaylah was discussed hundreds of years ago. A professional shadchan contacted Mr. Reuven suggesting a gentleman he thought appropriate for Mr. Reuven’s widowed sister-in-law. Mr. Reuven was involved in researching the shidduch and in arranging the couple’s meeting. When the couple announced their engagement, Mr. Reuven informed the professional shadchan that he was expecting half the shadchanus gelt, claiming that he was the shadchan who convinced the woman to consider this shidduch. The professional shadchan contended that he was the only shadchan, and that Mr. Reuven was an interested party and not a shadchan. Mr. Reuven countered that the professional had never made direct contact with his sister-in-law but relied exclusively on him to encourage the shidduch. The matter was referred to Rav Yair Chayim Bachrach, known as the Chavos Yair (after one of the seforim he authored). The rav ruled that Mr. Reuven was indeed a shadchan, since he influenced his sister-in-law to pursue the shidduch. He was therefore entitled to half the shadchanus fee, even though he was related to one of the principals (Shu’t Chut HaShani #3, quoted in Pischei Teshuvah, Even HaEzer 50:16).

WHO MUST PAY THE SHADCHANUS FEE, THE PARENTS OR THE COUPLE?

Usually, the parents of an engaged party pay the shadchanus gelt. Are they required to pay this fee, or is it really the responsibility of the young couple that the parents assume? As we will see, there are halachic ramifications to this question.

The poskim debate this question, making razor-thin distinctions that have major ramifications. Some contend that the responsibility falls upon the young couple, since they are the ones who benefit, even though the prevalent custom is that the parents pay (Shu’t Avnei Nezer, Choshen Mishpat #36). Others contend that since the parents usually pay, the shadchan expects payment only from them, and, therefore, he has no claim against the young couple (Halichos Yisroel #3, quoting Eirech Shai, Choshen Mishpat Chapter 185).

There is a major dispute between these approaches. The first opinion holds that if the shadchan is unable to collect from the parents, he may collect from the couple. According to the second opinion, his only claim is against the parents, and if he cannot collect from the parents, he cannot claim his fee from the young couple.

WHO WENT TO WHOM?

Since we have learned that one must pay the shadchan whether or not one solicited him initially, does it make any difference whether I asked the shadchan or the shadchan approached me first?

There are several differences in halacha that pertain to whether you solicited the shadchan initially or vice versa, including when you are required to pay the shadchan and whether you violate the mitzvah of bal talin if you fail to pay the shadchan on time.

If you approached or telephoned the shadchan initially, then you have hired him or her to perform a job — in this case, to find an appropriate shidduch. If he/she succeeds in his/her mission, then you are required to pay when the job is completed, and you must pay the shadchan as soon as the couple becomes engaged (Shu’t Halichos Yisroel #1-2). Furthermore, if you do not pay him/her on time and the shadchan demands payment, you will violate a Torah prohibition called bal talin, not paying a worker on time, a mitzvah we will explain shortly.

However, if you did not hire the shadchan, then you do not violate bal talin if you do not pay him/her on time, since the shadchan is not your employee.

Another difference in halacha affected by whether the shadchan was solicited or not is whether you must pay him or her at the time the couple becomes engaged or at the wedding. If the shadchan solicited you, then the time you are required to pay the shadchan depends on minhag –– accepted local custom (Rama, Choshen Mishpat 185:10). If the local custom is that people do not pay the shadchan until the wedding, then the shadchanus gelt is considered a marriage expense to be paid then, not an engagement expense. However, if you solicited the shadchan then you are required to pay the shadchan when his/her job is completed, which is when the couple becomes engaged (Shu’t Halichos Yisroel #4).

BAL TALIN – PAYING WORKERS ON TIME

As explained above, if one hired the shadchan, one must pay him/her on time, because of the mitzvah of bal talin.

WHAT IS ON TIME?

There are two deadlines, sunset and daybreak, and one is obligated to pay one’s worker before the first deadline after the job is completed. Therefore, if the worker finished his job before the end of the day, I must pay him by sunset. If he completed the work at night, I must pay him before daybreak (Bava Metzia 111a). (As mentioned above, one violates this prohibition only if the worker demanded payment and the owner refused to pay and there was no understanding or prearrangement of late payment.) According to this approach, if you went to a shadchan who, Baruch Hashem, arranged a successful shidduch, you should make sure to pay him or her immediately after the couple becomes engaged, before the next deadline arrives (Shu’t Halichos Yisroel #11). Others contend that one need not pay the shadchan until the wedding, unless the custom is otherwise (Rav Elyashiv, introduction to Shu’t Halichos Yisroel).

Still other poskim contend that since the responsibility of paying the shadchan really lies with the marrying couple, there is no violation of bal talin if the shadchan is assuming that the parents are paying his fee, since they are technically not required to pay shadchanus gelt.

HOW MUCH MUST I PAY THE SHADCHAN?

One must pay the shadchan the accepted fee in your community for this service (Pischei Teshuvah, Even HaEzer Chapter 50:16).

DIVIDING THE FEE

What happens if two different shadchanim were involved at different stages of encouraging the shidduch? Are they both entitled to be paid? How does one divide the fee? As we can imagine, this is not a recent shaylah.

An early posek, the Shev Yaakov (Choshen Mishpat #13), discusses the following case: Levi recommended that Reuven’s son meet Shimon’s daughter. After the engagement of the young couple, Gad claimed that he had originally suggested the shidduch to the parties and thus he was entitled to part of the shadchanus.

The Shev Yaakov researched the claims. As it turned out, Gad had, indeed, originally suggested the shidduch to both parties, but Shimon and his family had no interest in pursuing it. Levi, however, was a more persistent shadchan and convinced Shimon to consider Reuven’s son for his daughter.

The Shev Yaakov ruled that Gad was not entitled to any part of the shadchanus fee. He contends that a shadchan is entitled to a fee only when he was involved in the part of the discussion that reached fruition. However, in this case, Gad’s proposal did not accomplish anything, and, therefore, he is not considered a shadchan.

By a similar reasoning, a real estate agent who showed prospective clients a house, but was unable to interest them in it, and then a different agent showed them the same house and succeeded in convincing them to purchase it, the second agent is entitled to the commission, according to halacha. (In these instances, if accepted business practice is different it might affect the halacha, which is a topic for a different time.)

Thus, it seems that Mrs. Weinberg is not entitled to any shadchanus fee in our situation, since she was not part of the actual introduction that took place.

Notwithstanding that the Shev Yaakov ruled that Gad was not entitled to a share of the fee, there are cases in which the shidduch involves several parties and each is entitled to a part of the fee. If Sarah suggested a shidduch, but then felt that Rivkah would be a better go-between, and eventually it was necessary to get Leah involved and she was instrumental in the couple subsequently becoming engaged, all three ladies are considered partial shadchanim, according to many poskim. The accepted practice in this case is to divide the accepted shadchanus fee and to award 1/3 to each of the ladies. Other poskim contend that only the person who suggested the shidduch and the one who finalized it are considered shadchanim and they split the fee – but that a go-between who neither suggested a shidduch nor finalized it is not viewed as a shadchan (Shu’t Avnei Nezer, Choshen Mishpat #36).

SOME INTERESTING SHADCHANUS STORIES

A shadchan unsuccessfully attempted to arrange a shidduch between a daughter of the wealthy Weiss family and the son of the wealthy Schwartz family. Although the two families did meet and enjoyed one another, the shidduch did not materialize, and the Weiss girl subsequently married someone else. Later, other shadchanim suggested a match between a younger Weiss daughter and the Schwartz boy, and the couple became engaged. The original shadchan now claimed that he is entitled to a percentage of the shadchanus gelt, claiming that his involvement in the previous unsuccessful shidduch was instrumental in forging the close relationship between the two families that caused the latter shidduch to happen. Does the original shadchan have a claim?

The parties referred this shaylah to the Avnei Nezer (Choshen Mishpat #36). In a very complicated ruling he contends that the original shadchan might be entitled to a very small percentage of the shadchanus gelt for his role. He suggests a compromise on this basis, but rules that one could not be certain that he is entitled to any part of the fee.

IF A SHADCHAN ASKS FOR A HIGHER THAN TYPICAL FEE, AM I REQUIRED TO PAY IT?

If the shadchan did not provide any unusual shadchanus service, and the fee for a shadchan in your area is fairly standard, then the shadchan is not entitled to the extra fee. However, if there is no standard shadchanus fee in your area, or the shadchan performed a special service, then one must pay the shadchan’s higher fee (see Rama, Choshen Mishpat  335:1 and 264:7; Shach 264:15). Shadchanus is like any other profession, where one may not charge significantly above the going rate. However, when there is no fixed accepted amount, then the shadchan is not overcharging, since there is no market amount. Similarly, if the shadchan extends him/herself more than is expected, he may command a higher fee, since one is paying for the extra service (see Rama 335:1).

According to the Midrash, Moshe Rabbeinu was the shadchan between Klal Yisroel and Hashem at the giving of the Torah. Furthermore, Hashem, Himself, is indeed the ultimate Shadchan of every marriage. Thus, we should respect the wonderful role of the shadchanim in our midst, who are involved in a mitzvah that emulates both Hashem and Moshe.

* All names and places have been changed to protect privacy.

 

May I Keep My Skeletons in the Closet?

This week’s parsha closes by mentioning that the daughters of Tzelafchad succeeded in
finding husbands. I am certain that they had no secrets to disturb their shidduchin from
happening, but what would happen if they did? Would they have been required to “spill
the beans,” or could they have kept these dark secrets to themselves? In this article we
will discuss the ramifications of this question, specifically:
1. What one must tell and what one is not required to tell.

2. When (at what stage in the developing relationship) is one required to inform about the
issue?

3. Whom one must tell.

I was asked this question recently:

Mrs. Weiss (not her real name) called me to discuss the following sensitive matter:
“I was once treated successfully for a serious disease. My grandmother had the same
illness, yet lived in good health to a ripe old age. The doctors feel that my daughter
should be checked regularly from a fairly young age for this same disease. She is now
entering the shidduchim parsha. Must I reveal this family information to shadchanim
(matchmakers) and/or to the families of potential chassanim, and, if so, at what
point must I disclose this information? I am truly concerned that this could seriously
complicate her shidduch possibilities.”

Although this situation may be atypical, we all have medical, personal, and/or
genealogical issues that we wish to keep private. What information must we reveal while
arranging shidduchim for our children (or for ourselves)? And at what point must we
disclose it?

The prohibitions of Geneivas daas, misleading someone, and Onaah, fraud, apply equally
to shidduchin. However, there are many complicating factors involved in shidduchin, and
therefore we need to explain:

ONAAH — FRAUD

Misrepresenting a product or service in order to make a sale is a form of cheating, such
as painting an item to hide a defect. A modern instance of onaah is insider trading,
which means that someone purchases or sells a stock or commodity because he/she has
information, either positive or negative, about the stock, that is unavailable to the public.
This is dishonest because the other transacting party is unaware of this information which
affects the value of the item they are buying or selling.

In shidduchim the same rule is true: Subject to some exceptions, which I will explain
shortly, one must notify the other party of information that might concern them. Hoping

that no one takes this personally, I will refer to this type of negative information as
an “imperfection.” For example, Mrs. Weiss is inquiring whether the family medical
history is an imperfection that must be revealed.

MEKACH TA’US – INVALIDATING THE MARRIAGE

The most serious ramification of withholding required information about shidduchim,
or worse, of being deceptive, is that this can even result (in certain extreme cases) in a
halachically invalid marriage. (This indeed applies to any contracted arrangement – an
unrevealed serious imperfection brings about a mekach ta’us, because the two parties
never agreed to the arrangement as it indeed exists.)

Here are a few interesting examples:

If someone specifies that his new wife should have no vows (nedarim) and finds that she
is bound by neder to abstain from meat, wine or nice clothes, the kiddushin is annulled
(Kesubos 72b)! A husband wants that he and his wife enjoy life together, and refraining
from these activities may disturb the happiness of their marriage.

OTHER SERIOUS IMPERFECTIONS

To quote the words of the Sefer Chassidim (#507), “When arranging matches for your
children or other family members, do not hide medical issues from the other party to
which they would object enough to decline the shidduch, lest they afterward choose to
annul the marriage. You should also tell them about deficiencies in halachic observances
that are significant enough that the other party would have rejected the marriage.”

CAN’T SMELL

Another example of unrevealed information that invalidates a marriage is a woman’s
failure to notify her future husband that she has no sense of smell, since this flaw
hampers her ability to prepare tasty meals. Similarly, a profession that causes a man’s
body to have a foul odor is sufficient reason to invalidate the marriage (Kesubos 76a).

Withholding information concerning an inability to have children is certainly a mekach
ta’us. In this last situation, a physician who is aware that his patient cannot have children
is required to reveal this information to the other side, even though this violates patient
confidentiality (Shu”t Tzitz Eliezer 16:4). In the situation above, the physician was aware
that the young woman had no uterus, and therefore it was physically impossible for her
to conceive a child. He was also aware that they were hiding this information from the
prospective groom. The same would be true should the male be unable to have children,
since the assumption is that people of childbearing age marry intending to bear offspring
from the marriage.

WHAT MAY ONE HIDE?

What type of information may one withhold?
There are two categories of negative information, imperfections, that one does not need
to reveal. They are information that the other party could find out on one’s own, and
information that is not significant.

KNOWN INFORMATION

A seller is not required to disclose an imperfection in his product that the buyer could
discover on his own. Furthermore, as long as the buyer could have noticed something that
may arouse attention, there is no geneivas daas and no onaah in making the sale (Shu”t
Igros Moshe, Yoreh Deah 1:31).

For example, if someone is selling a house with a drop ceiling, he is not required to notify
the buyer that there was damage above the ceiling, since a drop ceiling in a residence
should arouse attention. Similarly, if the entire neighborhood is susceptible to flooding
basements, the seller does not need to mention that his basement has a severe water
problem. If the buyer asks directly, the seller must answer honestly.

Again, in regard to stock trading: The seller is not required to mention that in the last
recorded quarter the company reported a sharp decline in profits since this information is
readily available to the buyer.

A similar concept is true concerning shidduchim. For example, if the scandalous activities
of a family member are well known in one’s hometown, one need not tell the other party
since this information could be discovered by asking around (Shu”t Panim Meiros 1:35).
Halachically, when the other party asks neighbors for information about this potential
shidduch, the neighbors should share the requested details. This is a topic I intend to
discuss more fully in a future article.

INSIGNIFICANT INFORMATION

A second category of information that need not be revealed includes factors that are
insignificant to the buyer. One is not required to provide an in-depth list of every
shortcoming the merchandise has. Similarly, shidduchim do not require revealing
every possible medical or yichus issue. The Chofetz Chaim (Be’er Mayim Chaim #8 at
end of Hilchos Rechilus) distinguishes between a medical issue one must reveal and
a “weakness,” which one does not. Thus, someone need not reveal minor ailments that
would not disturb the average person.

Of course, it is sometimes difficult to define what constitutes a “minor ailment” and what
constitutes a serious one, and specific rabbinic guidance is usually warranted when one is
in doubt. However, I will present one or two examples of each.

Although I know rabbonim who disagree with this position, I feel that juvenile diabetes
is a malady that must be mentioned, whereas non-life threatening hay fever and similar
allergies may be ignored. On the other hand, an allergy that is so serious that it affects

one’s lifestyle and activities in a major way must be mentioned. My usual litmus test is: If
the issue is significant enough that one might want to hide it, it is usually something that
one should tell.

WHEN TO TELL?

At what point must one reveal a significant “imperfection”?

In most instances, there is no requirement to notify the other party or a shadchan of any
of these imperfections at the time a shidduch is suggested. The Sefer Chassidim, quoted
above, does not mention at what point one must notify the other party of the shortcoming.
Contemporary poskim usually contend that one should reveal this information after the
couple has met a few times; about the time the relationship is beginning to get serious,
but after the two parties have become acquainted and see their overall qualities as an
individual. This is the approach I personally advise in all such situations. There is no
requirement for the parties to tell a shadchan, and in some situations it is prohibited to do
so.

My daughter has a close friend who unfortunately has celiac. She had been told by her
rav that she should reveal this information on the third date. (Let me note that this exact
detail will vary tremendously on the dating approach used in the couple’s circles.) She
was so nervous and concerned how the guy would react, that she was unable to bring
herself to mention it then. Finally, on the fourth date, she was able to get the words out,
to which he reacted nonchalantly, “Oh, so does my brother.” This story has a very happy
ending, since her mother-in-law anyway prepares food that is appropriate.

REJECTION
However, if one knows that the other party will reject the shidduch because of this
imperfection, I would recommend forgoing this shidduch from the outset. For example,
if one knows that a particular family prides itself on a pure pedigree, don’t pursue a
shidduch with them if you know they will ultimately reject it when they discover that
your great-uncle was not observant.

At this point, we can discuss Mrs. Weiss’ shaylah asked above:

“I was once treated successfully for a serious disease. My grandmother had the same
illness, yet lived in good health to a ripe old age. The doctors feel that my daughter
should be checked regularly from a fairly young age for this same disease. She is now
entering the shidduchim parsha. Must I reveal this family information to shadchanim
and/or to the families of potential chassanim, and, if so, at what point must I disclose
this information? I am truly concerned that this could seriously complicate her shidduch
possibilities.”

Most poskim with whom I discussed this shaylah contended that one should reveal
this information to the other side after the couple has gotten to know one another
and is interested in pursuing the relationship. One rov disagreed, contending that

since the problem can be caught early and treated successfully, one need not divulge
this information at all. All opinions agree that one has absolutely no obligation to
mention this information to a shadchan or to anyone who has no personal need for this
information.

Obviously, I cannot possibly discuss the various permutations of these shaylos in an
article, but simply can present the issues. Wishing all much happiness in their marriages
and their children’s marriages!

The Spurned Shadchan

clip_image002The phone rings. Mrs. Weinberg, a shadchan who often calls to ask shaylos, is on the line.

“I suggested that a local girl meet a bachur who is currently learning in Eretz Yisroel,” Mrs. Weinberg began. “Both families did their research and agreed that it sounded worth pursuing, but they decided to wait until the summer when the bachur would be visiting his family here.”

“When the summer arrived,” Mrs. Weinberg continued, “I called the families back to arrange for the young people to meet. However they told me that someone else suggested the shidduch, and that they are following up through the other shadchan. Are they permitted to cut me out of the arrangements? After all, it was my idea first!”

Does Mrs. Weinberg have a claim? If she does, for how much money and against whom?

SHADCHANUS GELT

Before we discuss these issues, we need to establish whether paying a shadchan is indeed a halachic requirement.

I often find that people feel that one is not required to pay a shadchan. However, this is a misconception, since the halachic sources require paying a shadchan a fee, usually called by its Yiddish name, shadchanus gelt (Rama, Choshen Mishpat 264:7).  Just as you expect to pay your real estate broker, so too, you should assume you will pay the shadchan. (We should be aware that a shadchan’s claim for services rendered has a stronger foundation than a doctor’s fee for an office visit [see Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 336:2], but that is a topic for a different article.)

Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with a shadchan requesting payment for services rendered just as an attorney or accountant has every right to demand payment for services.

BROKERAGE FEES

Although it sometimes sounds strange, shadchanus fees are halachically categorized as brokerage fees. Just as one pays a real estate agent for arranging a transaction, so too one pays a shadchan for making the arrangements necessary for the engagement and marriage to transpire. Therefore, we must first explain the halachic sources for brokerage fees.

The Gemara (Bava Metzia 63b) mentions the responsibility to pay a broker’s fee to the person who arranges the sale of property or merchandise (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 185:1; Rama 87:39). This is a standard business practice, similar to paying a commission to a stockbroker, real estate agent, or personnel recruiter (sometimes called a “headhunter”).

BUT WHAT IF I DIDN’T ASK HIM?

People easily understand that if you approach a broker or agent, you thereby obligate yourself to pay him for his services. However, some people assume that if you did not solicit the service, are not obligated to pay. Does this distinction have any basis?

According to halacha, you are required to pay for any unsolicited benefit that you would usually pay for. Providing unsolicited benefit is called yored lisoch sdei chaveiro shelo birshus, entering someone else’s field without authorization, and the provider of the benefit is referred to simply as the yored (Gemara Bava Metzia 101a).

The case where the Gemara demonstrates this halacha is very instructive: Someone owns a field that he usually plants, but he has not yet planted it this year. Someone else planted the field without asking the owner’s permission and now asks the owner to pay him! Is the planter entitled to compensation for his efforts? The Gemara rules that he is entitled to compensation since you benefit from his work.

HOW MUCH DO YOU OWE THE YORED?

You are required to pay the yored as much as you have benefited. If he performed work for you that would normally require you to hire someone, you must pay him the market rate for hiring someone for this work (Gemara Bava Metzia 76a; Sma, Choshen Mishpat 375:1).

WHY MUST ONE PAY THE SHADCHAN?

When a single person or the parent of a single person asks someone if they know of any marriageable prospects, they are asking them to perform a valuable service on their behalf. This service has a market value, just as any other brokerage or recruiting fee has a market value (Rama Choshen Mishpat 264:7).

WHAT IF YOU DID NOT ASK THE SHADCHAN?

Although there are halachic differences whether you approach the shadchan or the shadchan offers his/her service, in either case you are required to pay the shadchan. The basis for this requirement is as follows:

In this latter instance the shadchan is a yored, since you received benefit from him for an unsolicited service that you would normally pay for (Gra, Choshen Mishpat 87:117). As explained above, you must pay him whatever you would have otherwise paid for that service (Gemara Bava Metzia 76a, 101a).

AM I REQUIRED TO PAY SHADCHONUS TO A FAMILY MEMBER OR CLOSE FRIEND?

This shaylah was discussed hundreds of years ago. A professional shadchan contacted Mr. Reuven suggesting a gentleman he thought appropriate for Mr. Reuven’s widowed sister-in-law. Mr. Reuven was involved in researching the shidduch and in arranging the couple’s meeting. When the couple announced their engagement, Mr. Reuven informed the professional shadchan that he was expecting half the shadchanus gelt, claiming that he was the shadchan who convinced the woman to consider this shidduch. The professional shadchan contended that he was the only shadchan, and that Mr. Reuven was an interested party and not a shadchan. Mr. Reuven countered that the professional had never made direct contact with his sister-in-law but relied exclusively on him (Mr. Reuven) to encourage the shidduch. The matter was referred to Rav Yair Chayim Bachrach, known as the Chavos Yair (after one of the seforim he authored). The rav ruled that Mr. Reuven was indeed a shadchan since he influenced his sister-in-law to pursue the shidduch. He was therefore entitled to half the shadchanus fee even though he was related to one of the principals (Shu’t Chut HaShani #3, quoted in Pischei Tshuvah, Even HaEzer 50:16).

WHO MUST PAY THE SHADCHANUS FEE, THE PARENTS OR THE COUPLE?

Usually the parents of an engaged party pay the shadchanus gelt. Are they required to pay this fee, or is it really the responsibility of the young couple that the parents assume? As we will see, there are halachic ramifications to this question.

The poskim debate this question, making razor-thin distinctions that have major ramifications. Some contend that the responsibility falls upon the young couple since they are the ones who benefit, even though the prevalent custom is that the parents pay (Shu’t Avnei Nezer, Choshen Mishpat #36). Others contend that since the parents usually pay, the shadchan only expects payment from them and therefore he has no claim against the young couple (Halichos Yisroel #3, quoting Eirech Shai, Choshen Mishpat Chapter 185).

There is a major dispute between these approaches. The first opinion holds that if the shadchan is unable to collect from the parents, he may collect from the couple. According to the second opinion, his only claim is against the parents, and if he cannot collect from the parents, he cannot claim his fee from the young couple.

ARE THERE ANY HALACHIC DIFFERENCES WHETHER YOU ASKED THE SHADCHAN, OR HE APPROACHED YOU WITH THE SUGGESTION?

Since we have learned that one must pay the shadchan whether or not one solicited him or her initially or not, does it make any difference whether I asked the shadchan or the shadchan approached me first?

There are several differences in halacha that pertain to whether you solicited the shadchan initially or vice versa, including when you are required to pay the shadchan and whether one violates the mitzvah of bal talin if one fails to pay the shadchan on time.

If you approached or telephoned the shadchan initially, then you have hired him or her to perform a job — in this case to find an appropriate shidduch. If he/she succeeds in his/her mission, then you are required to pay when the job is completed, and you must pay the shadchan as soon as the couple becomes engaged (Shu’t Halichos Yisroel #1-2). Furthermore if you do not pay him/her on time and the shadchan demands payment, you will violate a Torah prohibition called bal talin, not paying a worker on time, a mitzvah we will explain shortly.

However, if you did not hire the shadchan, then you do not violate bal talin if you do not pay him/her on time since the shadchan is not your employee.

Another difference in halacha affected by whether the shadchan was solicited or not, is whether you must pay him or her at the time the couple becomes engaged or at the wedding. If the shadchan solicited you, then the time you are required to pay the shadchan depends on minhag– accepted local custom (Rama Choshen Mishpat 185:10). If the local custom is that people do not pay the shadchan until the wedding, then the shadchanus gelt is considered a marriage expense to be paid then, not an engagement expense. However, if you solicited the shadchan, then you are required to pay the shadchan when his/her job is completed, which is when the couple becomes engaged (Shu’t Halichos Yisroel #4).

BAL TALIN – PAYING WORKERS ON TIME

As explained above, if one hired the shadchan, one must pay him/her on time because of the mitzvah of bal talin.

WHAT IS ON TIME?

There are two deadlines, sunset and daybreak, and one is obligated to pay one’s worker before the first deadline after the job is completed. Therefore, if the worker finished his job before the end of the day, I must pay him by sunset. If he completed the work at night, I must pay him before daybreak (Bava Metzia 111a). (As mentioned above, one violates this prohibition only if the worker demanded payment and the owner refused to pay and there was no understanding or prearrangement of late payment.) According to this approach, if you went to a shadchan who, Baruch Hashem, arranged a successful shidduch, one should make sure to pay him or her immediately after the couple becomes engaged before the next deadline arrives (Shu’t Halichos Yisroel #11). Others contend that one need not pay the shadchan until the wedding unless the custom is otherwise (Rav Elyashiv, introduction to Shu’t Halichos Yisroel).

Still other poskim contend that since the responsibility of paying the shadchan really lies with the marrying couple, there is no violation of bal talin if the shadchan is assuming that the parents are paying his fee since they are technically not required to pay shadchanus gelt.

HOW MUCH MUST I PAY THE SHADCHAN?

One must pay the shadchan whatever is the accepted fee in your community for this service (Pischei Teshuvah, Even HaEzer Chapter 50:16).

DIVIDING THE FEE

What happens if two different shadchanim were involved at different stages of encouraging the shidduch? Are they both entitled to be paid? How does one divide the fee? As we can imagine, this is not a recent shaylah.

An early posek, the Shev Yaakov (Choshen Mishpat #13), discusses the following case: Levi recommended that Reuven’s son meet Shimon’s daughter. After the engagement of the young couple, Gad claimed that he had originally suggested the shidduch to the parties and thus he is entitled to part of the shadchanus.

The Shev Yaakov researched the claims. As it turned out, Gad had indeed originally suggested the shidduch to both parties, but Shimon and his family had no interest in pursuing it. Levi, however, was a more persistent shadchan and convinced Shimon to consider Reuven’s son for his daughter.

Shev Yaakov ruled that Gad was not entitled to any part of the shadchanus fee. He contends that a shadchan is only entitled to a fee when he was involved in the part of the discussion that reached fruition. However in this case, Gad’s proposal did not accomplish anything and therefore he is not considered to be a shadchan.

By a similar reasoning, a real estate agent who showed a prospective client a house, but was unable to interest them in the house, and then a different agent showed them the same house and succeeded in convincing them to purchase the house, the second agent is entitled to the commission according to halacha. (In these instances, if accepted business practice is different it might affect the halacha, which is a topic for a different time.)

Thus, it seems that Mrs. Weinberg is not entitled to any shadchanus fee in our situation, since she was not part of the actual introduction that took place. However, one could argue differently – that she had interested them in the shidduch, and therefore she is entitled to part of the shadchanus gelt. It would seem to me that this latter argument is stronger.

Notwithstanding that the Shev Yaakov ruled that Gad was not entitled to a share of the fee, there are cases in which the shidduch involves several parties and each is entitled to a part of the fee. If Sarah suggested a shidduch, but then felt that Rivkah would be a better go between, and eventually Leah was necessary to get involved and was instrumental in the couple subsequently becoming engaged, all three ladies are considered partial shadchanim according to many poskim. the accepted practice in this case is to divide the accepted shadchanus fee and to award 1/3 to each of the ladies. Other poskim contend that only the person who suggested the shidduch and the one who finalized it are considered shadchanim and they split the fee – but that a go-between who neither suggested a shidduch nor finalized it is not viewed as a shadchan (Shu’t Avnei Nezer, Choshen Mishpat #36).

SOME INTERESTING SHADCHANUS STORIES

A shadchan unsuccessfully attempted to arrange a shidduch between a daughter of the wealthy Weiss family and the son of the wealthy Schwartz family. Although the two families did meet and enjoyed one another, the shidduch did not materialize and the Weiss girl subsequently married someone else. Later, other shadchanim suggested a match between a younger Weiss daughter and the widowed Mr. Schwartz, and the couple became engaged. The original shadchan now claimed that he is entitled to a percentage of the shadchanus gelt, claiming that his involvement in the previous unsuccessful shidduch was instrumental in forging the close relationship between the two families that caused the latter shidduch to happen. Does the original shadchan have a claim?

The parties referred this shaylah to the Avnei Nezer (Choshen Mishpat #36). In a very complicated ruling he contends that the original shadchan might be entitled to a very small percentage of the shadchanus gelt for his role. He suggests a compromise on this basis, but rules that it is uncertain that he is entitled to any part of the fee.

IF A SHADCHAN ASKS FOR A HIGHER THAN TYPICAL FEE, AM I REQUIRED TO PAY IT?

If the shadchan did not provide any unusual shadchanus service, and the fee for a shadchan in your area is fairly standard, then the shadchan is not entitled to the extra fee. However, if there is no standard shadchanus fee in your area, or the shadchan performed a special service, then one must pay the shadchan’s higher fee (see Rama, Choshen Mishpat 335:1 and 264:7; Shach 264:15). Shadchanus is like any other profession where one may not charge significantly above the going rate. However, when there is no fixed accepted amount, then the shadchan is not overcharging since there is no market figure. Similarly, if the shadchan extends him/herself more than is expected, he may command a higher fee since one is paying for the extra service (see Rama 335:1)

According to the Midrash, Moshe Rabbeinu was the shadchan between Klal Yisroel and Hashem at the giving of the Torah. Furthermore, Hashem Himself is indeed the ultimate Shadchan of every marriage. Thus, we should respect the wonderful role of the shadchanim in our midst who are involved in a mitzvah that emulates both Hashem and Moshe.