By Rabbi Aryeh Citron, Dean at Yeshivah College in Miami Beach, Florida
It is a great mitzvah to help a young man or woman find his or her match. According to the Midrash, 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).
Rabbi Avraham Halperin of Brezhan said 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.
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.
The Chasam 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!”
Money Earned from Matchmaking
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.
The Alter Rebbe explains 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. As such, the match reaches this world in a way that is not logical and is therefore (often) only accomplished with some dishonesty.
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.
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.
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. 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.
When the parents are marrying off their children (as is usual in cases of first marriage), it is the parents who pay this fee. If the chosson and/or kallah approached the shadchan themselves, it is considered their obligation to pay this fee.
If there were two shadchanim involved, one for each side, each side should pay their respective shadchan his or her fees.
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.
One must pay a shadchan whether it is a first or second marriage.
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.
If the shadchan does not expressly demand a fee nor does he expressly state that he doesn’t want it, he must be paid.
The fee must be paid even if the shadchan did not need to work hard on completing the shidduch.
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.
Paying the shadchan, in addition to being an obligation, is a segulah to have healthy children.
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. (This is not necessary by the letter of the law.)
If more than one shadchan was involved, the fee should be divided between them.
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.
May all those who need a shidduch soon find their bashert (intended mate) in an easy and pleasant manner!