I read the article that you had written recently for The CJN about the world of matchmakers.
Thank God, I am recently engaged after meeting my fiancé on a Jewish dating website where you are matched with people through an online matchmaker – though very different than working with an in-person matchmaker, as you can imagine. I just had to fill out a questionnaire and then the matchmaker sent me potential matches based on those answers.
The site is a paid site, just like JDate. Do you suggest that, on top of this, we still need to pay a fee to the matchmaker that works for this site?
First of all, mazel tov on your engagement! May you have a binyan adei ad (everlasting edifice) on the foundation of Torah and mitzvot.
Secondly, thank you for your question. I’ll take a moment to delve into Jewish matchmaker lore (shadchanus) so that we can properly evaluate the situation and discover an answer.
In Jewish thought, a matchmaker, or shadchen, is considered to be a kind of middleman or broker – kind of like a real estate agent. Just like you would need to pay your agent for helping you find the house that was meant for you, you are also supposed to pay the matchmaker for finding the person meant for you.
Many of you might be surprised to hear this, but in the Orthodox world, the going rate for a successful match is over $1,000 per side, and sometimes more.
Of course, you’re thinking, what if someone can’t afford the fee? Well, just like an agent can forgive their fees if they say so explicitly, a shadchen can also forgo the financial benefit if they so choose.
That’s what I used to do when making matches for (mostly) secular couples. I was doing it because I found it meaningful, not for financial gain. The best reward I got was a mug that read, “I am a great shadchen.” That recognition was all I needed.
That continued until, one day, my mom came to town. My mother thinks, as most Jewish mothers do, that the greatest thing since sliced challah is getting married and helping facilitate that.
I proudly showed off all my happy couples with glowing nachas. But instead of letting me rest on those laurels, my mother asked if any of them had children yet.
Now, the truth was that they didn’t – none of my business why. It just happened to be that none of them had any children yet.
Then my mom asked me if they had paid me for my matchmaking. I told her that it’s not “a thing” in secular culture, and I was doing it for other reasons, so why bother?
Of course, my mom went around to all of my couples and convinced them to pay me. She knew that it’s a segulah (good omen) for healthy children for someone to pay their matchmaker, even if not obligated to do so. And lo and behold, the baby train began. I still don’t really understand it and still don’t ask for any money for my matchmaking, but the proof is in the pudding.
In today’s world, we’ve learned to cut out the middleman – or the matchmaker. Websites and algorithms can help you find a house, stock or even a husband on your own.
But even with a website, sometimes human help is needed. In your case, the fees you pay technically go to pay the shadchanim. I would imagine that they don’t expect you to pay them for a successful match – though many websites do say explicitly that it is customary to pay the matchmaker upon a successful match.
There are many stories about people with significant life issues who ask for advice from a great rabbi, only to be asked in return if they paid their shadchen. And many of these stories conclude with that being a significant factor in turning things around.
I would suggest not giving up on that valuable blessing for healthy children – besides showing that keyboard intermediary that someone out there appreciates them for what they do.
Mazel tov, and lots of healthy, happy and blessing-filled years to come.