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Hilchos Choshen Mishpat

Volume III : Number 5

A Matchmaker's Fee


Question:

Reuven, a Shadchan (matchmaker), introduced his friend Shimon to Leah, with the thought that perhaps they might be interested in marrying. After meeting her, Shimon decided that although he and Leah were not compatible, his friend Levi might be more compatible for her. Sure enough, Levi and Leah met, liked each other, and decided to marry.

Who receives the Shadchanus (matchmaker's fee)? Should Reuven, who initiated the contact with Shimon receive the Shadchanus, or should Shimon, who actually made the final introduction that worked out receive it?


Answer:

  1. A. The entire fee belongs solely to Shimon. (1)
  2. B. A Shadchan or any agent is permitted to stipulate to a client that if the information provided to the client results in any match at all, the Shadchan or agent will receive the entire fee. However, this must be made conditional before the information is provided. Additionally, he should have them sign or make a Kinyan (act of commitment) that they will do so, to make this Halachically binding. way. (1)


Sources:

(1) A primary principle in understanding how Halacha views the fees of an agent such as a matchmaker or real estate agent is that the agent is not paid for the information that they are providing, as would be the case where someone sells the rights to an invention that he has a patent on, or a copyright on intellectual property. The agent is being paid for the "work" that he is doing by introducing two parties who wish to engage in a transaction. Regardless of whether the agent was asked to make the introduction or not, he is deserving of payment for the service provided. (There _is_ a difference whether he was asked or did it voluntarily regarding how much he is to be paid. If asked, he is like any other contracted worker and his full fee must be paid. Otherwise, he can only request the lowest fee paid in that community for the service provided.)

However, if the Shadchan or agent did not actually make the introduction, but rather someone else did as an indirect result of the information that they provided, they are not deserving of any fee. They have not done the work that agents are paid for, nor do they have the right to charge for use of the information that they thought was exclusively theirs.

The Teshuvos Chut HaShani (Siman 3, which is quoted in Rabbi Akiva Eiger's commentary on the Shulchan Oruch, Choshen Mishpat 264:7) discusses a case which illustrates this. Reuven went to a Shadchan to ask if he knew of anyone for his sister-in-law. The Shadchan wrote down the name of a boy, and Reuven introduced him to his sister-in-law, and they ended up getting married. The Chut HaShani states that since Reuven went independently to the Shadchan, and he is the one who introduced the sister-in-law to her future husband, they have no obligation to pay the Shadchan, only to Reuven. She can tell the Shadchan, "You have no claim against me! (Lav Baal Devarim Didee Att!)". Reuven is the one who provided the service that Shadchanim are paid for - the introduction.

However, it is not clear from the Teshuva there whether or not Reuven, for his part, is obligated to share his fee with the Shadchan, that they should be considered partners in the service provided. The Teshuva there can be understood that either they should share it equally, or that Reuven may keep the entire fee. This is something that requires further clarification.

In our case, since the Shadchan's (Reuven) original suggestion was not successful, any service that he provided clearly ended at that point. Shimon is now the one who made the successful introduction, and it is clear that Reuven should undoubtedly not receive any fee at all. The fact that he was the source of information that fueled Shimon's idea to introduce Leah to Levi is irrelevant, since he does not "own" any rights to information about Leah. Shimon is the sole Shadchan, and has no obligation at all to share any of the fee with the original Shadchan, Reuven.

Feedback is appreciated! It can be sent toatendler@torah.org.


This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an Av Bais Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His Column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda'ah, a weekly publication in Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his permission and approval.

We hope you find this class informative and stimulating! If you do not see a subscription form to the left of the screen, access the Advanced Learning Network to subscribe to Business-Halacha.

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Please Note: The purpose of this column is to make people aware of Choshen Mishpat situations that can arise at any time, and the Halachic concepts that may be used to resolve them. Each individual situation must be resolved by an objective, competent Bais Din (or Rabbinic Arbitrator) in the presence of all parties involved!

 
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