SELECTED HALACHOS RELATING TO Parshas Chayei Sarah
By Rabbi Doniel Neustadt
The following is a discussion of Halachic topics related to the Parsha of the week.
For final rulings, consult your Rav.
Take a wife for my son for Yitzchak (24:4)
Shiduchim in Halachah
It is a mitzvah to arrange a shiduch (1) [colloq: a match]
between a man and a woman for the object of matrimony (2). It is
permitted to arrange a shiduch on Shabbos (3), and if necessary,
it is even permitted to discuss financial arrangements on
Arranging a match between non-observant Jews is not technically
a mitzvah, but it is permitted to do so provided that the
shadchan will be paid for his services (5). Even a professional
shadchan, however, is advised by the poskim not to get involved
in arranging a marriage between non-Jews (6).
THE SHADCHAN'S FEE:
As with any other business transaction, a shadchan must be paid
a fee for arranging a shiduch (7). It makes no difference if the
shadchan was engaged by one of the parties or if he volunteered
his services--in either case he must be paid for his
services (8). Even a non-professional shadchan must be paid for
his services (9). The shadchan may petition a beis din to force
the parties to pay his fee (10).
The amount to be paid is divided equally between the two sides,
even if the shadchan spent more time with one of them (11). At
the shadchan's discretion, he may charge only one of the parties
involved half of the going rate. He may not, however, charge
more than half to one side, even if the other side is poor or
for some reason refuses to pay (12). The shadchan may forego
payment altogether, in which case there is no compelling reason
to pay him (13).
Although the obligation to pay is the bride's and groom's, it
has become customary for the parents to pay (14). If the parents
fail to pay, there is no obligation for the bride and groom to
pay the shadchan (15).
The amount to be paid to the shadchan is based on the customary
fee in the area where the shiduch was made (16). Once the
standard fee is agreed upon, the shadchan may not ask for
additional compensation to cover special expenses that he may
have incurred in arranging the shiduch.
Our custom is to pay the shadchan immediately after the shiduch
is completed (17). Even if the shiduch is broken later, the
shadchan does not have to return his fee (18) as long as he did
not give erroneous information which led to the termination of
the shiduch (19).
A shadchan who does not complete the match--even though he
invested a great deal of time and effort--need not be paid (20).
The poskim debate the division of payments in a situation where
more than one shadchan is involved, or when the match began with
one shadchan and ended with another. Whenever there is a
dispute, a rav should to be consulted since there are many
details involved and no two cases are alike.
A shadchan whose fee is outstanding should not be a witness to
the marriage ceremony (21).
It is prohibited for either party in a prospective match to
give false information or to withhold pertinent information
about themselves. In certain cases, withholding or falsifying
information could result in the invalidation of a marriage (22).
Even a couple who has been married many years may be considered
to be living in sin if pertinent information was withheld at the
time of their marriage.
The poskim give some examples of information that may not be
withheld in a prospective match [and which--if withheld--may
invalidate a marriage]: A serious physical or mental
illness (23), infertility (24), correct financial status (25), lack
of religious observance (26), previous martial status (27),
previous illicit relationships (28), conversion (29), adoption (30).
One is not required to divulge a deficiency which most people
do not consider to be an impediment, such as a minor
illness (31), a physical weakness or a minor blemish in one's
lineage (32). Similarly, it is not required to divulge a
transgression in the distant past for which the sinner has
Since it is often difficult to gauge and judge minor drawback
versus major deficiencies, a rav must always be consulted.
An individual who is asked for [or is aware of (34)] information
about a shiduch must divulge what he knows regarding a "major
deficiency", as detailed above. One who deliberately withholds
such information transgresses the prohibition of lifnei eiver lo
sitein michshol (35).
Detrimental information about a shiduch may only be conveyed
with the proper intention--for the benefit of one of the
parties, not as revenge or in spite of any individual. Even
then, the information may only be relayed when (36):
The condition is serious;
The condition has not been exaggerated;
There is a reasonable chance that the information will be accepted and acted upon. If it is likely to be ignored, it is prohibited to be relayed.
One who is unsure if a particular point of information is a
major deficiency or if the above conditions have been met should
consult a rav before divulging or withholding any information.
1 The word shiduch is Aramaic for "peaceful" or "tranquil" (see
Targum Shoftim 3:11), referring to the peacefulness which a
woman senses when she finds her match and establishes her home
(Ran, Shabbos 12a). Others maintain that the word shiduch means
"to bind or tie" together (Aruch).
2 Shulchan ha-Eizer 3:1, based on the Medrash (Rabbah, Tzav 8:1)
that Hashem himself arranges matches. See also Chikrei Lev C.M.
3 O.C. 306:6.
4 Ketzos ha-Shulchan 107:8. See Kaf ha-Chayim 306:50 that
whenever possible it is best to delay discussing finances until
13 Reb Akiva Eiger C.M. 185; Pischei Teshuvah E.H. 50:16--
rejecting the mistaken notion that a shadchan must always be
14 Avnei Nezer C.M. 36.
15 Erech Shai C.M. 185.
16 Pischei Teshuvah E.H. 50:16. In many places today, there is
no clear custom as to the amount a shadchan receives. If a
dispute arises, a rav needs to be consulted.
17 Aruch ha-Shulchan E.H. 50:42; Beis Yitzchak 1:115; Halichos
Yisrael 4; Pischei Choshen, sechirus, pg. 337. When a shadchan
does not get paid on time, the Biblical prohibition of delayed
payment (lo salin) applies--see Halichos Yisrael 1-2.
18 Aruch ha-Shulchan, ibid. But in an area where the shadchan is
customarily paid after the wedding, and the couple never gets
married, the shadchan does not have to be paid.
19 Levushei Mordechai C.M. 15, quoted in Pischei Choshen, ibid.
See Halichos Yisrael 11 whether the shadchan gets paid if the
shiduch fell apart because of mistaken information of which the
shadchan was unaware.
20 Beis Yosef C.M. 185.
21 Otzar ha-Poskim 42:45-15; Harav Y. Kamenetsky (oral ruling,
quoted in Apiryon l'Shlomo, pg. 40). B'dieved, though, the
kiddushin is valid.
22 Sefer Chasidim 507.
23 E.H. 39:5; Igros Moshe E.H. 4:73-2.
24 Otzar ha-Poskim 39:7. See Kehilos Yaakov, Yevamos 38 and
ruling of Harav S.Y. Elyashiv (quoted in Nishmas Avraham, vol.
5, pg. 118).
31 Such as an ulcer--Harav Y. Zilberstein (Emek Halachah--
Asyah, pg. 160).
32 Chavos Yair 120. See Teshuvos Knei Bosem 1:121 and Nishmas
Avraham E.H. pg. 26 for an elaboration. See also Titein Emes
l'Yaakov, pg. 85 who quotes a dispute between contemporary
poskim as to whether it is permitted to slightly adjust the age
of bride or groom, such as from age 20 to age 19, etc.
33 Minchas Yitzchak 6:139. Such information, therefore, may not
be repeated by others when they are asked for information--ibid.
34 Tzitz Eliezer 16:4.
35 Chofetz Chayim, ibid 9:1; tziyur 2:3. See also Pischei
Teshuvah O.C. 156 and Chelkas Yaakov 3:136. See also Practical
Medical Halachah, 3rd edition, pg. 166, quoting an oral ruling
by Harav M. Feinstein that a disability which may impact
negatively on an individual's functioning as a spouse or as a
parent must be revealed.