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How Many Matchmakers?

Original publication date:

Question

Yankel, aged 22, received a phone call from Reb Simcha, the well-known shadchan (matchmaker). He suggested a suitable match, describing the qualities of the girl and her family in glowing terms. Yankel remembered that the same girl had been suggested two years earlier by a different shadchan, but that he had then rejected the idea because he felt he was too young for marriage. This time, he had the necessary enquiries made, met the girl and – after a few meetings – got engaged to her. Yankel’s parents now wish to pay the shadchan’s fee, but they are not sure whether the original shadchan is also entitled to a share of the money. What should they do?


Answer

Let us first define the work of a shadchan. Like a real estate agent, he provides two types of service to his clients: (a) he suggests what he considers to be a suitable match to the boy or girl or their parents; (b) he helps guide the "negotiations” so that the match should come to fruition. For these reasons, he is entitled to a fee if a match is concluded (which should be paid immediately after the engagement). If two matchmakers are involved, one making the suggestion and the other conducting the negotiations, they share the fee. The custom is that the one who suggests ("maschil”- begins) receives one-third of the fee, whereas the negotiator ("gomer”- completes) receives two-thirds. The same principle would apply if Shadchan A persuaded the boy and girl to meet a few times, but it needed the intervention of Super Shadchan B to get them to continue till they got engaged. Since there would not have been a successful conclusion without B, he is entitled to the lion’s share of the fee (two-thirds). Similar rules apply to real-estate agents’ fees.

Does it make any difference whether the shadchan took the initiative or the parties approached him for suggestions? The answer is that there could be a difference in the level of the fee. If the parties approach the shadchan, they are deemed to be employing him as their worker. If he takes the initiative, supplying information which was not requested, he is considered as "having cultivated another person’s field without his permission” ("yored li’sdei chavero shelo bi’reshuss” - see Tractate Bovo Metzia 101a). If the shadchan’s fee varies between, say, $600 - $1000, then if he was employed by the parties he is entitled to charge the higher fee (if he so wishes). However, if he took the initiative, he is at a disadvantage and can only insist on the minimum fee. In practical terms, this rule is only invoked if the shadchan only made the suggestion but did not conduct the negotiations. If he also brought the match to a successful conclusion, the custom is to pay him the higher fee, if he asks for it.

Our case is different from the above. What Yankel’s parents are really asking is whether the part of the fee due for making the suggestion should be shared. We must therefore find out whether the original shadchan’s suggestion was effective in advancing the match. If Yankel was impressed by what he had been told at the time and that encouraged him to go ahead when Reb Simcha made the suggestion, the original shadchan is entitled to half of the suggestion part of the fee (i.e. one-sixth). However, if Yankel just listened out of courtesy and totally ignored what the shadchan told him, no fee is payable. Obviously, Reb Simcha will receive the full fee for conducting the negotiations.

It is important to note that a shadchan (or any other intermediary, such as a real estate agent) should promptly be paid his full fee, just like any other worker. "Shadchonus gelt” (the matchmaker’s fee) is honestly earned money! Rav Yehoshua Leib Diskin, o.b.m., the Rav of Jerusalem, made his living from this profession.

 

MDbusiness illustrates general Halachic guidelines, only. If you have a question, please consult a Rabbi who is well-versed in these laws.
You are welcome to direct your specific questions to Rav Moore at 972(2) 651-9258 or via email

MDbusiness  is written by Rabbi Yoel Moore
Layout & Design: Lev Seltzer
Rabbi Yona Vogel, Rosh Yeshiva, Machon Daniel

 

 

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  Last modified: October 05, 2014