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Letter to a New Acquaintance: Money for Shidduchim

August 26, 2015

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I did not have the time earlier to express my disagreement with your sentiments. When I had explained how I and my wife had not sought rewards for the various matches we have made or suggested in the past (between the two of us, it is up to five), you started saying how it was proper for matchmakers to charge for their services, and how the matched should pay for their good fortune, and how there are horror stories about couples who met with tragedies after they did not sufficiently reward their matchmakers, and about how all of these matters are well documented in “the s’farim.”

I have no doubt that all that can be found in very late Jewish literature. I am also fairly certain that much of it does not fit with the Judaism of our sages, and that it reflects a less ideal reality, a reality of our own creation, of our neglecting, as a group, the words of our sages.

Our sages bade us to emulate God in order to fulfill the biblical command to “walk in His ways.” Just as He is kind, gracious and merciful, so should you be kind, gracious, and merciful. Just as He cares for the sick and the dead, so too shall you care for the sick and dead. Just as He supports the orphan and widow, so shall you. Just as He marries off the bride, so shall you. Hesed is greatest when it is done for no reward. Yes, it is unfortunate that burial societies charge their constituencies, but they have operating costs. Ideally, all acts of kindness should be performed with no expectations for returns, and making matches is no exception. This explains why the Talmudic literature, for instance, has almost nothing to say about reimbursing shadchanim. The Jewish way is to help others get married without expecting something in return. Believing other wise has led to the absurdly evil phenomenon of shadchanim specifically not divulging their knowledge of good matches because they are not being paid. We have made this-vitally important hesed into a business, thus depriving the poor of their needs, instead of seeing to it that they not lack.

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