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What is a Shadchan?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2016
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A Shadchan is a Jewish matchmaker, either in an official or unofficial capacity. While some consider a Shadchan to be a nosy person or busy body, others believe that matchmakers are an essential part of Jewish marriages and deserve respect and adherence to their suggestions. Official matchmakers will charge a fee for their services, but any friend or relative who is constantly trying to set singles up may be referred to with this title.

The existence of matchmakers has been a part of Jewish culture since its ancient times. In the Talmud, the main religious tome of the Jewish faith, some even say that making the right marriages is one of God’s main pursuits. Throughout history, Shadchans have held positions of high respect for their opinions and their services, despite the fact that many find them overly personal and occasionally annoying.

Marriages arranged by matchmakers are still common among orthodox sects of Judaism, although participants usually have considerable say in the process. The Shadchan acts as a go-between for the two families, ensuring they understand what both are looking for and watching for any signs of potential danger or unsuitability. Shadchans may also be responsible for breaking off a potential marriage, preventing the parties or the families from getting personally involved in an unpleasant breakup.

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Shadchans are often paid for their work, and urban legends suggest that if they are not paid promptly, the marriage will be unhappy. Perhaps in token to this, even some unofficial matchmakers will receive a token payment from the happy couple or their family, in order to prevent any fateful unhappiness as a result of ingratitude. The money a matchmaker asks for and receives is not considered mercenary, as they are believed to be performing a useful service to the community in uniting two members.

There are many criteria that go into matching a couple correctly. Obviously, the interested parties and their families wish to make the best match possible, so many matches may be suggested based on the qualifying criteria of the family and the Shadchan. Physical preferences, occupation, salary, geographic location, family life, and ethics are all factors considered in the matchmaking process.

Arranged marriages are a dicey question in modern society. While some bemoan the lack of individuality and romance in the situation, others note that the matchmaking process ensures compatibility on a variety of levels, something people in love may ignore while busy being twitterpated with one another. Because of the greater degree of equality between men and women in modern life, arranged marriages may be more plausible and sensible than ever before, as both parties can back out at whatever point they wish. Despite the internal cringe that many feel when they hear the words “You aren’t married? I know the perfect boy,” the work of a Shadchan can be extremely beneficial in making an informed decision about getting married, and their advice may well be worth hearing.

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