How Many Matchmakers?

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.