“Matchmaker, matchmaker / Look through your book / And make me a perfect match…” (Fiddler on the Roof).

With the widespread proliferation of internet dating sites such as eHarmony, match.com and JDate, as well as apps like Jswipe, the idea of a shadchan, a matchmaker, may sound archaic and primitive to most modern Jews. Yet, at one time, the shadchan played an important role in Jewish life, and in many traditional circles, he/she still does.

Anyone who is single, or who remembers life before they found their special someone, will admit that finding the proper mate “isn’t easy.” This sentiment is not new. In fact, as far back as the Talmud (and most certainly before that), people bewailed the difficulty in finding a proper mate. Rabbah bar Channah said in the name of Rabbi Yochanan: “It is as difficult to pair them [couples] as was the splitting of the Sea of Reeds!” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 22a).

In fact, the Midrash tells the tale of a Roman matron who paired a thousand male slaves with a thousand female slaves to prove that matchmaking was not so difficult. The next day, battered and bruised, they all begged her to release them from their marriage vows.

One of the important functions of a shadchan is to narrow the playing field. After extensive interviews, the shadchan has a good idea of what both the man and the woman may be looking for, and based on those impressions, will suggest a prospective match. (In more traditional circles, the criteria are often set by the parents.)

A shadchan is also there to guide the couple as they get to know each other, and to help them see each other’s best qualities.

Because the shadchan facilitates such an important event in a person’s life (marriage), it is considered proper to pay the shadchan for his/her time and effort. At the very least, a significant gift should be given to the matchmaker.

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