If one shadchan suggested a shidduch but another guided it to its successful conclusion, who gets paid?
When must the shadchanus be paid?
May the shadchan’s fee be paid with maaser money if the shadchan is poor?
Why the Shadchan Must be Paid
Very often, the euphoric joy of a couple’s engagement is accompanied by uncertainty regarding who should be paid shadchanus and/or how much they should be paid. It may surprise people to learn that issues regarding shadchanus are dealt with seriously and extensively in works of halachah.
Like any worker who provides customers with a service, a shadchan must be paid for his work, which consists of arranging shidduchim. A shadchan is similar to the various types of brokers who earn fees for bringing together two sides in a transaction.1
Halachah differentiates between a worker who was hired to do a job and one who voluntarily provided another person with some benefit. Whereas, both of these workers must generally be paid, the hired worker’s payment is subject to whatever terms were agreed upon,2 and the volunteer worker is only entitled to the value of the benefit he provided.3
Thus, while a shadchan must be paid whether or not his services were solicited,4 the nature of his involvement impacts several common questions, as will be discussed below.
Earning the Fee
The shadchan is paid for his role in the completion of a shidduch. Consequently, his fee is earned regardless of how much or how little effort he expends5 and only if the shidduch is completed successfully.6 Furthermore, a shadchan who incurred expenses (such as travelling expenses or phone bills) in arranging an unsuccessful shidduch cannot demand to be compensated.7 Nevertheless, some have a custom to give a gift to a shadchan who extended himself on their behalf even if an engagement did not result.
If a shadchan performed his work with the explicit understanding that he would not charge a fee, he is not entitled to one and cannot later demand it.8 The same is true regarding a shadchan who specifically intended not to charge a fee.9 Similarly, if a shadchan wishes to forego the fee to which he is entitled, there is no requirement to pay him.10
A significant factor in determining the amount that the shadchan is entitled to is whether he offered his services or they were requested.
If the shadchan volunteered his services, the amount he deserves to be paid should reflect what is typically paid for the benefit that he provided, without regard for what that particular shadchan would generally charge for providing that benefit. This amount differs from place to place and from time to time.11 The nature of the particular shidduch may also be a factor in determining the fee, as certain shidduchim earn shadchanim higher fees than others.12
Where a shadchan was asked to perform his services, it can be assumed that the “employer” was prepared to pay the “employee” whatever a comparable shadchan is typically paid for a comparable shidduch.13 Note that even if a shadchan began working on a shidduch on his own, if he was later instructed to do something (for example, to make a specific phone call), his performance of that action is done as a hired worker.14
While a shadchan is fully entitled to his fee, he has no right to demand more than that and one need not feel compelled to meet a shadchan’s unreasonable demands.15
When to Pay
Whether the shadchan’s fee is due upon the couple’s engagement or only after their marriage is dependent on the prevalent custom in the place that his service is provided. Where no custom exists, the payment may be delayed until after the wedding.16 It appears that the custom today in most places (if not all) is to pay the shadchan after the engagement.
Because the Torah requires that workers be paid on time,17 one must be sure to pay a shadchan whose services he requested as soon as his payment becomes due.18 However, this obligation does not exist in the case of a worker who voluntarily provided a benefit, in which case the payment is for the benefit as opposed to the work.19 Thus, where a shadchan provided his services without being solicited, there is no Torah obligation to pay him immediately.20 Nevertheless, as with any financial obligation,21 one may not unnecessarily delay paying the shadchan’s fee.22
If the engagement was broken in a place where the custom is to only pay the shadchan after the wedding, the shadchan cannot demand payment and must return payment that he already received.23 This is because in that place the shadchan is paid for bringing the couple together in marriage and this shadchan did not do so.24
Where the shadchan is typically paid after the engagement, he is generally entitled to receive his payment even if the engagement was eventually broken.25 However, if an engagement was broken because of the discovery of facts that rendered it a mistake (for example, it was discovered that the chosson or kallah was seriously ill at the time of the engagement), the shidduch was never really a successful one, and the shadchan is not entitled to a fee.26
Customarily, the parents of the chosson and kallah are responsible to pay the shadchan’s fee. Although the chosson and kallah are the primary beneficiaries of his service, it is their parents who must pay in keeping with the custom and in consideration of the fact that they also benefit considerably. This is certainly true if the parents asked the shadchan to act on their behalf and thereby “hired” him.27
Even if the parents are unwilling or unable to pay the shadchan, because we may assume that the shadchan expected to be paid by them, he cannot generally impose his fee upon the chosson and kallah.28 An exception to this rule is an instance in which the chosson or kallah do not have parents who could be expected to pay.29
A situation in which one of the sides is unwilling or unable to pay their share appears to be similar to a case in which two people jointly caused damage, in which one opinion maintains that the full amount can be collected from either party when one of them refuses to pay his share.30 Indeed, at least one posek asserts that a shadchan may collect his entire fee from one side if the other side will not pay.31 However, others argue that because each side of a shidduch uses only half of the shadchan’s services, no more than half of his fee can be demanded of each.32
In many shidduchim, the shadchan’s job is divided between two or more shadchanim. The poskim cite a custom to award one-third of the shadchan’s fee for the performance of each of the beginning, the middle, and the end of the shidduch process.33 Thus, if one shadchan suggested a shidduch to the two sides and another worked to see it through to completion, the second individual would be entitled to two-thirds of the fee and the first would receive one-third. It is often difficult to determine how much of the process each of the multiple shadchanim performed and a rov should then be consulted.34
Occasionally, a shidduch that is suggested by one shadchan is not pursued until it is brought up again by a second shadchan, who proceeds to guide it to a successful conclusion. If the second shadchan was unaware of the first one’s involvement and raised the idea as his own, the first one’s input was immaterial to the shidduch’s success and only the second shadchan is entitled to shadchanus.35
A shadchan may not “steal” a shidduch that another shadchan already began working on.36
The notion of some that shadchanus is no more than a nice gesture is patently false.37 Although the shadchan certainly performs a great and important mitzvah,38 he is also entitled to monetary compensation. Many gedolim viewed shadchanus money as special; at least one supported himself by earning shadchanus,39 and others used shadchanus money they earned to buy an esrog40 or burial shrouds.41
There are many stories of people who suffered later in life and, in response, were instructed by gedolim to pay their shadchanim. Many gedolim would inquire of childless couples if they paid their shadchan.42
It is often unclear who is entitled to how much shadchanus. As in all matters of monetary halachah, one should not rely on his own biased judgment and shailos should be asked.43 People are concerned about various segulos and simanim but fail to recognize that it is certainly a bad siman if the shadchan is not properly compensated.44 Conversely, to pay the shadchan his dues can only be good for the couple.
Anyone who performs the role of a shadchan without specifically intending or indicating that he would not charge for it is entitled to a fee and must be paid unless he clearly agrees to forego his fee.
Whereas one who asks a shadchan to suggest a shidduch is hiring the shadchan and must therefore pay whatever a shadchan of that caliber would typically charge, a shadchan who offers his service is entitled only to what is typically paid for a comparable shidduch. Thus, a shadchan who was hired by the girl’s side but not by the boy’s side may have a greater claim to the girl’s side.
Popular custom is to award one-third of the shadchan’s fee to a shadchan who began the shidduch process and two-thirds of the fee to one who performed the shadchan’s duties during the middle and final parts of the process.
Although there is a record of a custom to pay the shadchan after the wedding, nowadays he should be paid immediately after the engagement in keeping with what appears to be popular custom.
Because the shadchan’s fee is a monetary obligation and not charity, one may not use maaser funds to pay it.
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Questions and comments may be addressed to DovidKaiser@gmail.com. Rabbi Zev Smith’s weekly halacha shiur takes place on Sunday mornings at the Stoliner Bais Medrash, located at 4609 16th Avenue in Boro Park, Brooklyn, at 10 a.m. Tapes and CDs of the shiurim are available by calling 718.851.8651 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
1 See Rama, Choshen Mishpat 87:39 and 185:10.
2 See Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 332 and elsewhere.
3 See ibid. 375.
4 See Biur HaGra, Choshen Mishpat 87:117 and 185:13.
5 See Eidus BeYehosef vol. II #35; Pischei Choshen, Hilchos Sechirus ch. 14 note 8.
6 Mordechai, Bava Kamma #173; Bais Yosef, Choshen Mishpat 185:; Halichos Yisroel #22 (by Rav Yisroel Grossman zt”l) [see there for additional sources]; see Pischei Choshen ibid. 14:7 [see there for additional discussion].
7 Halichos Yisroel ibid.; see discussion in Pischei Choshen ibid. note 2.
8 Chut Hashani #2, cited in Pischei Teshuvah, Even Haezer 50:16; Aruch Hashulchan, Even Ha’ezer 50:42; see Maharikash, cited in Chiddushei Rebbi Akiva Eiger to Choshen Mishpat 185:10. [Pischei Choshen (ibid. note 4) writes that the shadchan may stipulate at any point that he will only continue working for a fee.]
9 Nesivos Hamishpat 12:5; Pischei Choshen, ibid. ch. 8 note 65 s.v. upashut.
10 [It may be advisable to insist on paying him in order to determine that he is foregoing his fee wholeheartedly.]
11 See Ponim Me’iros vol II #63 [regarding a shidduch in which the chosson and kallah lived in different cities, which had different customs regarding how much a shadchan was paid], cited in Pischei Teshuvah ibid.; Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 14:1 [see there for a number of additional sources].
12 See Mishpitei HaTorah vol. II 32:6.
13 See Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 331:2; Rama, Choshen Mishpat 335:1.
14 Lehoros Nosson vol. X #122.
15 Mishpitei HaTorah vol. II 32:4.
16 Rama, Choshen Mishpat 185:10. [Halichos Yisroel (#4 and #11) asserts that if the shadchan’s services were requested, he must be paid upon the engagement, which is when those services were completed, unless there is a clear custom to do otherwise. However, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l (in his haskamah to that sefer and in Kovetz Teshuvos vol. I #207) disagrees.]
17 See Vayikra 19:13 and Devorim 24:15; Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 339.
18 Halichos Yisroel #1; Pischei Choshen ibid., note 12; see Lehoros Nosson vol. X #122. [Note that even if the shadchan does not request his fee at the time that it becomes due, one who pays it then fulfills this mitzvah (see Shaar Hamishpat 339:2, cited in Pischei Teshuvah, Choshen Mishpat 339:7, and in Ahavas Chessed vol. I 9:11).]
19 See Ketzos Hachoshen 75:13; see also Pischei Teshuvah, Choshen Mishpat 89:2 (at the end) and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l in a haskamah to Halichos Yisroel [who write that there is no bal talin regarding a “yoreid” for another reason].
20 Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l ibid.; Halichos Yisroel #2; Lehoros Nosson ibid.; see Pischei Choshen ibid.
21 See Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 97:3.
22 Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l ibid.; Lehoros Nosson ibid.
23 Rama ibid.
24 See Shaar Ephraim #150.
25 Taz, Choshen Mishpat 185:26; Bais Shmuel, Even Ha’ezer 50:23; see Rama ibid.
26 Halichos Yisroel #10 and #11; see Levushei Mordechai, Choshen Mishpat #15.
27 See Avnei Neizer, Choshen Mishpat #36, with Halichos Yisroel #3.
28 Erech Shai, Choshen Mishpat 185:10 s.v. shadchan.
29 See Pischei Choshen ibid. note 3.
30 See Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 410:37.
31 Erech Shai to Even Ha’ezer 50:7 s.v. ubavh”g, referencing Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 77:1.
32 Bais Yitzchok, Even Ha’ezer vol. I #115, followed by Halichos Yisroel #20; see Avodas Hagershuni #50, cited in Pischei Teshuvah, Even Ha’ezer 50:16.
33 Shu”t Rav Tiya Veil, Choshen Mishpat #9; Ateres Tzvi 185:17, cited in Pischei Teshuvah, Choshen Mishpat 185:3; Shev Yaakov #13, cited in Avnei Neizer, Choshen Mishpat #36. [Although Pischei Teshuvah ibid., Aruch Hashulchan Even Ha’ezer 50:42, and others cite variant customs, it appears that the custom today is to split the shadchanus into three parts (see Halichos Yisroel #30; Chut Shani, Hilchos Shabbos vol. IV p. 242; Pischei Choshen ibid. note 10).]
34 See Halichos Yisroel #11 (toward the end) and #30 at length; Pischei Choshen ibid.
35 Shev Yaakov #13, cited in Pischei Teshuvah, Choshen Mishpat 185:3; Igros Moshe, Choshen Mishpat vol. I 49:2 s.v. ulan”d (at the end); Halichos Yisroel #23; see also Chochmas Shlomo to Choshen Mishpat 185:6; Erech Shai to Choshen Mishpat 185:10 s.v. behagahah hashadchan.
36 Pischei Choshen ibid. note 10; see Teshuras Shai #148; Chasam Sofer, Choshen Mishpat #44; Aruch Hashulchan, Even Ha’ezer 50:42.
37 See Teshuvos Vehanhagos, vol. I #737. [The Chazon Ish zt”l told the Steipler Gaon zt”l that the most common form of theft is failure to properly compensate shadchanim (Toldos Yaakov p. 321; Ma’aseh Ish vol. I p. 215).]
38 See Maharsha, Chiddushei Aggados to Shabbos 31a s.v. asakta who writes that a person will be asked in shomayim if he was involved in helping orphans marry and reproduce.
39 See Minhagei Maharil, Hilchos Chanukah.
40 Teshuvos Vehanhagos ibid.
41 Kuntres Otzar Haminhagei Nisuin p. 6 [regarding the Chofetz Chaim]; Toldos Yaakov p. 321 [regarding the Chazon Ish].
42 Teshuvos Vehanhagos ibid.; see Toldos Yaakov p. 338 and Derech Sichah #115.
43 [See Ksav Sofer, Yoreh Deiah #109, for an amazing story about the author of S’ma.]
44 Heard from Rav Avrohom Pam zt”l.