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The Shadchan: Matchmaker, Matchmaker Make me a Match
An Orthodox Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

 • Matchmaker, Matchmaker
 • Romance vs. Matchmaker
 • Contemporary (modern) Shadchans
 • Chassidic Style Dating

Matchmaker – Shadchan
At the root of the word shadchan is the essence of a matchmaker’s art. Literally, shadchan translates as connector, a "stapler). Delicate shuttle diplomacy is needed to satisfy the potential bride and groom, not to mention their families.

Romantic love ranks low among Jewish priorities for marriage. Marriages require compatibility and compromise to last. Infatuation, flowers and poetic outpourings are not the best indicators of a long-lasting relationship.

The shadchan puts pragmatism before romance, and is evidence of how deeply Jewish communities mistrust the sureness of Cupid’s bow. However, the bible gives us an account of love at first site in the story of Jacob and Rachel, their meeting and a kiss. Before this, there is an example of love growing between husband and wife after marriage in the verses which speak about the marriage of Jacob’s father Isaac to Rebecca. “And Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and took Rivka, and she became his wife. And he loved her.” (Genesis 24:67) Note how the verse mentions love only after Isaac and Rivka married.

Matchmakers in Contemporary Times
 If you’ve been to or any of the singles’ web sites, you’ve introduced yourself to a shadchan gone cyber. In a sense, modern dating services act as passive matchmakers, providing a medium for meeting.

Flesh and blood middlemen and middlewomen continue to be used to suggest suitable dates. For many the shadchan’s role is limited to introducing the two people and acting as a sounding board after the first few dates. Some take a more active role.

While a shadchan is quite often a friend of a friend, a cousin, a roommate, an older sibling, a neighbor, there are still those who do this professionally. A successful shadchan keeps her or his eyes open for good matches. Skipping out on a shadchan’s fee was considered a harbinger of a rocky marriage.

Chassidic-Style Dating
More parental involvement in the mate-finding process are hallmarks of dating in some Chassidic communities (Lubavitch/Chabad Chassidim are the exception to this process. They tend to follow Julie’s dating paradigm described above as do a handful of other Chassidic groups.)

Baila will be turning 19 in May.

A shadchan will contact Baila’s parents. The shadchan may be a friend, relative or a professional matchmaker who may or may not charge a fee for his or her services. Shulem would be perfect for Baila, the shadchan says.

Baila’s parents begin looking into Shulem’s background, family, schooling, and personality. They will spend hours on the telephone and in conversation with his teachers, relatives and friends subtly trying to find out if Shulem is right for their Baila.

Days and weeks may pass as the investigation reveals the fine details of Shulem’s temperament, likes, dislikes, tolerance levels, intelligence, involvement with good works and study. Baila’s parents may find ways to observe Shulem at the yeshiva or at the synagogue. If Shulem lives out of their immediate neighborhood, Baila’s parents will find a relative or friend, who can be relied upon to remain quiet about the proceedings, to relay accurate information.

If Shulem seems like he would be good for Baila, her parents will signal their assent to the shadchan. Only then will the shadchan speak of Baila to Shulem’s parents. A similar background check ensues, but this time Baila is being observed; her personal qualities and characteristics evaluated. Whenever Baila and other 18-19 year olds attend a wedding, they are on their best behavior, because who knows if potential in-laws may be watching?

Baila receives a visit from Shulem’s mother. They talk over tea and the small, perfect cakes Baila baked the night before. This doesn’t happen before most matches, but Shulem’s mother knows her son would like to marry a good conversationalist. Baila sails through the meeting with grace and poise and a smattering of wry wit. Shulem’s mother is impressed and particularly favored mini-chocolate Danishes Baila baked.

The following night, Baila’s father stops to chat with Shulem after the evening maariv service. Baila is quite bright and will only be interested in an intellectual mate. Baila’s father heard that Shulem ranked among the top students in his class, but wants to see for himself. Shulem is “with it” and erudite, and Baila’s father walks away confident that Shulem is up to Baila’s probing intellect. Baila will be pleased with Shulem’s warm demeanor.

The evening of the Ba-show arrives. Baila’s parents’ living room is scoured and shined. Baila and Shulem dress, re-dress, brush, re-brush, tuck, re-tuck, and take long, cleansing deep breaths. Finally Shulem works up the nerve to ring Baila’s doorbell. Little did he know that Baila’s younger siblings were watching him from the upstairs window.

Dainty pastries and drinks are set out on the coffee table, but Baila and Shulem both know no one will be eating much that evening. Then they begin to talk. First it’s weather, then mutual relatives. Shulem cracks a joke. Baila smiles. The ice is broken.

An hour passes. Then another.

Shulem rises to leave. Baila walks him to the door. He bids her parents farewell. And then? Then it’s up to Baila and Shulem. Do they want another bashow? Do they think the relationship has any potential at all?

And so it goes. Until Baila finds the right man for her.

The above is just on description of a "shidduch" Process in Chassidic homes.  The description is a enormous generalization and is devoid of any nuances and particulars.  For instance, some Chassidic brides and grooms meet for the first time on day of the wedding, prior to the ceremony, and are granted that very small window of opportunity to refuse to marry their betrothed chosen for them by their parents.  (A refusal to marry is a very rare situation).  Others are adapted a more modern approach and give potential couples the time and opportunity to meet several times before a decision is expected of them.  


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