Broken Engagements

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    It’s time to clear up some more misconceptions.

    Erussin and Kiddushin are synonyms. They are the “harei at” part of the wedding, at which point the woman becomes an eishes ish, and is forbidden to all men except the man who betrothed (kiddushin or erussin) her. Not before. Repeat, not before. The nissuin part of the wedding is more complicated, as this is the part where the man takes the woman into his “reshus”. Some maintain this happens under the chuppah. Some maintain it happens as they enter the yichud room or even later. Separate discussion.

    Modern usage of the terms has become sloppy and there are those who use the word “erussin” for an engagement party. This is misleading and untrue. There is no halachic bond between the couple at the L’chaim, vort, engagement party, or tenaim. None whatsoever. As I explained above, the tenaim create a contractual obligation between the parents or families or whoever obligates themselves to ensure the wedding takes place or money or dowry, or property, or whatever is transferred. Tenaim is a business contract, not a halachic one. Keeping both ends of this business deal of course becomes a halachic obligation, but is not realted to kiddushin or nissuin.

    If there are no t’naim, that is, no business contract relating to the couple and monetary obligations,penalties for backing out and such (see my post above), then breaking the engagement (a secular term) is unfortunate to all, but not a halachic issue. An engaged couple means the man and woman decided to marry each other. They can change their minds and decide not to. The L’chaim, vort, or other parties were nice, but did not obligate anyone to do anything. They are celebrations and nothing more.

    There is also a possibility, rarely if ever done nowadays to the best of my knowledge, of attaching certain conditions to the kiddushin, what is referred to as kiddushin al t’nai. This deserves a separate discussion and as I said, is not really practiced anymore.

    Hope this helps.


    To say that “to break an engagement is much worse than getting divorced” is the biggest am h’aratzus I’ve ever heard. From personal experience I can tell you that if you can get out of an unhealthy relationship before it’s too late – run for it. Besides for the possibility that (assuming the guy is the problem in this example) the man might not give a get to his wife – hence, saying get married and get divorced right after is brilliant. 2. Finanacially. go through w/ wedding expenses and then the additional expense of divorce? sponsor it. 3. marriage is not a game. if the couple knows this marriage has zero potential to last, WHAT’S THE POINT???

    And lastly, to the ones who say that chosson / kallah break engagements for the silliest reasons, do you indeed think it’s so much fun? If a boy or girl comes to such a decision it’s probably for serious reasons. And in most cases, I’m sure, with the haskama of a rav.


    I would start by asking the guy what happened. Listen to what he says, and how he says it.

    In fact the how may be more important. If he can’t give you an honest response I think you should walk (run) away. I mean if someone is going to dodge and weave in the first moment you meet him you don’t want to be married to him. On the other hand If he says that “She was a nice girl but we realized that we just would not work” then I don’t see a problem. Its a lot easier to break off an engagement then get divorced a few years later, and if there are children even more so.

    I was engaged to someone before I married my wife, and she was married before.


    In our rush to get married people sometimes get engaged too soon depending on the circumstances it’s not a big deal.

    Say a couple goes out 8 times and then they break it off, no biggie. That same couple if they got engaged after 6 dates would still break it off, there’s no reason to hold it against them.


    It most definitely IS a big deal to break an engagement. A shaila must always be asked if it is permissible, as it is not permissible by default.

    If the main reason was “he was a nice guy but I realized that we just would not work” I would most certainly see red flags. What changed from the time of the engagement to the time it was broken, that she couldn’t determine beforehand?


    MM, sometimes people talk themselves into a relationship for many, many reasons (often the number 1 reason is that one’s friends are all getting engaged and married). Thankfully, they realize in time that though someone is nice, NICE is aimply not a reason to get married. One has to look at that person’s face across the table for 50 years or more, G-d willing, so it had better be someone with whom one wants to spend his or her lifetime.


    An amicable broken engaement without a tnoyim ISNT (I can caps too :))a big deal.

    “What changed that couldnt be determined”? A lot, let’s face it (many) people don’t know their fiance well when they get engaged. heck , people are married for years and get divoced “what changed” is a silly question.


    I am personally happily married and have never had a broken engagemnet or anything. However a few months after i got married i found out something about my husband that NO ONE ELSE knows (his family included). If he had told me about this before we got married i would have certainly broken the engagement. but once we are married i dont think this is a reason to divorce unless it becomes distructive to our realtionship. (which this sort of issue can become in some circumatances- when there is no attempt to improve oneself) but we are working together to overcome this and he is trying to improve. and as long as we are heading in a upwards direction we will continue to work on this together.


    Even without tnoyim breaking an engagement (c’v) is a humongous deal, and a shaila must be asked FIRST.


    The fact that you need to ask a shailoh doesn’t mean it’s a reason put a “bad mark” on the person.

    The big deal you’re talking about is the breaking part not the effect it should have.


    I think that it is better to beak it off before the marriage then afterwards. Imagine the implications of the whole process of the get and the divorce on the young couple.


    Even without tnoyim breaking an engagement (c’v) is a humongous deal, and a shaila must be asked FIRST

    Why is it a humongous deal? Assuming that they don’t go ahead and completely trash the other party, why is it such a big deal?

    In addition, let me ask this question — if a shaila is asked, and the rav says no, you really think the person must remained married to a person that they don’t want to be married to?

    The Wolf


    when one writes a tenyoim it is not such a simple matter to break the engagement. Its on pen and paper after all.


    WM, Breaking an engagement is a halachic matter whether one can or not. i.e. See the Chelkas Yaakov and the Chasam Sofer amongst other sources. The fact of the matter is, it is NOT always permissible, and cannot be done without a shaila.

    Regarding your latter question: <i>”you really think the person must remained married to a person that they don’t want to be married to?”<i>

    That too is a shaila. You cannot divorce “at will” either. Indeed the answer, halachicly, is many times you must remain married even if the grass is greener on the other side.

    for italics you want to place “em” inside the arrows not “i”



    That’s your idea of “d’racheha darchei noam?” Forcing someone to spend the rest of their life with someone they don’t want?

    The Wolf



    Actually its a machlokis and their are those that hold you can divorce at will (if she burns the food was the example given in the gemarah).

    Also, these days, as noted in previous posts, the engagement as we call it, has absolutely no meeting in regards to halacha. All halachic components take place under the chupah. The engagements we have now are excuses to make parties, that’s all.


    This conversation was referring to the stigma of broken engagements. jewishandworking22 is right on both things they said. You (MM) may be right in cases but dude you are blowing this way out of proportion.



    Can you please be more specific in your sources? I’d like to look them up.


    The Wolf


    “What changed that couldnt be determined”? A lot, let’s face it (many) people don’t know their fiance well when they get engaged. heck , people are married for years and get divoced “what changed” is a silly question.

    What changed in my case was I lost my job. It was right after 9/11 in the middle of the crash and it was quite likely that I would be out of work for a year or more after that. (I went back to finish my BA then made Aliyah actually) When Rikva* responded to it by saying “Whats the big deal” I think it dawned on my that I had a problem. In truth I should have seen it earlier, I am a BT and not your typical Brooklyn guy. I don’t have a yeshiva background and am mostly OK with that. When Rikva and I started dating I was very newly religious and felt that I should get married, and I kind of forgot that the who is important too. She was looking at me as a “project husband” which I had no desire to be. I also had no desire to live in NY.

    Now in truth I should have seen all of this much earlier but sometimes you see things threw rose colored glasses and don’t see what is right in front of your face.

    Right after I moved to Israel I met my wife, we actually sort of met my accident, but that is a story for another post.

    *Name changed



    1) An engagement with tenaim is not the same as an engagement with just an engagement party.

    2) A person who marries just because they couldn’t break the engagement, is most likely not allowed to be beyechidus with his new wife.




    Right after I moved to Israel I met my wife, we actually sort of met my accident, but that is a story for another post.

    Don’t forget about the “Funny Shidduch Stories” thread.


    Hagaon Harav Yitzchak Silberstein Shlita related in a recent shiur a story which occurred in the times of the Chasam Sofer. One of the Gedolei Olam at the time who lived in a large city, travelled to a small town, where he was suddenly taken ill and died, As it was close to Shabbos, he was buried in the small town.

    His home city felt that it was only right that the deceased Gaon be relocated bekovod in his own city.

    The Chasam Sofer was consulted and set about writing a teshuva to explain the heter to do so. However, the next morning, the Chasam Sofer retracted his psak. He explained that the niftar appeared to him in a dream and begged that he remain where he is. As a young man he had broken off his engagement, leaving the meshudeches distraught and distressed. She never recovered from the pain, and in her anguish she died young and single. The Hashgocho decreed that as a kaporoh, the Gaon must be buried alongside his former meshudeches!

    Rav Shternbuch says (2:622) that breaking an engagement is a very serious matter and it causes embarrassment to the other side. The Bais Shmuel (YD 51:8) says that there is a Cheirem from the Ge’onim. Some say that this only applies if this cheirem was written into a document beforehand.

    The custom is that when a Shidduch goes bad, the offended side usually writes a letter of forgiveness (Shtar Mechila) to the side that initiated the break, stating that they forgive the other side wholeheartedly for the embarrassment and that they absolve them of any obligation owed to them.

    However, says Rav Shternbuch, this is not so simple. The lingering effects can have devastating consequences in the future as many people unfortunately experienced. Therefore, suggest Rav Shternbuch, even after receiving the Shtar Mechila, it is best to go before three people and request that if you are chayav cheirem and deserve to be excommunicated, they should absolve the cheirem. The three people should then answer, “Mutar Lach, Mutar Lach, Mutar Lach”, you are unbound. Although this is not customary, if one side caused grief to the other side it is wise to do this. If however there was a legitimate reason to break off the engagement, then he says, this is not necessary.


    I am curious – what if the aggrieved party is NOT moichel? The engagement is broken, but a shtar mechilah will not be given by that person. Does this mean the other party who broke off the engagement cannot get married, will not be redt shidduchim, etc? And what if the engagement is broken by mutual agreement that they both made a mistake? Who gives whom the Shtar? I never even heard of this concept until about two years ago. I knwo many people whose engagements were broken over the years, but they never gave or received a shtar mechilah.


    I agree with oomis. The first time i ever heard of this shtar was when my friend broke off his engagement, and one of them needed to write this shtar. Never figured out why it was needed or how the process is worked out.

    Regarding this shtar, since it is made to be mochel another, do you need it for a divorce as well? It only makes sense that you should, since according to most people (there are people who argue as noted in comments in this post and others)that divorce is worst than a broken engagement.

    Do you need a shtar if you went out with a girl multiple times and it didn’t work out?


    IMHO, I think the rabbonim made up this shtar because they saw that shidduchim engagements were unraveling and they wanted people to feel better afterward. I never heard of it and I’ve officially been dating for 3 years. And when my older siblings and their friends were dating (about 7 years ago)this concept of this shtar was unheard of (but then again so was some of the interesting things that occur through the shidduch process now also were unheard of then).



    Thanks for the reply. I have a few questions about this.

    WRT the story about the Chasam Sofer, it’s very interesting, but I don’t think we pasken halacha on the basis of stories.

    Rav Shternbuch says (2:622) that breaking an engagement is a very serious matter and it causes embarrassment to the other side.

    I agree that breaking an engagement is serious and should only be done when there is no more potential for a successful marriage. But that doesn’t mean that one is *forbidden* from doing so… but rather that one should carefully consider all sides before doing so.

    Buying a house is also a very serious matter… but I don’t see anyone saying that you have to ask a shailah before doing so.

    However, says Rav Shternbuch, this is not so simple. The lingering effects can have devastating consequences in the future

    I would think that a divorce has even worse lingering effects.

    The Wolf


    Jewishandworking, you make an interesting point. In any case, when people break it off, it is only menschlech to sincerely verbalize to the aggrieved party that one is sorry. I fail to see why a contract is needed. my understanding from my friend whose son wrote the shtar, is that had the girl not received it, no shadchan would ever set her up again. Sorry, folks, but on so many levels this bothers me.

    What if the parents are at fault for the shidduch breaking up, as happens SO often? Maybe the chosson’s mother who thought her sonny boy was too good for the kallah, should have to ask the kallah for mechilah. Maybe the kallah’s father who agreed to X number of dollars “kest” decided to renege, thus angering the chosson’s family. Maybe both sets of parents who fought like dogs during the wedding planning, should ask their CHILDREN for mechilah for ruining their future together. Or maybe it is NOBODY’S fault, it just did not work out.



    I’m with you on this one. The two parties should be mature enough to break it off by themselves.

    If the strife is cause by third parties, and these individuals are truly right for each other, than one (or both) should get up and say something, show a little back bone (which in these days is probably non-existent regarding the engaged couple since they are usually 100% dependent on the parents, and will be for years).

    Thinking about it, the shtar is kindof useless. Feelings do not go away because someone wrote something. Also, having a stigma on you because you won’t write this shatar is tantamount to blackmail, which as you said “is wrong in so many ways”.


    I know a wonderful young man who broke his engagement and 6 months later started dating again. I wanted to set him up with another girl and asked his mother “what should I say” (I knew the whole story) she told me to simply say, they were lucky enough to realize it was not meant to be. That was all I was to tell a potential young lady.

    The mother told me, that after the 3rd date, if it seemed to be going forward, the young man would then introduce the subject and explain what had happened This was the advise he got from his Rov.

    He is now married to a wonderful girl !!

    I remember years ago, my daughter was engaged to a man that over time, appeared to be very innapropriate for our daughter. After much thought and tears, we went to our Rav who told us we must break the engagement immediately. After the engagement was broken, we called our Rav who said “mazal tov, mazal tov”. I asked, why mazal tov and why twice. His response was, breaking a “bad” engagement was even more a cause for joy than an engagement. He said a broken engagement ended the possibility of years of unhappiness or worse.

    So you see, from my point of view, a broken engagement CAN show maturity and guts, it all depends on the why and how.


    Rivkib, appropos of what you wrote, my husband was engaged for less than a week, to a very nice woman who just was not ready to be married (she had been married and emotionally very scarred). My husband ran into a Rov who was very special to him who had heard of the engagement, but not of the breakup, and when he enthusiastically hugged my husband and said Mazeltov, my husband had to say he was sorry to tell him but the engagement was broken. Without missing a single beat, the Rov answered, MAZELTOV, let’s go learn.


    The Bais Shmuel (YD 51:8) says that there is a Cheirem from the Ge’onim.


    You have kashas on Hagoen HaRav Shternbuch? You disagree with Hagoen HaRav Shternbuch? What do you want from me? I’m sure you are either 1) a gaon on Rav Shternbuch’s level or 2) have unquoted sources that disagree. If the latter, please quote your sources. If the former, I tip my hat to you.

    I am completely floored that you find it appropriate to compare the seriousness of (C’V) breaking a shidduch to that of buying a house. Breaking a shidduch involves serious halachic consequences, as mentioned above, and requires a shaila (especially if it is not mutual) if it is allowed in the circumstance. It is NOT always permissible. Divorce is also not always permissible.


    Maybe people shouldn’t get engaged so fast if they are so scared to be ostracized if it doesn’t work out……. (do people really think that divorce is better???)


    Good point, mybat.


    Some ppl in this thread are under the impression that breaking an engagement,

    after the L’chaim or the Tenoyim requires a Get.

    Absolutely NOT!

    This Chasiddishe train of though that it is better to get married & divorced

    rather than break an engagement/vort, Is ONLY due to the fact that their will be

    Kepeidas, which is either side holding a grudge, due to emotional, financial,

    physical, heartbreak, reasons etc.. If the agreement to break up is mutual,

    and there is no grudge by especially the girl or boy, etc

    and both are eager to give a shtar mechilla, It is Absolute Shtusim

    to say in this case, that it is better to get married and divorced than

    break the engagement. I am not including mystical opinions,

    as i am not very fluent in Kabbalah, it is however my humble educated opinion.



    Number one its in Even Haezer, not Yoreh Dayah (we are not dealing if the girl is a traifah 🙂

    Two, if you read the Beis Shmuel there, what he says there is a seperate chairem (“Hakehillos”, not “Geonim”) is only if the breakoff is not mutual, or “many people are asked”. Meaning that for no reason it should not be done unilaterally, but if one’s Rav tells them to break off (perhaps with a second opinion), the chairem does not apply.



    So you are agreeing that a shaila must first be asked. Wolfish tried claiming it wasn’t necessary to ask a shaila. I’ve said ask a shaila and if necessary write/get a Shtar Mechilla.


    MM, there is a difference between a “halachic” engagement and a “modern day” engagement.


    MM: or mutual agreement.


    Many “modern day” engagements include tnayim. If so, it is even a greater shaila.



    Again, Tanayim as mentioned by everyone but YOU, have no hlalchic ramifications! Further, even if you do think that tanaim have halachic ramifications (I can be wrong, it won’t be the forst or last time) most litvish people do tanaims at the chupah. You are still reiterating your point throught views that are not held by many people.


    jewishandworking22 said: “(I can be wrong, it won’t be the forst or last time)…views that are not held by many people.”

    It is completely irrelevant what the “views that are not held by many people.” The ONLY relevant point is halacha. See the poskim I quoted on the previous page of this thread.

    Tnayim most certainly do have very serious halachic ramifications.



    Sorry to write this, but you did NOT bring down any sources claiming that “Tnayim” have any halachic ramifications. You brought a story that shows that breaking an engagement causes a lot of embarrassment, and that maybe one should be put into cherein (which was argued by Wolfishmusings) but never did I see any place or halachic reference that you brought down that stated that “Tnayim” have ANY halachic ramifications.


    jewishandworking22: Look at SA that MM & I brought. That is why we do it @ the chupah.


    That is why we do it @ the chupah.

    Which, I always felt, kind of made the whole thing pointless. But that’s another argument for another time.

    The Wolf


    people should just remember that braking an engagement is better than divorce- for all parties involved. Divorces cause huge family rifts where many different families can end up involved. Also, if there will be children by the time of the divorce- nebech on the kids!!! It is awful for the parents to go through a divorce but it is worse for the children. Imagine growing up in a one-parent household. Imagine going from one parent to the other for yomim tovim and every other shabbos-the kids get caught in the middle. “tell your ____(mother/father) that….” and they wont talk to the other parent. “In your mother/father’s house it might be ok to do that, but here we dont let kids behave that way….”

    What are they to do for “Mother-daughter” parties? Father-son learning at school? Parent teacher conferences? the girl’s plays where the father is unable to go??

    EVERY DIVORCE is messy. There are no clean divorces. Better to break an engagement than to go through that with kids.


    R’ Moshe Feinstein thought so.


    “that maybe one should be put into cherein.” (Jewishandworking)

    I SO cannot resist this – the only thing that should ever be put in cherein is gefilte fish! (sorry, I don’t mean to make fun of you, and I apologize in advance).

    Be Happy

    PLEASE make sure there is a shtar mechila if there was a broken engagement. The hurting impact is enormous.

    We have an elderly couple living accross the road. He was engaged before the war. He met his wife who was more beautiful and very wealthy. He found his kalla and aked her permission to dissolve the engagement. She was so bitterly hurt while she had to accept he no longer wanted her she cursed him. He married his wife. I am sure he wishes he could turn the clock back.

    He has a life full of unusally difficult tzoras.


    do both sides share in the responsibility for a shtar mechilah? what if the girl broke it off?

    by the way, estherh- how can one be sure about the cause and effect relationship here? She still hasnt forgiven him after so many years? after so many yom kippurim? oh my…


    “Which, I always felt, kind of made the whole thing pointless. “

    How dare you call a minhag that yidden have observed for thousands of years “pointless”? Just who do you think you are to casually toss aside a minhag. What next? Just throw away the second day of yuntiff?


    “Wolfish tried claiming it wasn’t necessary to ask a shaila. I’ve said ask a shaila and if necessary write/get a Shtar Mechilla. “

    Of course you have to ask a shailah. How can a person even consider doing something as important and life changing as getting engaged or breaking an engagement without asking a shailah?

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