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Business Weekly Hotline: Rules of Engagement

The following is from the “Business Weekly”

A Project of the Business Halacha Institute

Under the auspices of HaRav Chaim Kohn

A shadchan called us and suggested a shidduch for our daughter. We sent our daughter out of town to meet the young man, and they have since met several times. Yesterday the young man came to our town and I finally met him. Unfortunately, I see that he is clearly unsuitable for our daughter. We’d obviously like the relationship to end, but at this point it is likely that we’ll be unable to persuade my daughter to back out.

Q: If the shidduch goes through against our wishes, are we obligated to pay the shadchan?

A: A shadchan is paid for providing a service for the couple and their families.  The service includes suggesting the name of a prospective spouse and some negotiations necessary for the couple to agree to marry.  Even if the families did not ask the shadchan to get involved, once s/he has performed this service, s/he deserves fair compensation (Biur HaGra Choshen Mishpat 185:13, 264:13).  Whenever two parties enter into a service agreement – unless otherwise discussed – it is assumed that the parameters of the relationship follow common custom (Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 331:1). For example, an employer cannot expect his employees to do work that other employees in the same field are not expected to perform, even if the employer pays a higher salary than other employers. Employees can rightfully claim that they received the additional funds to do a better quality job, and without an explicit stipulation, the higher salary does not increase their obligations.

Similarly, a shadchan has the right to assume that his job involves nothing more than helping to facilitate the relationship of this couple until their engagement.  If a family is particular about something, e.g. the height of the young man, that expectation must be stipulated up front.  If nothing was specified, the shadchan can assume that the family is not particular about that matter and they want the shadchan to perform his job according to local custom.  If parents want to make their approval a prerequisite to the shidduch, they must specify that when they first speak to the shadchan. Since you did not make that stipulation here, the shadchan did the job. If your daughter decides to get engaged to this young man, you are obligated to pay the full shadchanus fee.

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Please be advised: These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision.

(YWN Desk – NYC)

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