Make Me a Match

Question

A relative of mine just got engaged and I asked her how they met. She told me that a “matchmaker” introduced her to her fiancé. Is that still practiced today and not just something from Fiddler on the Roof? Thanks.

8 months

Answers

  1. Traditionally, the first stage leading to Jewish marriage is the shidduch, or matchmaking. Contrary to popular opinion, this does not mean that everything is arranged without taking into account the wishes of the prospective bride and groom. In reality, matches are very often made without the services of a matchmaker. Friends and relatives are usually the intermediaries for a prospective couple. Someone who knows a young man and woman and feels that they are compatible may suggest that they date.

    There is certainly no legal requirement that marriage be arranged, and some Orthodox couples today first meet at social gatherings, a friend’s house or the synagogue. The custom of matchmaking has remained strong, however, because Judaism considers choosing a partner for life too important to be done haphazardly. In any case, the final decisions rest entirely with the couple. According to Jewish law neither a man nor a woman may be married without consent.

    Assume that a shidduch has been suggested and the couple (often the couple’s parents as well) determines that the prospective match appears reasonable. They arrange to meet. Subsequent dates help them determine if they are indeed compatible. Such meetings provide an opportunity both for casual conversation that enables the couple to become better acquainted and for discussion of issues important to marriage. For these reasons, the dates usually do not involve going to a concert or any place that does not allow for conversation. Personal meetings also allow the couple to determine whether or not the vital ingredient of physical attraction exists between them. If the couple remains interested in each other after the first few dates, they continue meeting until they can determine if marriage is right for them.

    One of the features of Orthodox dating is that physical contact between a man and a woman is prohibited until they are married. According to Jewish law they are also not permitted to be alone together in a closed room or secluded area. These restrictions are made because human nature is such that close contact often leads to sexual intimacy. In addition, they also help ensure that a marriage partner will be chosen for his or her personality, intellect and emotional compatibility and not because of physical desire alone. The absence of any prior physical relationship also enhances the joy of intimacy when the couple marries, and contributes to the stability of the marriage.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team