Question: ". . . my own experiences with shadchonim
were mostly bitter..." Piah*
I often hear complaints about matchmakers. Recently, in a
frum publication, I found numerous letters to the
editor both from shadchonim and parents. Some
criticisms, judgments, justifications, you name it. It was a
forum of opinions coming from varied positions.
I'm not trying to defend my colleagues, just to point out,
from my end, ideas to make our contact with you more
pleasant. For it goes without saying that understanding is
extremely beneficial — if not essential — for
You might have your own way of doing things. However, don't
try to convince us to manage the situation exactly the way
you would have handled it. It will only backfire — no
one likes to be bossed around. Remember that in life, the key
to getting along is adjusting to the other person rather than
only seeing things from your viewpoint.
Try to understand how the lady on the other end of the line
works. If she was highly recommended and you want her
professional input, be prepared to work with her and not
against her. For example, some matchmakers like to be
contacted often; while others prefer to call only when they
have something specific to say. Many request appointments;
others are satisfied with only general information and
Misunderstandings occur often. However, most of them get
cleared up if there is a willingness to talk respectfully and
listen. If there is no basic communication, the suggestion
most likely won't get off the ground. I personally have found
it much easier to relate to people coming from cultures
similar to mine.
Furthermore, a match is also needed with the go-between and
the people involved. For instance, often relatives feel too
concerned by family ties to be the intermediary. It might be
touchy for them to be impartial and ask about finances.
Therefore, an idea might be followed through by someone else,
depending on the nature of the contacts and relationships in
that particular case.
Generally, even the most experienced in the field won't be on
target immediately. It can take a lot of time to get to know
both sides until an agreeable suggestion comes up. Be
patient. Often, inasmuch as we try our best, trial and error
are unavoidable. I had wonderful ideas that didn't
materialize, while doubtful ones were successful.
Rather than holding against being set up with someone that is
totally not appropriate, try to judge the matchmaker
favorably. Perhaps you found out information we don't know.
Or we might have misunderstood what you are looking for. At
the end of the day, people are very complex and even when on
paper it sounds great, I can't even begin listing the endless
reasons why people might not like each other . . .
Certainly, if there are no suitable suggestions, it's
praiseworthy for us to admit it, rather then putting you
through a list that is far from what you are looking for. In
fact, names don't mean anything to me — they all sound
the same. Only as I try to get to know them, can I have a
better grasp of who they are.
Shadchonim are human (too) and usually have good
intentions. I really felt for Mrs. A. who has several
children of marriageable age. Common friends asked me to keep
them in mind. Finally when I came up with an idea, she said
that she only considers ideas from someone who knows both
sides well. With the passing of time, the mother became more
desperate and asked me to try to help. Upon inquiring
thoroughly about someone I know to be an excellent girl and
suggesting her, she didn't even bother giving an answer. When
I called, she said, "When you have someone better, let me
know . . . " For whatever reasons not revealed to me, she
might not have been suitable, but there was no reason to put
her down. In fact, her expectations of me don't seem to be
realistic, for she asked so many questions, as if I was
supposed to know him inside out. And I am acknowledged for
being thorough, interviewing and making inquiries . . . !
I don't enjoy missing calls . . . When the answering machine
is loaded it's hard to figure out whom to call back first!
One of the most frequent complaints I get is that it's not
easy to get through to me. Which means, when it is convenient
for that person to call, I'm not always available . . . But
I do try to make set hours. Unfortunately, often then the
line is busy. What am I supposed to do? Be on call 24 hours a
Most people who are trying to help others are difficult to
reach. If you need to be tolerant with other busy services,
why not be patient with the matchmaker, too?
In fact, when you ask someone for a favor and act impulsively
and impatiently, ultimately it won't help you at all. You can
be assertive, yet respectful at the same time.
We might not be able to always explain puzzling situations,
because of laws of speech. For example, in order not to hurt
the rejected side, I had to cover up with a general answer
like "I wasn't given a reason." And it's pointless pressuring
for a relationship to be pushed when we clearly know what the
answer will be.
I have tried to protect the privacy and reputation of both
sides even when a match was not successful. I remember,
following rabbinic advice, having even made up that the boy
wasn't feeling well before the date and apologized in his
name. The relationship wasn't going to work out anyway, but
the rabbi I consulted agreed that there was no purpose in the
girl harboring resentment for his rude behavior.
Also, in particular cases, I was given a halachic ruling not
to reveal certain information until the dating progressed.
How can the shadchan be criticized, if an authority
was asked? What we think is right is not always in accord
with the rabbinic decision. A psak can be painful and
difficult to understand. You might want to request further
clarification, but remember that rabbis are the vehicles for
Hashem's will to be transmitted. Reliable rabbinic
authorities can think in an objective manner on how to apply
the Torah law to different cases.
In fact, I asked one of the Gedolim what was my
responsibility as the intermediary. Mainly, I need to give
over information and references, rather than making full
inquiries, with the given that in each individual case, the
revelation of "red lights", such as negative issues, must be
referred to rabbinic advice.
Human nature is always fascinating, for all people are
special in their own unique way. Obviously, some are more
stable and developed as well, with talents shining forth from
their spiritual accomplishments and conduct.
Your dear child is not the only special person. People have
no idea what a shadchan goes through trying to help
someone. I remember recently someone reminded me of her
situation, asking why I wasn't in touch, etc. She was
surprised to hear how much effort I was exerting for her
without her knowing. I had been davening, interviewing
potential candidates, and making numerous calls to
mashgichim, Roshei Yeshivos, etc.
In addition, if the match was successful, don't just say it
was by chance. Believe me, I have heard comments like, "She
doesn't really know what she is doing, she just happened to
have good luck on the x and y shidduch".
More often than not, the most I feel is that despite a
fiasco, I brought them a step closer to their zivug.
Unfortunately, most efforts go unappreciated. Success
shouldn't just be measured by an engagement. Valid efforts,
even if not fruitful, are still products of hard work. You
have no idea how much a kind word of appreciation can
brighten up our day!
Consequently, if you and the matchmaker can't work together,
she might not be the right Divine agent for you. Sometimes
awkwardness or discomfort is unavoidable. It's not always
possible to see things eye to eye. Perhaps in the future, the
relationship will be smoother, as people and circumstances
change. For just as there is an intended match, there is also
an appropriate time, and even a blessed intermediary!
Rebbetzin Travis has many years of experience and success in
helping people through shidduchim. Please note that
all names have been changed unless specified, with the
exception of well-known public figures like Gedolim
and educators. Any comments, questions and stories can be
sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org or at (02) 656-3111