Paying The Shadchan (Part 1)

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

There is a mitzvah for one to be involved with making shidduchin between a man and a woman. Hashem was the very first shadchan uniting Adam with Chava.

Section 1: The Obligation To Pay The Shadchan-

1. As with any other business transaction, a shadchan must be paid a fee for arranging a shidduch (see Rama Choshen Mishpat 185).

2. The poskim stress the importance of paying shadchanus (paying the shadchan). Harav Mordechai Winkler zt”lai, writes that many rabbanim, himself included, refused to orchestrate a wedding (serve as the mesader kiddushin) if the shadchan was not yet paid (Shu”t Levushei Mordechai 11).

3. Many poskim write that paying the shadchan is a segulah for having children (see Sefer Maaseh Haish vol. 1 page 215) and for shalom bayis [marital peace] (see sefer Netai Gavriel on Tenaim page 386 and Sefer Hanisuin K’Hilchosom chapter 4).

4. It makes no difference whether the shadchan was hired by one of the parties or if he volunteered his services. In either case he must be paid for his services (see Biur Hagra 185:13 and sefer Simcha Laish 10).

5. Even a non-professional shadchan must be paid for his services (Hanisuin K’Hilchosom ibid.).

6. If need be, the shadchan may petition a beis din (Jewish court) to force the parties to pay his fee (Levushei Mordechai ibid.).

7. The shadchan gets paid even if he did not exert a significant amount of work for the shidduch. Merely arranging dates/meetings over the phone is enough to warrant payment (Edus Biyehosef 2:35).

8. One is not allowed to use “maaser money” to pay for obligations and debts. Therefore, one is not allowed to pay the shadchan with “maaser money.” (see sefer Zichron Yehuda 192 and Sefer Emes L’Yaakov on the laws of Tzedaka)

9. Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a rules that if one agrees to pay the shadchan more than is the standard fair, he may use “maaser money” to pay the amount that is above the standard fair (Netai Gavriel ibid.).

10. There is no obligation to pay, if the shadchan states that he does not want to receive payment for the shidduch (Pischei Teshuva Even Haezer 50:17). Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a explains that this is only true if the shadchan explicitly says that he will not receive payment for the shidduch. Merely saying the phrase, “I do not work on shidduchim for the money” does not remove the responsibility of payment from the couple. When that statement is said, the shadchan is merely trying to relay the message that the main reason that he became a shadchan was in order to help people. He still requires payment for the shidduch (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos vol. 3 457:3).

11. If the shadchan absolves all parties from payment he may not change his mind after the engagement or wedding and then demand payment (Minchas Yechial 2:4). However, as long as the shadchan is still working on the shidduch (before the engagement or before the shadchan is “removed” as the middleman) he may change his mind and may refuse to continue working unless he will get paid if the couple marries, and at which point the families will be obligated to pay the shadchan the full fair that a shadchan normally receives.

12. Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a writes that he has heard that in many sefardic communities the custom is to not pay the shadchan (Teshuvos V’Hanhagos 1:736).

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Rejoicing With The Chosson And Kallah

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

It is a great mitzvah to rejoice with the chosson and kallah at their wedding [simchas chosson v’kallah] (Shuchan Aruch Even Haezer 65:1. According to most authorities the mitzvah is rabbinic in nature, see Rambam Avel 14:1 and Sdei Chemed Chosson V’Kallah 13).

It is one of the outstanding demonstrations of loving-kindness. And it is included in the commandment, “And you shall love your fellow man as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18).

The Midrash (Pirkei Drebbi Eliezer 12) states that Hashem Himself rejoiced with Adam and Chava at their wedding in the Garden of Eden. Rabbeinu Yonah adds that performing this mitzvah protects one from yissurin, pain (Sharei Teshuva 4:11). It is also a segulah to have children and grandchildren (Mateh Mosh page 351).

Fulfilling The Mitzvah
1. The poskim debate how one fulfills this mitzvah. The Shulchan Aruch writes that, “There is a mitzvah to gladden the chosson and kallah and to dance before them and to say [about the kallah] kallah naeh v’chasudah.” The Sefer Beer Sheva (50), based upon the above source, writes that the main form of fulfilling this mitzvah is by speaking to the chosson and thereby enhancing his simcha (see also Shu”t Yaskil Avdi vol. 8 20:58 and Sefer Divrei Torah Edition1:8).

2. Likewise, Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a rules that in order to fulfill one’s obligation one must go over to the chosson and wish him “mazal tov.” (oral ruling cited in the Sefer Yismach Lev 251)

3. Harav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l rules that if one comes to a wedding when the chosson and kallah are still in the “yichud room,” he may partake from the meal and even leave before the couple exits the “yichud room.” He explains that the mere fact that he came and was another person at the wedding gladdens the chosson and kallah. The chosson and kallah want there to be a lot of people at their wedding and merely by attending the wedding he fulfills his obligation. (oral ruling cited in the Sefer Yismach Lev ibid.)

4. The Shulchan Haezer (vol. 2 page 72) writes that there are those who are not gifted in singing and dancing and are unable to gladden the chosson and kallah in the classical ways. They, therefore, give gifts in order to give simcha to the chosson and kallah.

5. The Ezer Mekodesh discusses the obligation to enhance the simcha of the chosson and kallah. He writes that, “If one serves as the mesader kiddushin or recites a blessing under the chuppah, he has surely fulfilled his obligation to gladden the chosson and kallah. The same is true if he leads the birchas hamazon, recites one of the sheva brachos following the wedding meal, or if one speaks to the chosson regarding the importance of being joyful while fulfilling a mitzvah, especially the mitzvah of getting married. In addition, a respected person fulfills this obligation by merely attending the wedding. The mere fact that he took the time to attend the wedding brings joy to the chosson and kallah. Nevertheless, it is preferred for (the respected person) to perform some act for the chosson, either handing him food or drink, dancing before him etc.”

6. Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l issues a similar ruling. He rules that rabbis, dignitaries, and close friends of the chosson fulfill their obligation merely by attending the wedding. Those who do not fall in one of those categories must be joyous and dance until they feel that the chosson is made happy by their actions (Sefer Shalmei Simcha page 310).

7. The Gemara in Kesubos (17a) writes that Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzchak used to juggle  at weddings in order to enhance the simcha, which is a seemingly degrading act for a Rabbi of his caliber. Yet, if done for the correct reason, with the correct intention, it is not only permitted, but is a mitzvah (see Shu”t Chavos Yair 205).

8. The obligation to enhance the simcha applies whether one partook from the wedding meal or not. However, those who did eat have a greater obligation to gladden the hearts of the chosson and kallah. As the Gemara in Brachos (6b) states, “Anyone who benefits from the chosson’s meal and does not gladden the chosson transgresses five kolos (voices) with which Hashem blessed Yisrael — Kol Sasson V’Kol Simchah Kol Chassan V’Kol Kalah Kol Omrim Hodu Es Hashem Tzevakos.”(see Beis Shmuel 65:1 and Shu”t Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 2:95)

9. Some use the previously cited Gemara to explain the reason why the kallah’s side customarily pays for the food at the wedding. The Gemara states that one commits a transgression if he benefited from the “chosson’s meal” without enhancing the simcha. If, however, the kallah pays for the food it may no longer be considered the “chosson’s meal” and therefore no transgression is possible. (see Shu”t Vayivarech David on Nisuin page 254) One may argue, however, that the wedding feast itself is considered the “chosson’s meal,” whether he paid for it or not. Therefore, one could potentially transgress even today if one eats at the wedding and does not enhance the simcha.

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Is It Permitted To Not Attend A Wedding?

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)

The Gemara in Pesachim (113b) states that there are seven types of people who are banned (excommunicated) by Heaven. After describing each type the Gemara adds, “Some say, also one who does not eat at a meal celebrating a mitzvah.” Tosafos explains that the Gemara is describing one of three cases, those who do not eat at the meal accompanying a circumcision, a wedding of a scholar or the wedding of a kohen who marries a bas kohen.

The Rama codifies this teaching in the laws of circumcision (Yoreh Deah 265:12). He writes that, “One who does not eat at a circumcision meal is as if he is excommunicated by Heaven.” The Pischei Teshuva (265:18) comments that since many people may not be able to attend it is better not to publicly invite everyone to the circumcision meal and spare them of the punishment listed in the Gemara.
One may argue that the same stringency be extended to wedding invitations and that if one is invited to a wedding he must attend. Indeed, the Sefer Chupas Chassanim (Seuda note 10), based on the above sources, advises not to invite someone who will (most likely) not attend the wedding.

However, the very widespread practice today is not to attend every wedding that one is invited to. In many cases people invite those who may not be able to attend (out of town relatives etc.). I believe that based on the words of the poskim, one can offer many defenses for the common practice of the observant community to not attend every wedding that they are invited to.

1) Harav Gavriel Zinner shlit”a writes that sending a wedding invitation does not necessarily mean that you are inviting them to the wedding. Many times the invitation is used to inform others about the marriage that will be taking place. The proof of this, he writes, is the fact that one sends invitations to people outside of the country who will clearly not come to the wedding. In this scenario the invitation is more of a formality than an actual request of their presence (Netai Gavriel Nisuin page 90. See also Shulchan Haezer vol.2 Page 68 and Koveitz Ohalei Shem vol. 5 Page 32).

2) Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l notes that while Tosafos writes that the excommunication (discussed in the Gemara) applies to weddings as well as circumcisions, the Rama only codifies this law in the laws of circumcisions. Therefore, writes Rav Moshe, the Rama maintains that this law does not apply to weddings (Igros Moshe O.C. 2:95). [It should be noted that Harav Moshe himself would do all that he could to attend every wedding that he was invited to, even if that meant attending numerous weddings in one night (Oral ruling of Harav David Feinstein shlit”a cited by the Sefer Shalmei Simcha page 312).] Harav Chaim Kanievsky shlit”a also rules that the ban only applies to circumcisions and not weddings (Sefer Yismach Lev 50).

3) Harav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l maintains that if one is present at the chuppah he is required to remain at the wedding throughout the entire ceremony. One is not required to attend the wedding simply because he knows where and when a wedding will take place (Shalmei Simcha Ibid.). A similar notion is expressed by the Sefer Yismach Moshe (See Sefer Yismach Lev page 37).

4)Harav Moshe Shternbuch shlit”a writes that there is only a prohibition if one does not attend a wedding because he feels that he is too honorable to attend and that it would be beneath his dignity to remain at a wedding with people “beneath” his character. If one cannot attend the wedding for other legitimate reasons, there is no prohibition or ban (Teshuvos V’Hanahagos 2:649).

5) The Kaf Hacheim, citing the Sefer Yafeh Lelev, writes that one is only obligated to attend the circumcision meal if there is less than ten men in attendance. If there are more than ten men in attendance, one may skip the meal. The same can be applied to weddings and if more than ten men are in attendance, (which is always the case), one would be allowed to not attend the wedding (Kaf Hachaim 170:71).

6) Tosafos writes that one is not obligated to attend a wedding meal if men who are unethical or improper will also be in attendance. Some poskim argue that today the average wedding is attended by people who fall under this category (improper) and thus one is never obligated to attend a wedding (See Yabia Omer Y.D. 4:19).

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