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Arranged Marriages?

Arranged Marriages?

Artwork by Sarah Kranz
Artwork by Sarah Kranz


Is it true that traditionally, Jewish marriages were arranged marriages? I’ve also heard that this is still the practice amongst the more religious Jews. Does Judaism mandate or legitimize this practice?


If arranged means coerced—no. It is true that in most ancient cultures—and many still-existing ones—marriages were and are arranged, and the young lady (and sometimes the young man) has no say in this choice of her/his marriage partner. However, Torah law and Jewish custom have always frowned upon this practice, even in ancient times.

In fact, the opposition to coerced marriages was prevalent in Abraham’s family even before Judaism. We find in the Torah’s account of Isaac’s marriage (Genesis 24) that when Abraham’s servant Eliezer proposes to take Rebecca back to Canaan to marry Isaac, he is told by Rebecca’s family (Abraham’s cousins who were not into his new religion): “Let us ask the maiden.” From here our sages derive that no one may be married against their choice. This, indeed, has always been the practice within the Jewish community since its inception.

As far as how the prospective bride and groom are introduced so that they can decide whether they do indeed wish to marry each other, certainly the shadchan (“matchmaker”) has always played a major role in Jewish marriages. (There are professional shadchanim, but usually it’s a friend of the family who knows someone who knows a seemly candidate, etc.)

The shadchan method has proven to be the most effective way to find a marriage partner. One starts off meeting someone who is at least somewhat compatible, rather than meeting people at random. As a matter of fact, many thoroughly modern Jewish singles have discovered that the random roll-the-dice approach isn’t finding them a mate, and have returned to the traditional shadchan model.

Rabbi Shlomo Yaffe, a frequent contributor of articles and media to, is Dean of the Institute of American and Talmudic Law in New York, N.Y., and director of the Institute for Judaic Knowledge, based in Newton, Mass. Rabbi Yaffe has lectured and led seminars throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Asia, Latin America and Africa.
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Discussion (30)
October 7, 2015
Great explanation. There seems to be an inherent confusion about the meaning of the phrase "arranged marriage". I live in India and I am tired of telling everyone that arranged marriage is not forced marriage and that the final decision is left to the man and the woman (at least in the case of middle class and educated Indians). Arranged marriages (done the right way) also has better chances of success according to research data!
April 16, 2015
No marriage will work with ill intentions. Both parties need to make the decision to give their best to their marriage everyday. Feelings of love or not. Work together for the good of the marriage not personal disappointment or selfishness
February 7, 2015
to Lisa
The above article states very clearly that Jews do not have arranged marriages.
Please reread and you will see this. We also believe in love marriages. The question is how do they meet? Do you find someone on the street or at a party, etc. or does a mutual friend who knows the boy/girl introduce you? Do your parents check into this prospective spouse's character, etc. or not?

Our all children married the person they loved but we checked each one out very carefully before they met. And they will soon be doing the same act of kindness for their children, our grandchildren, who are almost of age. You should read the posts below, they are very interesting.
February 3, 2015
Arranged Marriages?
Arranged marriages have been around since the beginning of time, and to those who criticized what I said, here's my final say:

All people are different, and I believe in love marriages!
Providence, RI
June 18, 2013
Crossing Delancy
I believe that an arranged marriage ( meeting) would eliminate a lot of relationship problems being that your family would only want the best for you. Just reminded me of the movie Crossing Delancy. A must see for a movie on this topic.
June 18, 2013
With regards to people, as the first person did so, who say that they or they family or likewise are all "religious". Are you being vague with deliberateness? I reccomend that people tell the truth and say just exactly what religion. For, as we all know, what are considered 'idolatrous' religions are frowned upon to say the least. And there maybe lays the answer why you don't mention exactly what religion you belong.
June 18, 2013
Martin Rich
In Parsha Bamidbar there is a census of the Jewish men who are able to serve in the army. Presumably this would include those ready/willing/able to get married. There were over 32 thousand in the tribe of Menashah. Even allowing for the fact that many of these men were already married, or otherwise unsuitable, Zelohaphad's daughters had choices.
Sarah Masha
W Bloomfield, MI, USA
June 14, 2013
Arranged marriages
What is an arranged marriage? To me it is one where a third party introduces a man and a woman who they feel might be very compatible. I met my husband via a"blind date" arranged by my best friend.That was an arranged marriage if you think about it. I have many cousins - 22 of them - all religious - who were introduced to their mates via shidduch. There is not one divorce among them, which is a lot fewer than the so called love matches you see in the movies. And I clearly remember the radiant faces of
the brides as they walked down the aisle, to marry someone they knew would life a life with the same goals, ethics and morality than they have - not to mention intellectual compatibility.
Forced marriage? G-d forbid. Arranged introductions? Thumbs up.
Chatsworth, CA
June 14, 2013
Pre-arranged weddings
Speaking of arranged marriages, the Torah dwells on the marriages of the 5 daughters of Zelohaphad in Numbers 36 as if they occurred with a "waving of a wand". Given that they were restricted in their choices to members of their tribe (Manashieh) it reeks of pre-arrangement and dismisses the very idea of love or compatibility. However, the Torah is noted for its brevity. I suppose that's why we need rabbis to "fill in the blanks", Midrashically.
Martin Rich
Randolph, MA
June 14, 2013
we should not be quick to judge what is right and wrong based n modern thinking...
Modern thinkers might find the Jewish dating practice of dating archaic. Eating in a public place, not touching one another, and talking first about very practical things like Religious customs and family size etc. Later only reporting back to parents if they liked their potential mate, pursuing parental approval. Many would say it wasn't fair or it was old fashioned. However if we gauge using a more practical means, like how successful is the marriage it seems that the Jewish traditional approach is the best way. Less than 2% of religious Jewish marriages end in divorce. Compare to 50% of secular 'non-matched' marriages and 75% of mixed marriages (Jewish and non-Jewish).
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