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Arranged Marriages?

Arranged Marriages?

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Artwork by Sarah Kranz
Artwork by Sarah Kranz

Question:

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?

Answer:

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 Chabad.org, 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 (26)
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.
Katrinka
NY
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.
Anonymous
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.
Anonymous
Chatsworth, CA
chabadchatsworth.com
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).
Andrew
June 13, 2013
How it works
Your parents, people who know you, know what kind of person is right for you. And they arrange a meeting. In many cases, they are right and the 'spark' is there. In a few no, and it's back to the drawing board.

Put it like this, you're on a college campus with thousands of people, and the majority are not your type. Imagine shrinking that to a small portion of your type and then being able to select from that 'batch'.

That's how it goes.
sura Daverta
June 13, 2013
To Lisa
You say you did read it.

So you should see that choosing love is totally included in what the rabbi said about Jewish matchmaking practice.

All the matchmaker does is find potential matches for you.
as many as you like.

Did you see the other post? One daughter had the matchmaker bring her ten different guys and she didn't love any of them.

But finally they brought her one that she loved. She married that one.

You choose the one you love. And if he also loves you, then you get married.

Meanwhile you don't wind up getting your heart broken by men who aren't interested in marriage to start with.

The lack of matchmakers means that a lot of guys live with a woman for years, enjoying the benefits of marriage without any commitment. Just today I met a woman with two children by such a man. I suppose she loved him. Maybe he loved her. After 6 years she realized he wasn't interested in marrying her.

She has a new one....
Barbara
Huntsville
June 13, 2013
Nowadays
The rabbi who teaches our class says that when he was single, the matchmaker found him many possible mates. He would meet with each one in a public place and then the matchmaker would find out whether he liked her. If he did, they would have more meetings. Finally he met someone that he said he wanted to marry, and now they've been married for many years and one of their kids is a teenager. He tells us they are partners. Clearly he is very happy and she is devoted to him.

The point is, the matchmaker brings you more than one possible partner. But you only get married to someone you like who also likes you. Someone you want and find attractive who also feels that way about you.

MY QUESTION IS, how to find a Shadchan for widowers and widows? I.e., for people whose children are grown and don't want more children--but do want to make a life together with someone, AGAIN.
Havah
Columbus
June 12, 2013
If all the opponents of arranged marriages would take the trouble to read what was written, it would be clear that Jews do not coerce when using a match maker. Everybody gets a say; it's just that someone is trying to weed out the clearly incompatible.
Old Curmudgeon
glencoe
nschabad.org
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