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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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Srinivas India 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! Reply

Inger 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 Reply

Shoshana Jerusalem February 7, 2015

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. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI February 3, 2015

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! Reply

Katrinka NY June 18, 2013

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. Reply

Anonymous 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. Reply

Sarah Masha W Bloomfield, MI, USA June 18, 2013

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. Reply

Anonymous Chatsworth, CA via chabadchatsworth.com June 14, 2013

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. Reply

Martin Rich Randolph, MA June 14, 2013

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. Reply

Andrew June 14, 2013

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). Reply

sura Daverta June 13, 2013

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. Reply

Barbara Huntsville June 13, 2013

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.... Reply

Havah Columbus June 13, 2013

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. Reply

Old Curmudgeon glencoe via nschabad.org 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. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma June 12, 2013

We heard, here, that no one is forced to marry another, but that these meetings are voluntary and the woman or man, can choose not to marry. It's impossible to parse out what happens in any one family because surely families do exert enormous pressure on their sons and daughters to comply with "their" wishes. Certainly in the Orthodox Jewish community it's got to be an Orthodox man, or, the family will be incredibly upset. So that's a form of more than, perhaps, tradition. It's deep.

Other groups do still have arranged marriages. These still take place, for example, in some families in India. But I believe, around the world, there is a growing consciousness of this notion of choice, of love, of soul mate, as in finding one's own way. But if people choose to go to matchmakers, and there are many right here, as in internet dating, Lunch Dates etc., this can lead to joy or not joy. We just do our best, and that's to hopefully find the right person for each other. Random &/ or Non Random?? Reply

Orly Fuerst Houston, Texas via chabadhouston.com June 10, 2013

Lisa from RI. Have you actually read the article. This is not arranged as in no one gets a vote. This is arranged as in, here is someone you might like to meet. They share the same interests as you, and like you , are looking for a spouse, not a brief fling. The couple takes it from there, and the couple gets to decide. Reply

Kayo Kaneko June 10, 2013

I used to date randomly. Now I think it is so scary. I have met a wonderful shidduch and I believe it is better than any other way. Reply

anonymous Jerusalem June 9, 2013

A matchmaker does not "arrange" a marriage. He or she simply makes a suggestion. The girl or boy and/or their parents check out the suggested one and if they think that it sounds suitable, meet. If not, they don't meet. If they meet and like each other, they continue. If not, so not. They can meet as many prospective matches as they want till the right one comes along. One of my daughters married the first boy she met. Another one met about ten boys until H-shem sent her bashert. The rest also met a few boys and girls, until the right one came along. Nobody arranged any marriage, but we did check out the boys or girls very carefully. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI May 6, 2013

Anonymous from Oceanside, CA, I DID read the article, but I stand by what I said!

Arranged marriages can fail, just like love marriages, and I choose love! Reply

Makilaih Sacramento, CA March 7, 2013

I don't have a problem with arranged marriages. It works out out the parent because they can decide woo their children marry and maybe make sure they're safe. But I also think that if your old enough to get married you should be old enough to decide who you marry. Reply

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