A shadchan is a matchmaker, who suggests prospective marriage mates and then coaches them through the dating process. The term is linked to the word shidduch, which means a “match.” The technical meaning of the word (of Aramaic provenance) is actually to “settle down,” since the newly matched couple settles their differences before beginning their new life together.

A shadchan can be either male and female, although a female matchmaker is more properly called a shadchante in Yiddish, and a shadchanit in Hebrew. The plural form is shadchanim.

In Yiddish, to suggest a shidduch is to “red (speak) a shidduch.”

Shadchonus refers to both the act of matchmaking (so you can say that a shadchan is “in the business of shadchonus”) as well as the money traditionally given to the shadchan for his or her services (which would more accurately be referred to as shadchonus gelt, “shadchonus money”).

Paying the shadchan is actually important. Beyond helping the shadchan pay his or her bills, the couple wants to begin this new chapter in life cleanly, honestly, and with no one bearing a grudge—even a subconscious one.

The Shrewd Shadchan

Anyone can be a shadchan. See a fine young woman and a promising young man? Just make the suggestion. Even if it does not work the first time, keep on trying.

Being a successful professional shadchan is a finely tuned craft that requires insight into human nature, determination, creativity, marketing skills, and sometimes the wisdom of when not to present the whole truth (at least not initially).

At times an eager shadchan may overrepresent a person’s good attributes or suppress some of their less-savory side. This has given rise to the joke that the word shadchan (שדכן) is an acronym for sheker dover, kesef notel, “speaks falsehood, takes money.”

But joking aside, the shadchanim of the generations past and present do a splendid (often underappreciated) job at helping singles find their soulmates.

Learn the ins and outs of the shidduch dating process and how to approach a shadchan.

The Divine Shadchan

A Roman matron once asked Rabbi Yosi bar Chalafta: “If it took G‑d six days to create the world, what has He been doing since then?”

“G‑d has been making matches,” replied the rabbi, “determining that the daughter of so-and-so will go to so-and-so, and the son of so-and-so will go to so-and-so, etc.”

“Is this His occupation?” she asked. “I can do the same thing. I have many manservants and maids. I’ll pair them all up in no time!”

“It may seem simple to you,” said Rabbi Yosi, “but it is as difficult to Him as the Splitting of the Sea.”

With that, the rabbi went on his way. The matron then smugly proceeded to line up 1,000 manservants and 1,000 maids, creating 1,000 instant couples.

The next morning, however, they all returned to her sporting bruises and injuries, refusing to remain with the spouses she had assigned them.

“Rabbi Yosi,” said the matron, “there is no god like your G‑d, and your Torah is true, pleasant and praiseworthy!”

Who Approaches the Shadchan?

In a traditional setting (certainly for a first marriage), the parents of the singles are generally the ones to approach the shadchan, but it is the young man or woman who will meet the prospective match and make the final call whether or not to marry. However, when older adults seek a match or when the parents are not available, then it is the single who deals with the shadchan and decides whether or not to pursue a given shidduch.

Now, although G‑d has already determined whom we will marry, it is incumbent upon us to proactively help ourselves and our children, including contacting a reliable shadchan when the time comes. Here is an excerpt from a letter penned by the Rebbe—Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory—in 1952:

Regarding your daughters, it seems to me that you should seek the offices of a shadchan . . . even though matching matches is G‑d’s purview, nonetheless everything must have a foothold in nature. And it is appropriate that on every weekday morning you give 18 cents to charity for your daughters and for all your family before praying, and this will be the fitting vessel to attract and retain G‑d’s blessings.