September 6, Emes Ve-Emunah
The last Mishna in Kiddushin has a remarkable comment by Rabbi Yehuda in the name of Abba Gurya: “The best of the doctors will go to hell.” Not surprisingly, this has been explained in a variety of ways by the commentators. Here is a brief summary (some sources found with the aid of the Steinsaltz commentary and a post on talmudology.com):
1) He is overconfident in his ability to prevent illness through his knowledge of nutrition and science, and does not humble himself before God. (Rashi)
2) Sometimes he kills people through carelessness. (Rashi)
3) He does not treat the poor. (Rashi)
4) Sometimes he gives up on people's lives too soon and does not bother to treat them, thereby causing their death. (Meiri)
5) Sometimes he does not try hard enough for a patient. (Meiri)
6) He does not admit when he doesn't understand an illness and pretends to have expertise when he does not. (Meiri)
7) He thinks he is superior to everyone and does not consult with others for advice. (Maharsha)
8) He is engaged in matters of life and death, yet does not always appreciate the gravity of the situation. (Tiferes Yisrael)
9) Doctors are indiscriminate in their treatments; what heals one person will kill another, and treating everyone the same way is tantamount to malpractice. (Ramban)
10) A doctor who is not also knowledgeable in God's Torah will see his practice as just a job, strictly a physical and material occupation with no higher purpose. (Maharal)
Perhaps one day archaeologists will uncover a Gemara with a different version: “The best shadchanim go to hell.” Indeed, if we simply substituted “shadchan” for “doctor”, it is incredible how smoothly all the above explanations would fit.
Shadchanim are overconfident in their ability to make matches, to the extent that they never acknowledge having made a foolish suggestion. If ever a suggestion doesn't work out, it is the fault of the singles in one way or another, though whenever it does work out, it is the shadchan who “made the match”. They do not humble themselves before God. (Rashi)
Sometimes they destroy people's lives through carelessness. They push people to go ahead with relationships and marriages that should not be, with devastating results. They propagate an environment in which young women feel compelled to develop eating disorders, in which parents feel compelled to deny children with physical or mental illnesses the care they need lest it harm the family's value on the shidduch market, in which schools are chosen not because they are the best fit for a child, but because of the image it offers. They treat people abusively, destroy their self-esteem, then cynically recommend they go for therapy. (Rashi)
Shadchanim have no sympathy for the poor, and treat them as castoffs. (Rashi)
Shadchanim give up on “older singles” or singles who are “difficult cases” and do not invest themselves in trying to help them, thereby perpetuating their continued aging as singles and increasing the difficulty of their case. (Meiri)
Shadchanim don't try hard enough. It is difficult to argue that they even try much at all. They consider merely thinking of someone worthy of gratitude. They consider giving a name of a single (with little or no information beyond that) worthy of financial reward. They consider “taking time out from their busy lives” to make a phone call or two worthy of gushing praise and community-wide fundraisers on their behalf (ma'aser money allowed!). They seem to believe that so much as going through the motions of making an introduction merits a monument in their honor and a free ride to Gan Eden. Instead they inherit hell. (Meiri)
Shadchanim do not admit that they do not really know the people they are dealing with, that this actually matters a lot, that they do not really know what they are doing. They pretend to be experts in dating, relationships, matchmaking, human psychology, Torah principles, and so much more, when they are not. They are flying by the seat of their pants. (Meiri)
Shadchanim think they are superior to singles, merely by virtue of the fact that they are married and the singles are not. They make sure to remind singles of this in ways both subtle and overt at every opportunity, and will behave ruthlessly toward those who are not submissive and compliant. Shadchanim do not acknowledge when an issue is out of their league and seek rabbinic or professional guidance – though they frequently recommend for singles to seek help, without which they are not marriageable. (Maharsha)
Shadchanim are engaged in matters of life and death, and do not appreciate the gravity of the situation. (Tiferes Yisrael)
Shadchanim believe that whatever worked for them, or whatever worked for someone they successfully matched in the past, will work for everyone, despite the fact that what is helpful for one single will be harmful to another. Nevertheless, shadchanim believe this so strongly that they will admonish singles who do not believe that their recommendaton is right for them. Shadchanim will declare that these individuals are not serious about getting married, they will never get married, and they have mental problems. This is tantamount to malpractice, though shadchanim, unlike doctors, cannot be sued for malpractice. (Ramban)
A shadchan who is not knowledgeable in God's Torah will view her work as simply a job, a way to make some money or gratify herself, and will relate to singles as commodities, not human beings. Their pursuit is selfish in nature, not for a higher purpose. (Maharal)
Indeed, shadchanim who are too busy or get burned out can simply quit being shadchanim at any time. A single cannot quit being single. Yet shadchanim who complain about being overwhelmed and frustrated receive endless sympathy and calls for increased financial “incentives” merely not to quit. Singles who wish to quit being part of the system receive abuse.
Somehow the community has integrated the notion that if shadchanim produce poor results and behave poorly, they are the victims. Entire organizations have been created, massive fundraisers conducted, endless media propaganda and rabbinic speeches devoted to assuaging the ego of such people and keeping them in the game. Our society has experienced concurrent developments of a near-total dependence on shadchanim like never before and widespread problems in the shidduch world like never before – yet the possibility that there is any connection between the two is not even entertained.
Perhaps the Mishna didn't state that the best shadchanim go to hell because shadchanim were unheard of back then, despite the false claims that “it was always done this way”. While doctors have always existed – the Torah explicitly authorizes them to practice, and they fill a clear need in society – the absolute need for shadchanim is a fantasy that our community has convinced itself is Torah truth.
At least doctors must demonstrate proficiency in medicine and science, must undergo years of training and apprenticeship, must maintain objective professional standards, must answer to certifying boards and regulators, and can be held accountable for sloppy work and poor results. In spite of all this, it is barely enough to keep doctors in check, and the best of them go to hell.
Compared to doctors, shadchanim get away with murder.
Shadchanim who don't like my words can leave a message every few weeks and no one will get back to them.
One final commentator puts a positive spin on the Mishna. Those who have a gift for healing have a divine responsibility to use it, otherwise it is as if they are shedding blood and will surely go to hell. (Tur)
On that note, those who have a gift for making matches, and can do so with humility, sensitivity, and caring, have a responsibility to do so.
This is the only acceptable way for matchmaking to be performed. It is high time for singles and the entire community to insist on nothing less.