2020 Don't let just anyone into your personal life
Chananya Weissman
Written May 20, 2020, shortened version published in the Jewish Press on Feb 5, 2021

"Let's get you married," said the email I received from a stranger.

"Let's temper the overconfidence," I replied.

A mutual acquaintance had thought this newly married man and his wife might be able to help me. She never actually met him, but he had made two matches, she related, and his wife had made twelve.

"Best is to schedule an appointment with me and my wife but she's expensive," his email continued.

Huh?

"I appreciate your offer to help, but we're not off to a good start," I replied.

His emails were weird, almost creepy. He was one of those new-age energy people, which is, to be polite, the opposite end of my radio dial. His wife was a "spiritual mentor", or someone who combines Far East spirituality and Far Out Judaism in exchange for materialistic fees. (I've always been skeptical of the new cottage industry of "coaches" who take money to tell you how to run your life. Aside from the fact that many of these people can't even run their own lives, why pay for something that many people no less qualified will gladly do for free?)

As if that weren't enough, he shared that he was an ardent supporter of a "rabbi" who is a convicted sex offender and cultist. I turned down his services, despite the possibility that he could have brainwashed someone into marrying me.

Granted, this is an extreme story, but only slightly more extreme than what passes for normal in today's shidduch world.

I don't mean to suggest that all shadchanim are untrustworthy people who should not be involved in people's personal lives there are probably a few good ones out there. Yet somehow in the last quarter century the prevailing belief has become that singles should eagerly allow any potential helper into their personal lives, express gratitude merely for being thought of, and even pony up large sums of money just to speak with said potential helper.

What a scam.

Singles have not only allowed themselves to be degraded, they pay for the privilege. No security, no money back guarantees. If the matchmaker or guru fails, the single takes the blame. If the single complains, they will be slandered and blackballed.

What a racket.

The entire community is in on it, too. Those who supposedly have a direct line to God praise matchmakers for their selfless, holy work. The future of the Jewish people depends on them! We must celebrate them and make sure they are amply rewarded whether or not they produce results, just to keep them interested. They are our only hope! So says the Lord Almighty. Pass the collection plate.

The Orthodox media ceaselessly praises them, even as it bemoans the ever-worsening "shidduch crisis", for which these people cannot possibly be at all responsible. Matchmakers are our unsung heroes, sing their frequent articles. They make phone calls! Even though they have their own lives! They must not be criticized, lest they stop making all those matches that aren't leading anywhere. Then no one could ever get married.

If a single goes out with a dozen people without success, he is sent for coaching, mentoring, and other euphemisms for therapy by certified non-professionals. If a matchmaker makes hundreds of attempts without success, she is not sent for rehabilitation or fired. She is praised for trying and even given cash just to keep going. Well-known organizations conduct fundraisers to pay shadchanim more for achieving less, urging us that this is an authorized use of maaser money. The future of the Jewish people is at stake!

Then we have our poor, pathetic singles. They pay appropriate lip service to the notion that shidduchim come from Hashem. They run around from cemetery to cemetery, they seek blessings, they purchase books filled with segulos that their grandparents never heard of but which they must perform. This is hishtadlus. They must appease the angry God who is preventing them from marrying, and who seems to favor those who engage in bizarre behaviors.

When that fails, there are many Torah scholars and holy people who will mention their name in a prayer at one of the particularly opportune times that only come around every few weeks, for a modest contribution, of course. For those who are really serious about getting married, there are premium heavenly intervention services that will pray for 40 consecutive days, or even a year, or even forever. How will you know they are really praying for you? How will you know this is helping you? Don't you dare even ask, heretic. So-and-so ponied up and was engaged two weeks later. It says so in their glossy catalog. Checks, credit cards, and automatic bank transfers are accepted.

But I digress. I am here to tell singles that you should not allow anyone who comes knocking into your personal life. Here are three warning signs that I urge you to heed.

1. A would-be matchmaker informs you that they "made" a certain number of shidduchim. If they can take credit for any, they will likely do so right off the bat. Even if they follow with a disclaimer ("I'm not really a shadchan") it is faux-humility, and their intention is to earn your unquestioned trust.

Your immediate response should be to inquire how many matches they actually attempted. What is their batting average? The rate of success is what really matters, not the number of successes. Would you invest with a stock broker who boasted of having picked a few winners, without wondering about his overall track record? Would you try a new drug based on a certain number of people being helped, without knowing the percentage? I sure hope not.

The question is most reasonable and appropriate, yet I can't remember a single matchmaker who wasn't put off by it. Again, if the stock broker or medical practitioner reacted with hostility when you sought to clarify their actual rate of success, wouldn't that be a deal-breaker for you? So why do you let shadchanim get away with it?

As I've said many times, I don't believe a shadchan should ever take credit for making a match. The most they can take credit for is making an introduction and possibly providing some support along the way. But if they are going to take credit for matches, it is only fair for them to take responsibility when it doesn't work out, and they should be required to state their actual rate of success.

If they blanch at any of this, they probably won't be a net positive in your personal life. Only people who are truly humble about their role in the process will behave with sensitivity. If you let insensitive people into your personal life because you allowed other insensitive people to convince you that you need them, that's on you.


2. They expect a "registration fee" or other payment before getting the actual job done. Sorry, folks, but this has scam written all over it. You don't pay a headhunter before you land a job. You don't pay a real estate agent before you sign the contract. You don't even pay a barber before he cuts your hair! So too, you shouldn't pay a shadchan before you seal the deal with your future spouse.

If they are good at their job, this won't deter them. It is only because they are so bad at what they do that they need to demand payment earlier and earlier in the process. They succeed so infrequently that they need incentives merely to continue "trying", and I use that word charitably.

Shadchanim who have no formal training, receive no certification, have no oversight, and make no financial investment in their work refer to themselves as professionals. Name one other profession that operates like that. Name one other profession where people who fail miserably at their jobs receive increased financial incentives just to keep trying.

Singles, stop being suckers. Pay only for results, not hope.


3. Someone wants personal information from you, but won't provide any information about themselves. If a shadchan wants to know where you live, where you daven, and who your Rebbe is, aren't you entitled to know the same about them? If they want references to vouch for your sanity and fitness for marriage, shouldn't they provide references to vouch for their competence and sensitivity in searching for your soul mate? Being that shadchanim are the ones being hired to do a job, they should be the ones providing a resume.

If a shadchan is put off by your request for information about their background and methodology, they have no business in your personal life. If you wish to set boundaries for how your personal information will be shared, or you assert what works and doesn't work for you, and you receive a condescending, even abusive reply, let Hashem find another shaliach. Inviting such a person to be involved in the most personal and intimate aspects of your life indicates a lack of true belief in Hashem, and a self-esteem of approximately zero.

The shidduch world is a monumental failure and a colossal scam. It was not this way until very recently, and it does not need to continue to be this way. Singles, it is up to you. It is your personal life, you live with the consequences of the process, and the power to decide on the process is squarely in your hands. If you wait for other people to make it "safe" and change things for you, you will wait forever.

It's your personal life. Respect it.