| Family Diary |


When increased compensation is offered, it usually means there’s complexity involved; it may indicate desperation


Shani Leiman with Zivia Reischer

About three years ago, I got a call from Mrs. Silver. She was distressed that her daughter Aliza wasn’t married yet.

“She’s exactly what every boy should want,” she told me forcefully. “And she’s already 25 and still single. I can’t understand it!” We talked about her daughter for a few minutes and then she said, “If you make her shidduch, I’ll pay you $7,000.”

“Ma!” Apparently, Aliza was nearby.

“Aliza, I really want you to get married, and if this is what it takes, so be it!”

Such propositions weren’t new to me. There are parents who will send me a check — here’s $500, or $1,000, or even $2,000 — the unspoken message being: please prioritize my son or daughter.

This makes me uncomfortable because I feel like they’re bribing me (kind of because they are). They do it because it works — maybe due to guilt, or maybe out of a sense of obligation, it’s human nature that when you receive a gift you’re naturally more inclined to favor the giver.

I don’t encourage such an approach. But if a shadchan does set up your child, a show of hakaras hatov is appropriate and appreciated, and will work in your favor. When increased compensation is offered, it usually means there’s complexity involved; it may indicate desperation. That was definitely the situation in Mrs. Silver’s case.

I later discovered that Aliza had been in a car accident as a young girl. She’d suffered severe injuries and needed several surgeries — her pelvis had been shattered and her skull fractured, among other things. Her recovery was long and drawn out, but baruch Hashem, she’d fully recovered with no lasting effects.

Still, everyone knew about the accident, and people were nervous, unsure what it could mean for her functioning, future health, or fertility. Her doctors were optimistic, but no one could guarantee anything.

About a year after Mrs. Silver’s call, I thought of a shidduch for Aliza. Kivi seemed like just what she was looking for — a ben Torah who was now in law school, a year older than her, from a similar family background. I hadn’t forgotten Aliza’s medical history, but I thought Kivi might be receptive to the idea because his brother had been sick for many years, and the experience had made him more open-minded and sensitive.

Aliza and Kivi met. It wasn’t smooth sailing, but I encouraged them to give it a little time. A little turned into a lot, and they got engaged. Their parents were thrilled and full of gratitude, and both Aliza’s and Kivi’s parents sent me shadchanus immediately after the l’chayim.

When Mrs. Silver’s envelope arrived in the mail, I suddenly remembered her $7,000 promise. I opened the envelope, curious if she’d followed through.

The check was for $1,000.

I laughed. This was also typical human nature — people who make a commitment under duress frequently retract their words or deny them completely when the moment passes. Sometimes they simply forget they ever said anything.

I decided it was okay. I understood Mrs. Silver’s distress, and I certainly wasn’t going to hold it against her. I was thrilled about the shidduch, and felt privileged to have been the shaliach who brought it about.

“It’s totally fine,” I said aloud to no one in particular. “I’m happy they’re engaged, I’m happy with the shadchanus, I have no tainehs on anyone.”

Two years later, Kivi’s mother called me.

“Aliza and Kivi are such a great couple,” she said, “and we have so much hakaras hatov to you. I was just wondering about something. They don’t have children yet, and it seems like it might be complicated. I was wondering if the kallah’s side gave you proper shadchanus? We know we did, but we weren’t sure about them, and we know that not fulfilling your obligation of shadchanus can negatively impact the couple’s future.”

I panicked. Could this be my responsibility? But I really didn’t have any complaint or taineh on the couple or their parents.

I called a rav immediately.

“Are you upset at this couple or at the girl’s parents for not paying the promised shadchanus?”

“No,” I said. “I’m not upset at all. In fact, I clearly remember stating aloud that I have no taineh on them. But,” I added, “I can’t pretend to un-hear Mrs. Silver’s promise.”

The rav said he had to consult with an adam gadol and would get back to me. I waited for his return call anxiously.

“You’re off the hook,” he said when he called back. “You don’t have to be concerned that the couple’s difficulties are related to the shadchanus, and you don’t have to remind the mother of her promise.”

My relief was indescribable.

Three months later I got another check in the mail. The envelope listed no return address, and there was no note. There was no name on the check, and instead of an address it listed a P.O. box number. I don’t sell things on the black market, and I’m not a drug dealer. Why was some anonymous individual sending me $6,000?

I puzzled over this for a week until a woman called. She introduced herself as Gertrude Kahn, and she sounded like your stereotypical Great-Aunt Rosie. (Everyone has a great-aunt like that somewhere in the family. Some of us have a few.)

“So did you get the check?” she yelled down the line. “Ya know, the one with the funny P.O. box number? That’s from me! Remember I told you if you made my great-niece Shainy’s shidduch, I’d send you six grand? Well, you did, so I did!”

The truth is, I did remember her telling me that when I met her once at a wedding. But I hadn’t taken her seriously, dismissing it as a warm gesture from a nice woman who was sincerely eager to see her niece married. Apparently I was wrong (it does happen sometimes). I can’t say I minded in this case.

I also noticed that the amount of this check — which I hadn’t been expecting at all — was exactly the amount that Mrs. Silver had promised but not sent. To me, it was a reminder: Hashem sends you what’s coming to you, all in the right time. Your shidduch. Your shadchanus.

Your children, too. Around their third anniversary, Kivi and Aliza had a beautiful baby boy.


Shani Leiman is a teacher, shadchan, and dating coach. She lives in  Silver Spring, Maryland.

(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 746)

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