Dear Dr. Yael,
Thank you for printing my letter about not receiving shadchanus or a thank you for a shidduch I was involved in (Dear Dr. Yael, 6-24). In last week’s inbox I noticed a letter from Ava Mann who said that I had no right to be disappointed in the way I was treated. Ms. Mann believes I should make peace with it, as I was nothing more than a messenger who did not do much work for the shidduch.
I originally wrote that letter to let others know that this is certainly not decent or customary behavior. Yiddishkeit stresses the importance of hakaras hatov as a foundational characteristic. Whether a shadchan has an easy or difficult task facilitating a shidduch is irrelevant. If there’s no beginning, there’s certainly no end. As a matter of fact, even if there is a beginning, there is sometimes no end. The mere fact that someone is asked to be the go-between, which can result in a couple getting married, qualifies that particular messenger as being a shadchan. Of course, I took the high road, forgave their poor behavior, and wished them well. I understand that some people are simply incapable of expressing gratitude when it comes to shidduchim, especially in proportion to the work the shadchan actually put into their situation.
As I said in my original letter, I do not make shidduchim because I want money or gifts, but I do think a sincere thank you would certainly be appropriate. I do think the letter writer should learn the halachos involved in shidduchim and understand the ramifications of not acknowledging a shadchan. Lack of hakaras hatov in shidduchim is definitely a serious matter and one that can affect a couple’s future. Our Torah is a wonderful blueprint and guide to how to handle various situations, and we have many competent and qualified rabbonim and poskim to clarify these matters.
My hope in writing the letter was that people would seek the advice of a rav about this very serious issue.
As this is indeed a serious issue that many believe can affect a couple’s future, I reached out to my dayan and posek, Rav Gavriel Zinner, for clarification. Rav Zinner told me that there are two specific issues in regards to shidduchim:
- One is halachically required to pay the shadchan before the wedding.
- There can be problems with a couple’s shalom bayis and fertility if no payment is rendered to the shadchan. This is based on Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat) which states that just as one must pay a broker a commission when purchasing a home, a person must pay a shadchan for his or her work as well.
Rav Zinner said that ideally one should give money and not a gift. He asked if I had ever heard of a broker who agreed to accept a gift as payment for selling a home. How much more so in a shidduch which affects one’s whole life.
Showing hakaras hatov is also very important. Of course, most people do not make shidduchim so that they can get money or thanks, but that does not mean that the couple who were fortunate to find each other shouldn’t be thankful to the one who helped the process along. One thing does not negate the other.
In general, being grateful about everything, even the small things, can make you into a more positive person. Very often we don’t take the time to realize how much we have been given and how much we should be grateful for. We need to focus on what is going right rather than on the difficulties we are having each day. Once we learn how to do that and to verbally express our gratitude to Hashem and others, we will become much happier people!
Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside and author of the bestseller The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want, researched gratitude and happiness and found that expressing gratitude has many benefits. People who are grateful tend to be happier, hopeful and energetic, and experience positive emotions more often than individuals who aren’t grateful. People who are grateful are also likely to be more spiritual or religious, forgiving, empathetic, and helpful, while being less depressed, envious or neurotic. She asked one of her research groups to write down five things that they could be grateful for – once a week for ten weeks. Another group was asked to do something similar, but with five things that caused them stress. The grateful group tended to feel more satisfied and optimistic and also reported less headaches, nausea and coughing. In addition, they spent more time exercising, demonstrating more optimal health as well!
Dennis Prager also wrote a book about happiness and discusses gratitude as being the secret to happiness. However, he found that expectations could undermine gratitude and thus a person’s happiness. Specifically, he wrote that “the more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have.” In other words, the less you expect, the more you will be grateful for.
It’s nice to show gratitude, but more importantly, you will gain tremendously from being a grateful person! We should never take another person’s kindness for granted nor should we take anything we have for granted! May we all make an effort to be more grateful and become happier people! Thank you for your response! Hatzlocha!Dr. Yael Respler