With Rabbi Yitzchak Shochet. 

Read Rabbi Schochet’s blog at shul.co.uk/rabbi or follow him on Twitter @RabbiYYS. [divider]

Dear Rabbi,

As a non-Jew, I read with interest your column and your views on mixed marriages. I would like to know if there is ever any way maybe under special circumstances that Jewish law would allow me to marry a Jew without converting.

Lucy

Dear Lucy

Yes. If you are able to fly then I think we would be able to make special consideration for you.

You would need to gather three rabbis of the Beth Din and demonstrate your inbred aeronautical talents. They will then rubber stamp you. Failing that, I am afraid the same rules apply.[divider]

Dear Rabbi,

I read with interest your answer about matchmakers. You wrote that one of the basic reasons for payment is because it is a sign of gratitude for introducing you to your husband or wife.

But what if the marriage turns out to be a disaster and you break off the engagement – or worse, you end up getting divorced. Would the money have to be repayed, maybe with interest?

Laibel

 

Dear Laibel,

A curious question indeed. Let’s cut to some home truths. Not every matchmaker is genuine. By the same token, not every match failure is necessary. To explain by way of analogy, there was a great rabbi who had a number of sons. Whenever the matchmaker would propose a particular girl for one of his sons, he would pay the matchmaker, even if his son never met the girl.

One particular time, the matchmaker was a bit short of cash and so decided to propose a girl at whim to the rabbi for his son.

When he mentioned the name of the prospective spouse, the rabbi thanked him and left it at that. Needless to say, the matchmaker was perturbed. “Why aren’t you going to pay me like all the previous times?” To which the rabbi explained: “Each time you mentioned a girl I sensed you were coming from a genuine place and that there was a real possibility between my son and the girl.

Each time it was another required channel to pass through to get to the right one. Thus, I paid you for it. But your last proposal, I neither sensed nor saw anything. It was obvious there was nothing genuine about the suggestion and therefore it didn’t warrant
any payment.”

The point being that sometimes matchmakers will pull two random names from their database and throw them together. If it works, they cash in and if not, onto the next one. In the process, it could leave one or both parties disillusioned through a series of bad dates.

Furthermore, sometimes the matchmaker may make a conscious decision to withhold information that the would-be suitors are entitled to know. It is morally incumbent upon any matchmaker to properly research their “clients” and their families to ensure there is some compatibility and real potential in their suggestions. It is equally important to be honest and forthright.

People’s lives are at stake. I would add that parental pressure is also inexcusable. Too often parents are pushing their children to marry names or bank accounts that appeal to them, but have nothing in common with their children. So when a couple does get engaged, and soon thereafter breaks off, it could well be attributed to the shenanigans of an unscrupulous matchmaker. Whether that is grounds for asking for your money back is debatable.

After all, the counter argument would be that the couple did, of their own volition, choose to get engaged. That things don’t work out is as much on them for rushing into something.

Certainly when a couple is married for a number of years, it is pretty difficult to lay the blame at the feet of the matchmaker. After all, you got engaged, you got married and maybe only somewhere down the line you discover the girl or guy you married is not the one you dated. In addition, there can be a whole host of other reasons why the marriage didn’t work out.

So to answer your question, no, there is no financial come- back. However, there is still an obligation on the matchmaker, the prospective parents and indeed the couple themselves to ensure due diligence when investing in their future. For a long and fruitful marriage, you can’t put a price on that. [divider]

Dear Rabbi,

Someone wrote to you complaining that a person criticises him when he prays. Why put down the critic when all he is doing is ensuring the prayers are done right?

James

 

Dear James,

Before I reply to a letter, I read it in full, a couple of times. Sometimes you won’t even see the bits edited. But what was obvious was this one person felt the need to criticise, even as no one else was, and it was more a daily occurrence, not just occasional.

I know the kind.

They’re the kind who drag you down and, if I am at fault, it is for not slamming the critic a little harder than I did. [divider]