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Broken Engagements

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 21/3/2020

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Fascinating Insights—The Sefer (in English)

Broken Engagements

We know that breaking a Shiduch (engagement) is no small matter. We see the seriousness of a broken engagement from the following words of the Gra, although we don’t follow it: It is preferable to get married and then divorced rather than break a Shiduch (if the Shiduch had Tennaim). It should be noted that a Cheirem, excommunication was placed upon a person who broke a Shiduch, although some say that this only applies if this Cheirem was written into a document beforehand.


Concerning dating someone who had a broken engagement, one should be certain that a Shtar Mechila—where the offended side writes a letter of forgiveness to the side that initiated the break—stating that they forgive the other side wholeheartedly for the embarrassment and that they absolve them of any obligation owed to them, was written.[1] R’ Moshe Feinstein[2] wrote in regards to a case of a broken engagement that a Shtar Mechila is necessary. Since the lingering effects can have devastating consequences in the future as many people unfortunately experienced, R’ Shternbuch[3] advises even after receiving the Shtar Mechila, it is best to go before three people and request that if you deserve Cheirem, they should absolve the Cheirem. The three people should then answer מותר לך מותר לך מותר לך, you are unbound.  Although this is not customary, if there is a concern that one side caused extreme grief to the other side and it is fitting to be excommunicated for this since there wasn’t a sufficient reason to break the engagement, it is wise to do this.  If however there was a legitimate reason to break off the engagement, this is not necessary.


Regarding Shadchanus of a broken engagement, the Aruch Hashulchan[4] rules that if a Shiduch is broken, the Shadchan can keep the Shadchanus. In a case where the Shadchan wasn’t paid, and the wedding was called off, R’ Nissim Karelitz[5] relates that it is a Machlokes between the Taz and the Beis Shmuel[6] if the Shadchan gets paid in such a case. This applies where the Shiduch fell through after the Tennaim as if it happened before, then the Shadchan doesn’t get paid. If the Shadchan was paid early, the Shadchan must return the money.

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] See Sridei Aish, 1:91. Most authorities rule that merely receiving oral forgiveness is not sufficient. See the Dvar Yehoshua, Choshen Mishpat 3:5. Also, תשובות והנהגות 1:735.

[2] Igros Moshe, אבן העזר, 4:85.

[3] תשובות והנהגות, 2:622.

[4] Even Haezer 50:42. See also Aruch Hashulchan, Choshen Mishpat 185:11.

[5] Chut Shani, Shabbos, volume 3, p. 243:10.

[6] Even Haezer, 50:23.

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