Once upon a time, our mamas and papas turned to marriage brokers to do the hard work of arranging relationships, which must have been a cause for considerable parental concern — but provided plenty of material for Jewish humor writers.
It Never Hurts to Exaggerate (a Little)
An old marriage broker who found it increasingly difficult to get around because of his arthritis and other afflictions that accompanied his advanced years, hired a young assistant.
“Do you know anything at all about this business?” asked the aged shadchan [Yiddish for marriage broker].
“Not a thing,” replied the young man truthfully.
“Then give a listen. The main point in the matchmaking business is that you should always flatter the merchandise. It never hurts to exaggerate a little. In other words, spread it on good!”
“I understand perfectly,” the new assistant grinned.
The next evening the old broker took the young man on his first call. “We have a chance for a good match,” said the elder. “And there will be a substantial fee involved. The father of this young man is very wealthy. Just remember my advice: Exaggerate, be enthusiastic and spread it on good and thick.”
Seated around the table in the rich man’s home, the broker started his pitch:
“Have I got a girl for your son! She comes from a long line of famous rabbis and wealthy bankers. Such yiches [family lineage/connections] you never saw!”
“Wealthy bankers?” interrupted the assistant. “She’s a member of the Rothschild family!”
The old broker experienced an uneasy moment — membership in the Rothschild family was too easy to check. Perhaps he should have cautioned his new helper not to get carried away.
“Another thing,” the old shadchan went on, “she’s always perfectly groomed, and on each pinkie she wears a 10-carat diamond ring.”
“Ten carats! What are you talking?” the assistant burst out. “Those diamonds are at least 20 carats. I saw them with my own eyes! But beautiful as they are, they can’t compare to her gorgeous face!”
The broker gulped. He knew that the rich man was aware that no woman could be that perfect. So he decided to play it down a little.
“Well, to be perfectly honest with you,” he told the prospective groom’s father, “She does have a slight imperfection. On her back she has a tiny wart.”
“A tiny wart?” cried the assistant rapturously. “Believe me, it’s a regular hump!”
The old broker glared at the young man as though he could throttle him with his bare hands. Somehow, he had to save the day or this rich client would be lost.
“There is one more thing,” he said to the groom’s father, smiling knowingly, in a man-to-man manner. “Your son will be especially pleased because this girl has a figure like an angel — 36-21-36.”
“And that’s an understatement!” cried the assistant, butting in once more. “Her bosom is a good 50. Her waist? Figure it at least 39. And the hip measurement? Believe me, that girl has a tuchus [rear end] every bit of 60 inches!”
What a Deal!
The matchmaker was very anxious to conclude a chasseneh [marriage] between the son of his longtime friend and his own niece. It wasn’t just the fee involved, either. The old broker was certain they would make a happy and loving couple. But the young man would have none of the prospective bride, a recent widow.
“You call this a good match?” he rebuked the shadchan. “That woman is the mother of four children!”
“All right, so she’s the mother of four. By you this is bad? Take the word of an experienced man — it’s much better so!”
“What do you mean, better?”
“My boy, did you ever stop to think that if you married a maiden and decided to have four children, what kind of tsuris [troubles] you’d go through?”
“I don’t think that’s so much trouble.”
“Ha! The experienced man is talking! You never had to go through four pregnancies! And you live two flights up in the apartment house so you have to carry your wife up the stairs when you bring her back from the hospital. So what happens? I’ll tell you exactly what happens — you sprain your back and now you’re both convalescing. And if your wife doesn’t recuperate from the childbirth, what do you do? You send her to the Catskills for a rest, that’s what!
“Here you are, living in the city and she’s in the country. And who’ll look after the kinder [children] while you are working or maybe laid up in a sick bed, and she’s away? Will you do all the cooking and cleaning and washing of diapers? You call that a kind of life?
“On the other hand, I’m offering you a fine-looking widow with four ready-made children: no fuss, no bother, no expense — custom-tailored, just for you. My boy, anybody who doesn’t grab this proposition is out of his mind!”
Clean Up Your Act
A young man with a scraggly, unkempt beard, his clothes filthy, his hair disheveled and uncut, decided that he would continue his Bohemian way of life without working, by marrying a wealthy girl. So he went to a matchmaker.
The marriage broker made no effort to conceal his distaste for the unwashed specimen before him, but he did have a rich girl on his list who was seeking a husband.
“Take me to her right away,” cried the disreputable slob eagerly.
“Not in your condition,” protested the shadchan. “She’d have nothing to do with you. First you must shave, comb your hair, take a bath and put on some clean clothes.”
“But suppose she still doesn’t like me?”
“In that case,” said the broker, “you can always dirty yourself up again.”
Reprinted with permission from the Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor, compiled and edited by Henry D. Spalding (Jonathan David Publishers).