Broken Engagements and the Shtar Mechila


    By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times

    Broken engagements are never a pleasant item of discussion, and there are often stories about various repercussions of someone who is still angry about the cancellation of the nuptials.  On account of this, it is the custom in Israel for both parties to sign documents of mutual forgiveness.

    When dealing with dating someone with a broken engagement, there is no question that one should investigate the reason completely, and make sure that a Shtar Mechila, (a document that states both parties completely forgive each other) was both received and given by both parties.  This was the custom in all of Poland and in many other countries as well (See Sridei Aish Vol. I #91).  The Responsa Sefer Dvar Yehoshua CM Vol. III #5 writes that oral forgiveness does not work – it requires either two witnesses or a written document.

    Rav Henoch Leibowitz zatzal, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim was very strict on this matter too.  Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal (Even HoAizer Vol. IV #85) writes regarding a case of a broken engagement that a Shtar Mechila is necessary.  It should be noted that a Cherem was placed upon a person who breaks a Shidduch, that is why it is such a serious issue.  Most poskim hold that merely receiving oral forgiveness is not sufficient (Dvar Yehoshua Vol, III CM #5).  Some require a full Bais Din saying Machul lach, Machul Lach, Machul Lach – three times.

    The Vilna Gaon wrote that it is preferable to get married and then divorced rather than break up a Shidduch (if it had tnaim).  This does not apply nowadays, but the concept of a broken shidduch is serious.  Below we find the nusach of a Shtar Mechila as formulated by Rav Moshe Shternbuch Shlita of the EIda HaChareidis in Yerushalayim. It should be signed as soon as possible.   There is, of course, no deadline as to when the form is signed, and it is often done many years later.  However, it is good and proper to do it as soon as possible.



    אני החתום מטה החתן __________  בן ____________ מוחל לכלה ________ בת _________ על עלבוני בלב שלם ומסכים לפוטרה מכל חיוב ושעבוד שבעולם. ובאתי עה”ח יום _______________

    ________ בן _______



    אני החתום מטה הכלה __________  בת ____________ מוחלת לחתן ________ בן _________ על עלבוני בלב שלם ומסכימה לפוטרו מכל חיוב ושעבוד שבעולם. ובאתי עה”ח יום _______________

    ________ בת _______

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    1. May I add that it is commonplace today that such documents are written and sent via email. The trouble is that they are not written with a standard nusach, as proposed here. I have seen such “mechilos” including a variety of statements, many of which are accusatory in nature, and leave behind more ill feeling than what is expected in a broken shidduch.

      A fly in the ointment is that both sides may wish to give and receive such letters of mechila, but often take a stand that they will wait for other to do so first. This causes unnecessary delay, and prolongs, if not increases the bitterness.

      Not included is the return of gifts, or the reimbursement of expenses incurred. This can require mediation. Batei din are not strangers to the bickering about such matters.

    2. a few points;
      1. breaking an engagement is a serious step even w/o tenaim
      2. the ramifications to either side can be huge
      3. once you said “YES” you need a major reason to drop him/her
      4. a shtar mechila sent before you mean it is worthless

    3. if you look at the first edition of the “Madrich” printed in the 1920s, you have a draft of a “shtar” for breaking tna’im which is the equivalent breaking an engagement. so this is nothing new.

      that is also why you should not call the engagement reception a “vort” which means they are giving their “word” or promise to marry.

      call it a l’chaim,

      • Who said anything about blame? The Shadchan was not engaged with a promise to marry, so there is nothing tieing the shadchan down in any kind of legal binding or oral contract. (The Shadchan is also often already married, so does not affect their shidduch prospects.)


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