||WHEN MUST A STRANGER TO THE SHIDDUCH WITHHOLD
OR ACTIVELY OFFER INFORMATION ABOUT THE SHIDDUCH?
- Thursday, December 7, '00 - Parshas Vayeitzei 5761
A major part of marital trouble or
break-up results from untrue, vague, half-true, incomplete, ignored, evasive or
undisclosed information. Those who ask or give information, even with good intentions, may
be subjective in the criteria for deciding what to say or not say - even when they
sincerely want to be helpful. Therefore, I am writing here some of the major halachos
(laws) of disclosing and not disclosing information, in two parts to address two aspects.
This material IS NOT INTENDED to enable you to poskin - IT IS INTENDED TO 1. CONVEY HOW
COMPLICATED THESE HALACHOS ARE AND 2. TO ENABLE YOU TO KNOW WHEN YOU HAVE A SHAALA TO ASK
A ROV. Do not take these issue upon yourself to decide. Ask a rov, EVEN IF YOU NEED TO ASK
HIM 20 SHAALOS IN ANY GIVEN SHIDDUCH. There is no mitzva that comes through a sin (Gemora
Suka). ONLY SHIDDUCHIM APPROACHED ACCORDING TO THE WILL OF G-D WILL HAVE THE BLESSING OF
There are three halachic categories for discussing shidduchim and each has different
obligations; a person who is: 1. a "stranger" to the shidduch (i.e. not one of
the people asking or being asked information), 2. asking and 3. being asked. In this
installment, we will discuss the first category.
A stranger to the shidduch (one not asking or asked information; e.g. a schoolmate,
neighbor, etc.) may know some information about the boy and/or girl. This person may not
offer information if not asked, unless the matter is of utmost seriousness (e.g. major
illness or defect, violent or promiscuous tendency, unfaithful to some part of Torah
observance, inability to have children, psychological illness, an illness that occurred
three or more times in the family [the Steipler says "three times" can mean
either in one generation or in more than one generation], anything that will cause major
loss or damage, anything that can potentially break up an engagement or marriage if
learned about later, anything that most people, or this individual, would be "makpid
[stringent, particular]" about, bad midos [flawed character traits] or any
intentional attempt by one of the parties to trick/deceive the other).
The stranger is obligated to offer serious information and is obligated to not offer
unsolicited information that is less than serious. Ask a rov when and how to reveal such
information because the laws are complicated. For some examples, 1. do you yourself know
about the defect (e.g. are you the person's doctor to know the person has cancer, one
lung, diabetes, epilepsy or heart trouble; which you must reveal) or is it only hearsay
(the K'sav Sofer says that you cannot go by hearsay)? 2. should you first ask the person
what (s)he knows about this matter ("has plony discussed health with you?")
because plony may have already disclosed the problem and then you will have no permission
to speak about it, 3. is it a revealed blemish that is in the open and can be seen itself
or is it a covered/internal/non-apparent defect that a person cannot see? 4. what point is
the couple at (are they already serious or engaged?), 5. the couple thinks they are for
each other but you know [objectively and factually] they are not likely to succeed
together, 6. is this a defect that people don't tend to expect, don't tend to investigate
carefully or may have been lied to about? There can be numerous questions that can affect
what to do or say, so speak to your rov comprehensively in each individual case.
It is better for revelation of a blemish/problem to come from the boy or girl
him/herself, rather than from another person. Any tone of deception or evasion will kill
trust and the Maharal writes that no marriage can last without unending trust. Everybody
involved in the shidduch must be honest. The Chazone Ish says that you receive SIYATA
DISHMAYA [Heaven's help] for obeying halacha. Ask a rov what is proper timing for when to
reveal various defects and for how to handle lies by any of the information-givers or by
Close friends and relatives have greater responsibility. They must offer information
about relatively minor blemishes, even if not asked, especially if the boy or girl would
resent it if you knew about the defect and didn't tell.
If the person would resent your intrusion, you answer GENTLY that you are acting
ACCORDING TO A ROV'S P'SAK IN HALACHA, not according to your own personal thinking, and
that YOU ARE ONLY CONCERNED ABOUT THE BOY'S OR GIRL'S BEST LONG-RUN INTERESTS. To be
continued on asking and revealing information.