||HALACHOS OF ASKING AND GIVING INFORMATION
ABOUT A SHIDDUCH
- Thursday, December 14, '00 - Parshas Vayishlach 5761
One of the crucial matters in
shidduchim is the aspect of "getting references." One of the causes of marriage
trouble or failure is the non-halachic seeking or giving of "information."
People are afraid of speaking loshon hora (evil, slanderous speech) and do not want to
destroy a coupling, since making a match is "as difficult as opening the Yam Suf
[Reed Sea]." It is possible to be in serious and destructive error when you 1. do not
say something that you are required to say or 2. say something that you are required to
withhold. This installment is a continuation of the previous. We will here address laws of
those who ask for information and those who are asked. I must stress that this is a matter
of COMPLEX HALACHA (Torah law) and that YOU CANNOT TAKE UPON YOURSELF TO DECIDE WHAT TO
ASK, REVEAL (WHEN ASKED), ACTIVELY OFFER (WITHOUT BEING ASKED) OR WITHHOLD. Please ask a
rov shaalos to obtain clear and authoritative case by case instruction.
Whether you are the person asking for information or the person being asked for
information, your intentions should be totally leshaim Shomayim (for the sake of Heaven),
to help bring about a marriage that should be and to prevent any marriage that the Torah
says should not be.
A person asking questions about a shidduch (the boy or girl, a relative or advisor, a
rabbi or rebitzen) is allowed to ask as many questions of as many people as needed. It is
meritorious to investigate carefully and to do all of the "homework" that you
see fit. The more people you speak to, the more you are likely to uncover inconsistencies,
fabrications and meaningful data. The Chafetz Chayim says that questions must be specific
and you must reveal why you are asking (that it is for a shidduch), and the other person
is not obligated to give information to you unless you make clear that there is
"to'elles (beneficial, constructive purpose)" that constitutes a halachically
permissible reason to speak about a person. Another way of looking at this is that
questions and answers must be relevant and purposeful so that your talk will not bear any
guilt of lashon hora. Pirkei Avos (chapter five) says that one who is an intelligent
person will not interrupt, will only ask to-the-point questions, will only give answers
after deliberation and according to halacha, will answer the first thing first and the
last thing last, will say that "I do not know" about what he does not know, and
he acknowledges the truth.
It is entirely alright to appoint a shliach (representative), or more than one, to ask
information because this may obtain more, better or more accurate information (e.g. his
Rosh Yeshiva talks to her seminary's principal, his uncle goes to shul with her father's
neighbor, her school friend knows his sister).
The person receiving/replying to questions about a shidduch must realize that (s)he is
playing with lives. Rabbi Chayim of Brisk said that speaking against a person of
marriageable age is killing, and only the Sanhedrin (Torah Supreme Court adjacent to the
Holy Temple) of 23 judges has the authority to execute. We must be very careful. There are
many considerations about what to say and not say. We cannot say lashon hora but, on the
other hand, "Lo samod al dam rayecha (Leviticus 19:16; we cannot stand idly by while
our brother bleeds to death)," we cannot cause michshol (another to stumble into
trouble or a mistake) or nezek (harm, damage).
If you do not know something, do not speak as if you know. If you know something in
general, but not specific details, you can ask for time (to call a rov, or find out from a
halachically reliable first-hand source - not hearsay or rumor) or say "I don't
know." You may not speak for personal motives (e.g. hate, revenge, subjective
opinions about who you think the boy or girl ought to marry). If you are asked a question
directly, you cannot evade it nor lie.
There is greater responsibility for a close friend or relative. If you are asked by or
about a close friend or relative, you can offer additional information over what was asked
about, such as information about what is not suitable in the shidduch or you can offer
information about minor defects.
You may discuss a person's shortcomings with people who can make a practical and
beneficial difference, but Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach says that this must be done with
seichel (intelligence) and only with those people who are necessary to actually help (ask