Our son is learning in Eretz Yisroel, where he went out with a girl from America who was on vacation there. It was made clear to the girl’s family that our son is a very serious learner and wants to learn long-term. We told the shadchan this numerous times before and during the shidduch, and we asked if this is what they wanted, and the shadchan assured us that they did.
Our son met the girl five times in Eretz Yisroel and continued dating in the United States, because it looked like they were going to get engaged. After a few dates in America, it was broken off because, we were told, the girl’s father doesn’t believe in learning long-term. The father couldn’t convince our son that long-term learning is not his mesorah.
We feel that we were misled by the father in bringing our son back to the States, and we would like the forum panelists to present their views on whether we are entitled to compensation for the expensive travel costs.
While I can certainly appreciate and commiserate with the underlying sensations of anger and frustration expressed herein, I would posit that the subject of recompense for monetary outlays which are felt to have been issued under false pretenses is a matter of dinei mamonnos. Hence, addressing the precise question posed lies far beyond the scope of my personal knowledge base, and I would recommend that the inquiry be directed towards a posek who is fluent in these sorts of shailos if there is interest in procuring a finding that goes beyond mere conjecture. Nonetheless, where I do feel that perhaps my thoughts could be of some value, is with respect to examining the internal motivations for pursuing these damages, and the ultimate prudence of doing so.
To begin with, under such circumstances, I believe one is best served by first self-reflecting, and ensuring that their resolve to seek reimbursement from another family over a shidduch mishap is rooted in ehrnstkeit. If a person were to sincerely feel that they were essentially defrauded, and thus rightfully owed the return of any expenses which they were deceived into issuing, it would be perfectly acceptable to tender a request for repayment. Conversely, if one is awash with fury and indignation over a perceived unjust behavior, to the point of being beset by cacoethes, and is on the verge of engaging in a colossal tit for tat, it might be worth revaluating the sensibility and gain of that particular course of action.
Additionally, and as is generally the case when using an intermediary, I would presume that much of the information detailed in this narrative – especially the exchanges of communication between sides – was not gathered firsthand, and simply cannot be wholly confirmed. Accordingly, I do not imagine it a stretch that the other party involved in this brouhaha has an entirely divergent point of view on what has transpired. That being the case, given the near impossibility of ascertaining the absolute truth of the matter, it strikes me as a scenario where it would be markedly challenging to issue a definitive verdict vis-à-vis entitlements, and some manner of mutual compromise may instead be that which is eventually advised.
Furthermore, in order for any arbitration or ruling to be meaningful and binding, I believe that both families must agree to retain the same adjudicator, and be afforded the opportunity to proffer their respective sides of the story. And in this instance, I would hazard it to be exceedingly improbable that the other family would be terribly interested or forthcoming in going down that path. Consequently, we are quite likely looking at a contentious and protracted confrontation that may never actually prove productive, or even come to a close.
Lastly, I would strongly suggest assessing the potential for unwanted and detrimental repercussions to one’s reputation that may be the byproduct of such an endeavor. Insofar as we live in a time when shidduch research is virtually invasive surgery into one’s entire life and deeds, it is all but inevitable that the chronicle of one’s demanding restitution over a badly failed shidduch will come to light. And to be blunt, I cannot visualize that type of discovery as enhancing anyone’s dating prospects. On the contrary, it is but asking to festinate a state of being stigmatized and pathologized.
To be clear, I am not asserting that the injured party here is groundless in their claim. Indeed, strict halacha may favor plaintiff. Rather, my intent is only to aid in approaching the situation pragmatically and with equanimity by delving into the underlying impetuses, and painting a picture of what might follow if one family were to submit a financial grievance against another with regards to a shidduch. Prior to making any final and proactive determinations, one should be notably confident that all options have been genuinely weighed against each other – specifically those which cannot be retracted after they have been initiated, and may carry long-term negative ramifications – so that the most comprehensively circumspect and constructive of conclusions can be cultivated and enacted.
May the Melech Maazin Shaava fully tend to the needs of all those in distress, and bring them comfort, composure, calm, and contentment.