My son was recently redd a shidduch, and I called a friend of the girl, who answered all my questions. Then, at the end of the conversation, she said, “I am sure you know that one of the siblings has an emotional issue.”
What, as a parent, am I supposed to do with a comment like that? And how much, in your opinion, should it play a role in looking into the shidduch further?
[Interestingly, while I appreciated knowing as much information as possible, I almost resented that the girl shared this information without me even asking about it.]
What are your thoughts?
Based solely on the narrative provided, it seems rather clear that this young woman spoke highly out of turn, and furthermore, given the decidedly vague descriptor that was used, I do not imagine it probable that she possesses the necessary position and qualifications to adjudicate on what meets the threshold of a bona fide “emotional issue.” All the same, while this datapoint was not intentionally sought out, it has been put on the table, and while hilchos lashon hara preclude a person from definitively accepting such statements as unassailable reality, they do not disallow one from taking proper precautions. Accordingly, insofar as there may be something going here which is vital to be aware of, I believe it would be prudent to speak with the rov of the family, explain the situation straightforwardly, and ask if the report is valid and whether it should be deemed an area of alarm. At that point, hopefully, the subject will be elucidated sufficiently enough for an apt decision to be made.
That said, and because this topic is both very delicate and very regularly applicable, I would like to take some time to discuss the field of divulging complex information vis-à-vis shidduchim. Regretfully, the willfull concealment of issues which carry the propensity to quite literally ruin or dissolve a person’s future marriage is not atypical. As such, understandably, when an individual knows of a potentially harmful complication, they often feel compelled to share it out of fear that no one else will. Nonetheless, there are three fundamental questions which must – I repeat must – be thoroughly clarified before any negative comment can be imparted, and which can only be answered by an authentic representative of daas Torah.
First, is the concern either 100% true, or at least exceedingly probable to be true? There is no shortage of scenarios wherein one feels all but sure that something is amiss, but as it turns out, they are sorely wrong. It is easy for a person to think or be convinced that they know of some juicy tidbit. That does not, however, translate into actually being right. In coming across similar situations, and speaking with numerous prominent rabbonim and poskim, none of whom ever for a moment considered sweeping critical information under the rug, it became abundantly plain to me that the benchmark for veracity is higher than most of us would guess. And as much as concealment can be a terrible wrongdoing, false proffering is an equally terrible transgression, and one that can cause equally irreparable damage. Before even a single word is uttered, one must have daas Torah verify that there is enough to go on for the material to be shared.
Second, does the news genuinely need to be relayed? Just as it is not uncommon to be mistaken regarding accuracy, mis-assessments are also routinely made with respect to how imperative it is for information to be exposed. Once again, most of us have no business acting as the lone arbiter of what should be related to a person looking into a shidduch and what should not. Sometimes, a matter which appears paramount is found to be trivial, and other times it is quite the opposite. Thus, and as before, daas Torah must be consulted in order to make such resolutions.
Third, if a statement is indeed called for, who should disclose it, how should it be conveyed, and when should it be declared? When someone is looking into a shidduch, or is in the middle of a shidduch, and is all of a sudden confronted with an unpleasant detail, it is of the utmost importance that it be done in precisely the right manner. If the revelation is relayed by a stranger, and especially by a stranger with no inherent standing or authority, or if it is disclosed at an inopportune juncture, more often than not, it will be dismissed out of hand by the person on the other end, or put them into a dizzying tailspin. Rarely, if ever, will a person simply listen to a notable denunciation associated with a prospective shidduch and have no need for follow-up analyses. Hence, whoever is tasked with having that conversation must be someone who will be seen as reliable and trustworthy in the eyes of the recipient, and who is fully ready and able to engage in a serious exchange and respond to any and all subsequent inquiries with calm, compassion, and composure. A lengthy and recurrent string of rejoinders along the lines of “Yeah, I do not really know the answer to that” never benefits anyone, nor does it lend any viability to whatever was shared to begin with. On the contrary, it can fast make the caller look like a foolish or unprepared gossipmonger, and it frequently leaves the receiver angry, dumbfounded, and mired in doubt about the shidduch they were in the midst of, and may have been otherwise remarkably excited about (as is pretty much exactly what happened in the chronicle presented).
All told, if ever one is under the impression that they are retaining negative or sensitive information which is in need of being passed on, the one and only pathway to doing what is right for everyone involved is to ask a shailah of a rov or posek who is expert in this arena, and follow their guidance without exception. One is welcome to push and nudge until a conclusion is reached, as most rabbonim are busy and overburdened, but lack of persistence is no excuse for going rogue and committing a litany of errors which may effectively deracinate the life of another Yid. We are blessed with wonderous daas Torah across the globe, and it falls upon us to take full advantage of that zechus.
May the Tzaddik V’yoshar Hu ensure that everything we do is with the noblest of intentions, and is carried out in accordance with the laws and spirit of His Torah HaKedosha.