I have a follow-up to the question from a few weeks ago about serving as a shidduch reference.
Recently, quite a few times, I got calls about singles from people, but they refused to provide their name or their relationship to the shidduch (meaning if it’s for their son, daughter, or some other relative).
Am I obligated or expected to provide shidduch information to people who don’t want to identify themselves? Am I doing a disservice to the singles in question if I insist on the people revealing their identities (in which case I really don’t know if the names and info they give me are genuine anyway)? Or am I just being too paranoid?
One the one hand, having also been on the receiving end of unexpected shidduch calls from faceless and nameless individuals, including those who hastily commence with a thorough probing into the most private areas of the lives of beloved friends and relatives, I can fully empathize with the discomfort expressed herein. It tends to be awkward, off-putting, frustrating, and demeaning, and it can put one immediately into a defensive position. Not exactly the best headspace to be in for such an important and weighty venture. And once the deed is done, it frequently leaves one with the prickly sensation that they have betrayed someone near and dear by divulging sensitive information without having any idea to whom it was relayed, or even why exactly. To put it plainly, it simply feels wrong and lacking in derech eretz.
Nonetheless, on the other hand, it is within the realm of the imaginable that there are justifiable explanations for the anonymity. It could be that due to some of the specifics related to the potential shidduch, there is an unknown, but rather valid, reason behind the current shroud of mystery. Or, perhaps it is the single man or woman themselves on the phone, as for any number of causes or circumstances, some daters have little to no support in shidduchim, and have been saddled with the exceedingly difficult task of having to do their own research. Quite obviously and understandably, exposing that reality is notably embarrassing, and may result in the tanking of the project from the get-go. It is also conceivable that the person making the call was somehow burned in the past by revealing themselves, and is now reluctant to do so, or maybe they are just plain nervous.
All said, in a vacuum, while there does seem to be something objectively nefarious and iniquitous about a total stranger acting as an inquisitor, and siphoning off the most personal of features and facets with regard to one’s compadre, it is yet plausible that there are defensible explanations which would answer for the clandestineness of the mission. Parenthetically, it is also of significance to mention, that while there is usually something to be gained by releasing one’s name, there is often no need or value in transmitting on whose behalf one is acting before the shidduch is actually launched, as it can merely lead to the dashing of premature hopes and excitement.
In terms of practically handling such situations, for those in receipt of such calls, whether or not the secrecy stands on solid ground, I would suggest keeping two vital factors in mind. First, when people do not disclose who they are in these scenarios, it is typically done rather consciously. Thus, there is approximately zero chance of getting them to walk that decision back, and pressing them to concede can lead to nothing but agmas nefesh and strife. Second, despite the displeasure of the detached dialogue, it might indeed be the start of an excellent opportunity for the person who is being surreptitiously investigated.
That being the case, insofar as one’s actions here will invariably reflect upon and affect the single person being asked about, it would be advisable to quickly accept the setting one has now been placed in. One should attempt to regain their composure, present a welcoming and amiable demeanor, and answer the questions honestly, but with a keen awareness that it might be wise to withhold the most delicate of details if it is possible to do so without the omissions being overt or counterproductive. Additionally, as the halachos of lashon hara are on the complex side with respect to sharing negative information when one has no idea whom they are speaking with, one must ask shailah before conveying any damaging material with an unspecified entity.
As far as those making the calls, above all, I would recommend attempting to truly appreciate the uneasiness and distress one is almost certainly about to foist upon another Yid, and endeavor to ameliorate that disquiet. And I think such a goal can be accomplished relatively easily by utilizing one or both of the two following strategies.
Option 1: Begin the conversation with a first-name-only introduction. In many cases, once any sort of self-description has been supplied, the matter will become a non-issue, and a last-name will never even be requested. Should that not suffice, and should there be an entreaty for a last-name, be prepared to segue into the next option.
Option 2: If one plans on suppressing any or all of their identity, and perceives the seedlings of contention sprouting as a result, be prepared to be openly and blatantly apologetic about the furtive approach being employed. Through validating the apprehension and perturbation one is instigating, and displaying a healthy dose of contrition for the act, there is a high percentage of probability that forgiveness will be forthcoming and the exchange will proceed peacefully and pleasantly.
May the Mistateir Bishafrir Chevyon usher in shalom v’shalva to all our interactions, be they bein adam lachaveiro or bein adam laMakom.