This article is adapted from Rabbi Dovid Jaffee’s upcoming sefer on the laws of Loshon Hora in contemporary times. All halachos mentioned herein are complex and part of a larger framework. The purpose of the article is to raise awareness of these essential halachos. Hence, one should not draw any practical conclusions without first consulting a rav. Interested readers can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. to receive Hebrew footnotes which present the sources for the rulings herein.
Review of Previous Article
In our previous article, we discussed the importance of familiarizing oneself with the laws of Loshon Hora as it relates to shidduchim. One must weigh carefully what to say and what not to say, as one who errs in either direction could negatively impact the entire future of the individuals under discussion.
We began to delineate some of the guidelines for when one may and must offer negative information, even when not asked for such information. Let us summarize our main points before continuing:
- One may only offer information regarding a significant deficiency of which it can be assumed that the other side would never go through with the marriage if this deficiency was known to them.
- In such a scenario, one is not only permitted, but even obligated to reveal the information.
- There is also an obligation for the individual with the deficiency himself to disclose this information. At times, this personal obligation goes above and beyond the obligation of others to disclose information about him.
- When a similar deficiency is found in the other party as well, one may not be required to reveal the information.
Now we will proceed to discuss further details of offering information (which is not in response to a question).
Infractions from One’s Youth
Suppose that one is aware of a severe infraction that an individual committed when he was younger. However, he has since changed his ways, or at least, there have been no negative rumors about him for a significant amount of time. In such a case, a halachic authority must be consulted to determine if he should reveal the information, as there are a number of factors to take into consideration to verify with confidence that he will not repeat his former actions.
Regarding Commonly Asked Questions
There are certain investigations which are commonly done by one looking into shidduchim. If one was not asked, he generally may not offer information about those deficiencies which people frequently inquire about. If the other party was really interested in such information, they would have looked into it themselves. Their failure to do so indicates that it is not important to them. The exact standards of which investigations are commonplace may vary from community to community. Therefore, one would have to determine the community standards which the individual subscribes to before deciding if they should reveal the information.
Having taken the above into consideration, there are situations in which the information would be significant to the other party, and the lack of proactive research is due to naivety, or lack of familiarity with the shidduch system. In this situation, it may be permitted to reveal the information. A halachic authority should be consulted.
There are individuals with deficiencies that are readily apparent, such as a lisp, a limp, or certain deficiencies in social skills. These deficiencies should not be related. They will become apparent to the other party in any case, and mentioning them serves only to draw one’s focus to them, which will not serve a constructive purpose.
However, there are some cases where even these apparent deficiencies should be revealed. This is when it is probable (in one’s estimation) that the other party would never consider a candidate with such a deficiency. In such a case, it would be a great waste of time, energy, and other resources for the party to research the individual, only to discover on the first date that the entire prospect was untenable. Thus, one may inform that party about the deficiency in such a case.
Alternatively, there are times when one would be able to accept a certain deficiency if told about it in advance. However, if it comes as a surprise, he may be “turned off ” by it. In such a situation, one may also reveal the deficiency to the other party in advance. A halachic authority must be consulted to determine if and when the deficiency should be related.
Adhering to the Conditions
Whenever divulging information, one must be certain to adhere to the general conditions of saying Loshon Hora for a constructive purpose. There are seven conditions which are discussed by the Chofetz Chaim at length. The following are the conditions which are most relevant in our discussion:
1) He must verify that the information is true. If he only knows it secondhand, he must make it clear that he does not know the information firsthand.
2) The information must be presented as is, without any exaggeration.
3) The speaker must intend to speak for a constructive purpose, and not out of hatred for the subject of the information. Included in this caveat is a requirement to assess that a constructive purpose will come from his words. If it is very likely that the listener will not take his words into consideration, it is forbidden to reveal the information.
In the upcoming article, we will complete our discussion of these halachos, before proceeding to discuss the guidelines for information which may only be related as a response to a question.