This article is adapted from my sefer, “What Can I Say… Today?”. 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.
Any Relevant Question
When asking for information about a potential shidduch, one may ask anything which he feels may be relevant. One who is researching a potential shidduch does not want to merely find out isolated pieces of information. Rather, he wants to obtain a full picture of the person. In order to obtain this picture, many questions need to be asked. Moreover, there are many times that important information is not conveyed, for a variety of reasons. The more questions that one asks, the greater the possibility that he will get a sense if there is something which is reason for concern.
Similarly, it is permitted to ask the same questions to numerous individuals. Each responder is likely to add more details and different perspectives, which will enhance the understanding of the questioner.
As with all negative information said for To’eles, it is only permitted to listen and to be choshesh (concerned) for what was said. However, it is forbidden to believe it. In a future article, we will elaborate upon the guidelines of the prohibition to believe Loshon Hora.
Explaining Why He is Asking
The one asking must state the reason for his questions. Namely, he should specify that he wishes to know about someone because he is looking into a shidduch. (It is also acceptable to simply say that he is asking for a To’eles, without specifying the specific purpose of Shidduchim.) Were he not to clarify that he is asking for a constructive purpose, the one answering the question may transgress the prohibition of Loshon Hora if he relates negative information. Thus, the questioner is transgressing Lifnei Iver by soliciting the information.
However, there may be times that one feels he will only receive accurate information if he does not reveal the purpose to his questions. Indeed, even those who are generally lax regarding the prohibition of Loshon Hora can become overly concerned about the consequences of their words when they pertain to a shidduch. Many people can choose not to reveal anything at all when facing questions about shidduchim. Thus, one may feel that he must conceal the true reason for his questions in order to obtain information. Still, even in such a case, one is generally required to reveal that he is asking for the purpose of a shidduch. If one feels that it will be absolutely impossible to obtain crucial information without concealing his purpose, a halachic authority should be consulted.
Asking One Who Gives Accurate Information
When inquiring about an individual, one should be certain only to ask someone who will give an accurate answer. Thus, one may not ask someone who is known to dislike the subject of the prospective shidduch. This is because we are concerned that the person’s emotions will not allow him to speak objectively about the subject.
Example: Mrs. Rosenberg is researching a potential shidduch for her daughter. She hears wonderful things about the boy under discussion, but discovers that he has had a broken engagement. Mrs. Rosenberg may not use the fiancé as a source of information, as it is assumed that she will be unable to respond impartially.
Asking Another to do Research
There are times that one would like to ask another to research a potential shidduch for him. If one could have done the research himself, is it permitted to do this? After all, by sending another to do the research, the information will become known to an additional party. Does the dispensation of To’eles allow another party to become aware of the information?
The halacha is that one may only appoint another to do research if the third party can research in a more proficient manner. The same is true if the third party is likely to receive broader or more accurate information due to his relationship with the source of the information. However, it is questionable if one may ask another to do research for him out of convenience. A halachic authority should be consulted.
It should be noted that it is completely permissible for parents to make inquiries on behalf of their children. The parents are considered one of the parties themselves. They are the ones guiding their children through the shidduch process, and they have a major impact on their children’s choice of marriage partner. Indeed, it is the accepted practice that parents research a potential shidduch for their children. However, in the case of an older single or any child whose parents are less involved in the shidduch process (for whatever reason), a halachic authority should be consulted to determine if parents may make inquiries.
When Undecided if Ready for Shidduchim
There are times when one has not yet decided if he is ready to start shidduchim. However, he was told about a woman who is a potential shidduch for him. May he research her in case he will decide that he is ready for shidduchim, and will want to go out with her?
In this case, the halacha is that he may research her provided that there is a significant possibility that he will start shidduchim if the information about her is to his liking good. Indeed, this is usually the case, as one who discovers a unique shidduch opportunity is generally motivated to start shidduchim.
- One may ask any question that he feels is relevant.
- He may ask the same question to multiple individuals to receive a fuller picture of the subject.
- He may only be choshesh (concerned) for any negative information that he hears. He may not believe it.
- When making an inquiry, he must explain that he is asking for a To’eles.
- He should not ask someone who will likely give inaccurate information.
- A third party should not research a shidduch unless they will do a more proficient job.