Many people have been hurt in the past, and are being hurt every
day, by lashon hara. This is especially the case when
it comes to giving out information relevant to shidduchim.
Sometimes a person suppresses particulars that he is obligated to
pass on according to the halacha, because be imagines
that he is not allowed to speak. Other times, all kinds of
intimate details are handed out "for shidduch
purposes," when actually passing on this information is
We must be sensitive to the power we wield when conveying
shidduch information. Our words could easily cause
the shidduch to be abandoned. Alternatively, withholding
crucial details could result in a shidduch going
through that will only bring pain and trouble to the innocent.
We may be called on at any moment to divulge information about
an individual or family when a shidduch is being considered.
Therefore we are obligated to familiarize ourselves with the
halachos of what we may and may not say, and also of how
to provide the necessary details, or to obtain them for ourselves.
Finally, we need to know when to speak: what is permissible to relay
in the early stages of a shidduch may not be permissible
to say later on, or may require a shaila to the rav.
Guide for the נשאל (One Replying)
- Before answering, find out where the two sides are holding: before, in the middle, or
after settling the shidduch; each stage must be handled differently and rabbinical guidance is needed as to how to give
over the relevant information.
- Before replying, verify:
- That the information is beneficial - לתועלת,
i.e., that is, the information must be relevant and important to the decision being made the shidduchim.
It is ossur to give irrelevant information or to reply to people asking out of curiosity.1
- If your information can still influence the decision of either side. If the
shidduchim is going to be made regardless of what you say, then it's lashon hara to
mention anything negative, since this will cause harm by putting the young person in a negative light.2
- If you think that they are not a match and your opinion will be accepted without
mentioning any derogatory information (גנות), e.g., by saying, "This
shidduchim isn't for you," or "There's a personality clash," then you are prohibited to
mention any details. However, if you must elaborate, say the minimal information necessary to stop the
shidduchim. Be careful not to exaggerate. If you are aware of any זכות (merit),
you must mention it.3
- If the נשאל's information is second-hand, it cannot be
presented as something certain, since it could be a false rumor. Rather he must say, "This is only something that
I heard about Ploni but all the same, be careful just in case it's true." When the information is
uncertain, it is a mitzvah, but not obligatory, to give it.4
- It is ossur to mention any derogatory information -
גנות - if it results in damaging the person, e.g., others will treat him badly, or he will get
a bad name. Similarly, one must not give such information to a gossiper
because he will spread the גנות unnecessarily, or repeat it to the person
- If you are asked details about one's appearance, height weight, etc., it is
mutar to say anything they could see for themselves. This is no worse than showing a photograph.
However, be careful not to exaggerate your description, e.g., "fat" "ugly". (Sometimes
you may think that a person is overweight while others may view him as "solidly built"). Regarding
personality traits, be careful not to give a negative description which can be interpreted as a fault - חסרון,
e.g., if a person is naive, don't say he/she is an idiot or fool. If he is quiet, don't describe him as depressed or
- Answer questions based on who is asking them, and what they are looking for. If
you're asked whether a boy is a talmid chacham, to another talmid chacham this would mean
the boy is a genius or a potential rosh yeshiva, while to an average person it might mean merely that
the boy learns and is knowledgeable in Torah.7 If possible, it is best to ask the שואל
specifically what sort of person he is looking for.
- You don't have to answer questions regarding Torah knowledge because the inquirers
could verify this through th boy's Rebbeiyim. However, if a wide gap exists between the שואל's
request and the reality, e.g., the girl's side is looking for a genius and the boy is average, it must be mentioned.
- Be careful when answering about a person's emotional and physical health. You could ruin
a person for life because of a passing or non-genetic health condition. If any health condition exists in the family, a rav
should be consulted to decide how and when it should be mentioned. Caution! Since exaggeration is also common in this
area, don't dramatize the situation.
- Think before replying! Weigh your words carefully, and don't blurt out the first thoughts
that enter your head. An added word of exaggeration can convert something mutar to lashon hara8
besides the irreparable damage you might do to a fellow Jew by a simple slip of the tongue.
The rule is: be careful what you say, how you say it and to whom you say it.
Guide for the שואל (One Asking)
- The שואל must inform the נשאל
that he is inquiring for shidduch purposes, and ask questions regarding the shidduch
- If the שואל knows that the information will not affect his
decision, i.e., even if he hears anything derogatory they will still pursue the shidduch, then he not permitted
- The שואל is prohibited to believe anything derogatory said
about the person in question, even if he can't find any זכות (merit). He may only suspect
(be חושש) that the information may be true for the sake of
self-protection.12 (Nevertheless13, try to find a זכות.)
- You should avoid using a third party if the information can be obtained directly.14
(This also depends on the difficulty involved).
- When the שואל gives over any derogatory details
(דברי גנאי), he must be careful to say it in an uncertain manner, e.g., "I heard something derogatory about Ploni,
but don't take it as a fact since it may not be true."15 He should also not mention his source of
information, e.g., "Yaakov said this about Ploni." This could be rechilus and result in causing harm
- It is ossur to ask someone who has any enmity towards the person you are
inquiring about.17 (Under certain strict conditions, this is permitted if there is no other way to obtain the
information. In this case, a rav should be consulted).
- It is mutar to ask about personal appearance. However, the
נשאל should be cautioned to state facts and not his opinion of how the young person looks
(See #7 of נשאל).
- Once the shidduch is finalized, it is prohibited to hear or say anything
derogatory about the boy or girl, especially if it can break off the shidduch. If something serious has been discovered,
e.g., health condition or serious character flaw, a rav should be consulted.18
סוף דבר – In conclusion:
Until you clarify beyond any doubt that a statement isn't lashon hara, assume that it is
(ספק דאורייתא). Many people are faced
with a dilemma: To tell or not to tell? Whatever is lashon hara is ossur to mention. Whatever is
beneficial (לתועלת) is not only mutar but a חיוב,
an obligation, to tell. A person withholding this information transgresses the לאו of
לא תעמוד על דם רער
(You shall not stand aside while your fellow's blood is shed).19 However, in between the ossur and
the mutar lies a large gray area, so just as you wouldn't pasken complicated shaila in
hilchos Shabbos or kashrus, certainly don't decide without consulting a rav.
Our goal is, that shidduchim, which by all accounts ought to proceed smoothly, should not terminate solely because we
spoke lashon hara, while ill-fated shidduchim should not be allowed to continue because we
remained silent when we were obligated to speak up.
Condensed from an article in מרפא לשון Torah Journal, vol. 3,
and a lecture by Rav Moshe M. Lowy of Toronto.
To be added later.