EmunaDating: Loshon Harah and Dating

By: Samantha Hulkower

We've all been there - a friend is about to go out with, or just started going out with someone we happen to know. They ask us - is there anything about this person I should know? And we panic - because maybe we do know something unsavory about them, but we're stuck. How do we know what is appropriate to share, what is halachically required of us, and when something may be unflattering, but doesn't warrant us telling?

The Chofeitz Chayim - Rabbi Speak Nicely, famously said people are quiet when they should speak up and say things when it's not necessary, when it comes to giving information about dating. It's easy to take for granted in today's easily searchable society, that we can get everything we need to know from someone just by googling them, but it's not always that easy. I had a friend who was dating a guy for five months before he finally admitted that he wasn't civilly divorced from his wife (although they had a get). She was distraught that none of his friends had told her sooner. They thought it would be gossiping if they had inquired if she knew. There are many laws of bein adam l'chaveiro - mitzvot between people that are specifically designed to intercede when you see a person is being led astray. 

It's important also to make sure that the information you feel necessary to convey is something that could really be a problem. It's always important to ask yourself - is what I think is a problem really a problem? For example, I am blessed with friends across the spectrum of religious observance - everyone from super haredi to completely secular. An acquaintance of mine who falls more in the haredi camp called me up to suggest a match for me. The guy was interested, and the more she told me about him, the more interested I was. "Sounds great, let's set it up," I told her over the phone. After he had called me to set up the date, I received a frantic call back from my friend. "You can't go out with him!" she explained breathlessly. "What happened, you were the one who suggested him in the first place!""He wants his wife to make hamotzi!" She said it with such anguish, you would have thought he was in favor of lab testing on animals for deforestation in the Amazon. I tried not to laugh, since I knew this was serious to her, "I appreciate your concern, but that's not a reason for me to not go out with him."(Just so you're not left hanging, we went out, had fun, but decided not to pursue it for non-bread related reasons).

So how do you know what is an issue and what isn't? There are three main categories of information:

1. Objectively a problem. Something everyone would agree on. If the person is hiding something like having been divorced or that they have kids - these are things that a person deserves to know in the beginning. Or if a person pretends to be one thing, but you know they really aren't like that. I read recently in the advice column for Slate about a man who dated and married a woman and only after the wedding she revealed she was a deeply religious Christian. The man asked her friends why they didn't say anything to him, knowing he was an atheist. They shrugged, said they thought it was weird, but didn't want to get involved. Torah dictates you can't shrug and not want to get involved in something this big! As Peter Parker said, with great power comes great responsibility.

2. Subjective information. This category are things you don't have to reveal unprompted, but if asked, you need to be honest. For example, if you were the person's roommate and the potential date asked if they were messy or other things that you didn't like living with them - you have to be truthful, although you don't have to volunteer his underwear was always all over the floor. Or if you know her dad gets kind of drunk at family gatherings. Things that don't have to necessarily be deal breakers, but if the person is asking, obviously it is important to them.

3. Personal preferences. Here are things like the bread story above; items that maybe YOU think are important, but for the other person they might not be. Will the potential date really care if the guy thinks Nickelback is the best band in the world? Does it matter that she puts ketchup on everything? These things are more nit picky, and are often told over needlessly, casting a shadow on the other person and potentially ruining a good match.

The point is, be conscientious about what is really a problem. There is actually a phone center in Brooklyn, NY where you can call and ask a rabbi if your concern is halachically an issue. The number is  (718) 951-3696. When in doubt, ask! Here's to only finding out good things about the people we date, and other people only having good things to say about us!

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