Monday, February 23, 2009

The Tongue Conclusion

Even when asking a teacher, principal or Rav subjective research questions, one should be careful to be on the same page. Which means you understand his "measuring scale" so that when s/he answers a question,"s/he is very chassidish" you know just what level of "chassidish" s/he means, and if not refine your question and ask clarification.

A Rov or principal who deals with such evaluations often will be able to give a proper answer. A regular person should not be asked such subjective questions.

A caveat: If one is asking a teacher or a Rov that taught the boy or girl in high school, (or even more who taught him in elementary) a number of years have passed, and what the growing the boy or girl has done in the intervening years may have literally made a different person out of them. What we hear may not be applicable anymore. The subject of our question may have matured beyond recognition, and what we hear would not apply anymore. So try to get information from people that know the subject now and not years earlier. SAme applies when giving manes for references, give people who know your bocher or maidel now and not 5 years ago.

Let us keep in mind as well that the period between High School and looking for a shidduch is a period of major change in a person’s life. So if the information you are hearing is from a numbers of years back, keep an open mind.

This also applies if the person is out of seminary 3 or more years. Information from a Seminary teacher may only reflect part of the personality of the person at this time. After all we all work on ourselves to improve.

Regarding objective questions of dubious value such as, “Did the boy/girl get straight A’s on their report card? One can simply say I do not know, because such a question has no relation to the present situation or to the character of the person.

I have heard of a lot of questions of no value being asked, such as if the family uses color or white tablecloths for Shabbos, uses plastic on the table, or if they scrape or stack the dishes. Not to excuse these questions, because they do not have real merit, but a possible explanation as to how they came about is this: “Traditional” families would use white tablecloths on Shabbos and Yom Tov. More "modern" ones might have used colored ones. Maybe, a mother felt that asking about the tablecloth would tell her the level of "tradition" in the family without having to ask outright. Similarly, when asking whether someone scrapes the plates or stacks them. It is more polite to take away the plates without either stacking or scraping. The next level is to stack the plates and take them to the kitchen. The third option is to scrape the plates at the table which is not polite at all. So again, a mother might have wanted to know how “well mannered” the family is with such a question. I cannot say whether these questions ever had a place in gathering information in a more genteel past. They do not seem relevant nowadays.

There is a difficult situation when someone knows of a condition that the other party was not told of, such as a physical or mental condition or previous marital status or the like. If one knows of a shidduch where such information has been withheld and s/he knows the information is true first hand (or if second hand the information has been verified), then s/he should definitely ask a Rov if they should tell the interested party of this condition. Not every condition has to be disclosed at the beginning when the families are doing research, and although some have to be disclosed before they meet, still others do not have to be disclosed until the engagement or at all. Only a Rov can distinguish which conditions should be revealed and which not.

Even in the case a Rov considers the information must be revealed, the information may only be relayed when

  1. the condition is serious,
  2. one is not exaggerating the condition,
  3. and there is a reasonable chance that the information will be accepted and acted upon. If it is likely to be ignored, it is prohibited to be relayed.
Before going ahead, though, it is advisable to ask a Rov whether this piece of information falls into this category and whether it is permissible to offer the information even when one was not asked.

The first step in such a case is, of course, to contact the first party and convince them to share the information with the other party. This way the information will come directly from the person in question. Try to convince the person you are talking to, that it will be much better if they themselves raise the issue rather than having the information come to the other family from a third party, such as yourself. If there is a possibility that the information will be ignored or if the person in possession of this information has ulterior motives for disclosing this information, then s/he is not allowed to disclose this information.

Because of many other issues one should never take upon oneself to make such a decision on one’s own but should always consult with a Rav.