By Michelle Mond
Many shidduch articles are loaded with advice and guidance for your typical girl or boy “in the parashah.” Well, all you singles out there can breathe a sigh of relief, because this article is not about more advice for you. Rather, it is aimed at everyone else: the typical neighbor, friend, doctor, coworker, mailman, butcher, uncle’s friend’s neighbor’s cousin—even the parrot!—of a single, dating-age person.
I have noticed that people like to pretend they know more than they actually do when it comes to shidduchim for other people. People like to feel involved. It is coming from a place of trying to help. This need to be involved can sometimes be detrimental. People are asked about someone they barely know, or whom their husband knew 10 years ago. They might respond politely that they’ve heard the girl is phenomenal but since they do not know her well, they can’t answer any detailed questions. However, the first instinct is usually to call other people, who also barely know the girl or guy, and get bits and pieces, put them together, and report back.
Many find this the ideal way of doing shidduch research. Random people around town will give the real scoop about this girl, right? Actually, wrong. Many, many times, such “fishing” just leads to misinformation, people’s personal perceptions, and sometimes, as I have personally seen, outward lies. From my experience of trying to set up many matches per week for the past couple of years, I can testify that I have gotten many “no’s” to going on even a first date because of misinformation heard from “someone.”
Moms, I want to assure you I am not in any way belittling your efforts to research your child’s shidduch prospects. I am not blaming you for believing what you hear; I am saying that you, the parents, need to know who you’re talking to and whether they really know the person you’re asking about. I am asking those who do not know what they’re talking about to be a bit more careful with what they say.
One completely normal, down-to-earth single girl—let’s call her Rochel—got a “no” because a relative of the boy spoke to another single girl in the same office (who did not know Rochel at all). Aside from the fact that this relative didn’t take into account that discussing one single girl’s shidduchim with another single girl is not appropriate, the relative did not even bother to ask if the girl was close with Rochel. She wasn’t. The information this single girl gave to the relative was incredibly inaccurate. When the boy’s mother heard it, she said no. Can we blame her? After all, she believed information she got from a relative.
Another wonderful single girl, “Rivka,” got a “no” from a boy, because the boy called his married friend, whose wife had been in high school with Rivka. Apparently, her thoughts and opinions about Rivka were told to the boy as if she presently knew her well. It was not even serious or bad things that were relayed—mostly opinions about her personality that didn’t jive with the boy. I then found out from Rivka that she and this friend’s wife had not been in contact at all since high school, 10 years earlier. However, the boy stuck to his best friend’s wife’s account of her personality and would not give it a date to see for himself.
Then there is the wonderful boy who had negative things said about him by someone. I know for a fact that these things were absolute lies. Somehow, they started to spread to a few of his shidduch prospects, who then declined to date him. We never discovered who spread those lies, but he is now happily married to a wonderful girl who did not hear any of those rumors. Unfortunately, the prospects who said “no” are still looking for their basherts, hopefully taking things that other people say with a grain of salt.
Another girl I know said no to a boy after a relative told her things about him and his personality. The relative barely knew this boy but felt the need to assure her that he was in no way, shape, or form for her. These two people happened to meet at a friend’s house about a year later and completely hit it off; they are now happily married. The relative’s account was completely inaccurate.
Let’s say you’ve met the boy or girl once or twice and got a wonderful impression, and you want to relay the good things you perceived. Great! Positive impressions are always a nice gesture. After all, it can’t ruin a shidduch to say positive things. You can respond that you got a very warm vibe from the single, and, if you know the family, you can certainly say they are wonderful people, but beyond that you do not know. Then advise the inquirer to call references or the person’s rav.
If you see someone from time to time and barely know her but get the impression that she’s quiet and not very friendly, should you tell that to a person who asks about her personality? Absolutely not. You may think you know this person; in reality, you don’t. It could be she’s in a hurry or isn’t the chatty type while on the go. In a different setting, however, or with close friends, she may be outgoing and lots of fun.
Relaying half-truths or personal perceptions that could be understood as negative about someone you don’t know well could very well play a part in preventing a shidduch from happening at that time. If there truly are negative things about someone which need to be said in order to prevent harm to a boy or girl, they can come out by asking detailed questions of references who know this person and his or her rav. Halachically, they must answer you truthfully, so you will get to know any information that is true and pertinent.
If you know someone well and there are important things you must say, you are not forced to hide this information. On the contrary, you must be open and honest, all according to the guidelines of halachah. If you are unsure how to approach this task in a halachically correct manner, call your rav before calling the person back with the information.
Just keep in mind regarding people you don’t know very well that comments which seem harmless often prevent two wonderful singles who might really be good for each other from ever meeting. My hope in writing this article is to create a broader view on what we all can do to help the singles in our community. It does not take much effort to be honest with people about a shidduch candidate whom we do not really know, and it could potentially save a shidduch. v
This article was previously published in The Jewish Press.
Michelle Mond from Baltimore, MD, is a licensed esthetician by profession, and is currently working as a busy wife and mother. In her extra time she works as a shadchan for young men and women all over the U.S., in addition to writing about shidduch-related topics for local papers.