By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5tjt.com
Rav Shlomo Bloch zt”l (1886-1976) was one of the foremost students of the Chofetz Chaim and a student of the Klem Yeshiva as well. After his move to Eretz Yisroel in 1925, he became known as one of the tzaddikim of Yerushalayim and his brachos were sought after by thousands.
Rav Bloch once suggested a shidduch to a young Talmid Chochom. The young woman was a yesomah – an orphaned girl. Because of this, no one wanted to marry her. The Torah tells us to look out for orphans. In order to make the shidduch more appealing, Rav Bloch told the young man that the girl was mishpacha of the Chofetz Chaim.
[As an aside, the photograph of the Chofetz Chaim of which many doubted its authenticity – is in fact the Chofetz Chaim. The proof is that this author saw the picture in a first edition of the Chofetz Chaim’s son’s biography of his father printed in his lifetime.”]
The young man apparently did not believe Rav Bloch and asked the Chofetz Chaim himself whether he was related to the orphaned girl. The Chofetz Chaim responded that, in fact, he was related. The story is cited in “Titain Emes L’Yaakov” 5:35.
The question is, how could the Chofetz Chaim have “stretched the truth” so to speak?
One answer is that teh Chofetz Chaim decided from that point on to take her on as his own family member.
It is likely that the Chofetz Chaim relied upon the words of Rashi in his first explanation of a fascinating Gemorah in Bava Basra (16a).
There is a pasuk in Iyov 29:13 that is cited in the Gemorah which states:
“The blessing of the lost one would come upon me, and I would make the widow’s heart sing for joy.” – this pasuk teaches that any place where there was a widow of which no one would marry, he [Iyov] would go and place his name on her, and they would come and marry her [on this account]. Rashi explains, “He would say that she was his relative or he would speak about her to marry her off.”
One could, of course, ask why this apparent Gneivas Daas would be permitted. One possibility is that it is going according to the opinion that Iyov was of the umos haOlam and that he was not commanded in the prohibition. The Yad Ramah is cited as answering in this manner on the behavior of Iyov. The Chofetz Chaim probably rejected this view.
It is likely that both Rav Bloch and the Chofetz Chaim felt that there would be no difference between a widow and an orphaned girl, as the pasuk itself equates the two. It is also likely that they felt that either:
1] Rashi is presenting one pshat and not two as to what Iyov did and he performed both depending upon the circumstances of the widow
2] the first pshat in the Rashi is l’halacha.
And yet we are still left with the question about the Gneivas Daas. It is possible that it is subsumed under the concept of “Anochi. Aisav bechorcha.” Since we are all related to each other – it may be permitted to stretch the truth, but only for an orphan or an almanah.
LYING ABOUT AGE
All of this brings up the question about whether it is permitted for a Shadchan to stretch the truth about the age of either the man or the woman. Rav Elyashiv is quoted by the author of Titain Emes L’Yaakov as only permitting a slight adjustment in age – of one year. Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l was known to permit an adjustment of two years. Interestingly enough, the Chazon Ish cited a Gemorah in Menachos 109b proving that one may adjust an age to up to two and a half years.
Shimon HaTzaddik was about to die and he appointed his son Chonyo to take his place as Kohen Gadol. His older brother Shimi, who was two and a half years older than him, was jealous and planned an elaborate method whereby the other Kohanim would do away with Chonyo. The Chazon Ish asks why it was important for the Gemorah to point out that Shimi was two and a half years older than Chonyo. Would it not have been sufficient to have just said that he was two years older? He answered that the jealousy was caused by the fact that he was recognizably older. Two years is not a sybstantial enough difference. The Chazon ish derived from this Gemorah that one can “adjust an age” up to 36 months.
WITHHOLDING MEDICAL INFORMATION
A young woman had some extra heart tissue which caused an irregular heartbeat. She had ablation surgery, but she is fine now. Do her parents have to disclose the surgery?
Another young woman is deaf in one ear. Must her parents disclose?
A third young lady has alternating esotropia – she can only see out of one eye at a time. She had Strabismus surgery but it did not allow for fusing of her eyesight. Must this be disclosed?
A young man was the product of an intermarriage – his father was a gentile. He is also an accomplished Talmid Chochom. Must his situation be revealed?
If disclosure is halachically required, what is the time element? Should it be done before the first date? Also, do they tell the Shadchan, the parents, or just the guy?
IS SHIDDUCHIM BETTER OR WORSE THAN SALES?
In regard to the sale of an item, the halacha is quite clear. All negative information must be disclosed when selling an item if most people would consider it a possible deal-breaker. Does the same hold true for shidduchim?
The Steipler Gaon zt”l, father of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, in his Sefer Kehilas Yaakov on Yevamos (Siman 44) writes that Shidduchim are different than sales of items. The sages were more lenient in order to allow people to get married. He cites a Gemorah in Yevamos where Rabbi Yehudah advises someone to go to a different town where they do not know his lineage and marry there. The Steipler does add that one should not rely on this halacha l’maaseh.
There are some complications with the proof because both townspeople erroneously believed that having a gentile father created a mamzeirus illegitimacy, when, in fact, it does not.
Regardless, the Chsam Sofer cites this Gemorah (Responsa EH Vol. II #125) as a proof that one can temporarily suppress information in order to fulfill the Mitzvah of Pru u’rvu. The indication of the Kehilas Yaakov is that the information can be obscured indefinitely.
Rav Malkiel Tanenbaum zt”l (1847-1910) author of the Divrei Malkiel (Volume III #90) (1847-1910), holds a position diametrically opposed to that of the Steipler. The Divrei Malkiel holds that even if the majority of people would not care about the information – one must be concerned that the potential shidduch is from the minority of people that would be concerned.
IF PEOPLE GENERALLY ASK
The Steipler has another qualification. He states that according to Tosfos (Chullin 94a “Inhu”) if it is an issue that is generally inquired about – then there is no obligation to reveal. However, if it is something that people do not generally inquire about then one would be obligated to reveal. Matter relating to yichus (genealogy) are generally looked into. It would seem that health issues are also inquired of rather regularly.
SO WHO DO WE RULE LIKE?
Clearly, there are matters that should definitely be revealed. Dayan Yitzchak Weiss, zt’l, the rav of the Eida Chareidis in Yerushalayim, in his Minchas Yitzchak (7:93) cites the Sefer Chassidim (#507) regarding an issue having to do with safrus. The Sefer Chassidim writes that a person needing to get married should not cover up a serious malady among his household that, if it were to be revealed, would cause the other party to not marry them. Dayan Weiss cites this Sefer Chasidim as authoritative, and it would seem that this is an obligation—not merely good advice.
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l writes (Igros Moshe E.H. IV 73:2) that a 25-year-old young man who has Marfan syndrome is obligated to reveal it to his future spouse. Rav Shmuel Vosner (Sheivet HaLevi Volume VI #205) indicates the same position in a responsum concerning a single girl suffering from a dermatological disorder where she had lost all her hair and wears a sheitel. Rav Waldenberg, the Tzitz Eliezer (Vol. XIII #81:2), writes that a doctor has an obligation to reveal information that will do damage to another party, notwithstanding issues of professional obligations of confidentiality.
Rav Elyashiv (Kovetz Teshuvos Vol. I #159) zt”l rules in one case that even if the information of improper pre-marital activity would never be known otherwise, there is still an obligation to reveal it. In regard to other matters, however, the debate between the Divrei Malkiel and the Steipler has not been fully resolved. Anyone with this question must consult with his own Posaik or qualified Rav.
It is this author’s experience, however, that it is always a good idea to be as forthcoming as possible, and rather have bitachon that one’s bashert will eventually come along.
GOOD ADVICE OR OBLIGATION?
The Sefer Chassidim, as a general rule, often discusses matters beyond halacha. It may therefore be possible to view the Sefer Chassidim quoted above by Dayan Weiss as merely good advice, but the manner in which Rav Moshe, Rav Waldenberg, and Rav Vosner discuss the obligation seems to indicate that the issue lies beyond mere good advice, but is a full blown obligation.
From where, then would this obligation stem? There may actually be four or more mitzvos involved here:
- Ve’ahavta lerei’acha kamocha. Love thy neighbor as thyself;
- Lo sa’amod al dam rei’acha. Do not stand idly by thy brother’s blood;
- Hashavas aveidah. Returning a lost item to its owner. This can be found in the Pischei Teshuvah in Orech Chaim (Chapter 156);
- Lo sonu ish es amiso. Do not cause anguish to another, as mentioned in the responsa of Rabbi Feinstein.
Rav Yitzchok Steinberg, in the sefer Bracha L’Avraham (p.345), points out that when one does reveal this information, one must adhere to all of the five conditions set forth in Sefer Chofetz Chaim (Volume II Klal 9). This, of course, is a biblical imperative. Rav Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer Vol. XVI #4:1) points out that there is a strong obligation to warn a woman about a man who is dating her and planning not to reveal information. The Tzitz Eliezer indicates that the obligation exists even if it is not a life-threatening illness.
When information must be revealed, the Poskim have ruled that it need not be disclosed before the first date or even after the first date. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe OC Vol. IV #118) rules that a certain type of negative information need not be revealed on the first date, and only must be revealed when he has shown indications that he wishes to marry her.
Other Poskim have stated that one can withhold the information until the third or the fourth date, depending upon how far things have progressed. As discussed above, however, each person should consult with his or her own Posaik or Rav. Articles and books should not be relied upon for such sensitive matters.
NOT TELLING THE SHADCHAN
Rav Dovid Cohen Shlita once told this author that where the situation warrants that sensitive or negative information be disclosed – it should never be disclosed to the Shadchan. Once the Shadchan knows – the information gets out quickly and a shidduch is much more difficult, near impossible, to be made.
OUR FIRST FOUR QUESTIONS
The question about the young woman who was deaf in one ear was posed to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l. He responded that it need not be disclosed, and he added that he himself was deaf in one ear and only became aware of it several years after he got married. The alternating esotropia would have the same status. As far as the heart ablation, Poskim in Eretz Yisroel [Rav Vosner zt”l and Rav Nissin Karelitz] ruled that the information does not need to be disclosed if the young lady is not taking medication. If medication is being taken, however, it needs to be revealed. Regarding the young man whose father was a gentile, this should be revealed as well, but after the third or fourth date.
IF INFO WAS SUPPRESSED AND THE MARRIAGE WENT FORWARD
But if it was not revealed, does it invalidate the original marriage? The Shulchan Aruch (EH 39:5) rules that the situation is one of doubt. This ruling is based upon a debate among the Rishonim as to how to understand the relevant Talmudic passage.
The Chazon Ish (OC 56:9) rules that invalidating the original marriage is based upon the reaction of the spouse after the underlying problem is revealed. If it is a huge medical problem, the Beis HaLevi (Vol. III #4:2) puts forth an argument that no get is required at all. It must also be pointed out that the Chelkas Mechokek (E.H. 39:9) writes that if the other spouse was quiet when he or she first found out and only protested later, the marriage is completely valid.
What should the spouse do after he or she finds out that the other side had hidden the medical information? This author would like to suggest that the spouse should accept what has happened, live with the illness, and not seek out a divorce. This seems to be the unspoken thinking of none other than the great Chofetz Chaim himself. How so? In the Be’er Mayim Chaim (Klal 9, footnote 5) the Chofetz Chaim distinguishes between before the marriage and after the marriage regarding the obligation to reveal. What happened to the Torah obligation of not standing idly by the person’s blood? Why is it different now—just because the person happens to be married? The answer must be that if the person chooses to live with the issue, a highly likely possibility, then there no longer is an issue of “standing idly by a person’s blood.”
WHEN CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED
If the couple has children, then there is even more reason not to arrange for a divorce. Notwithstanding the growing divorce rate, there is no question that divorces adversely impact children and every effort should be made to remain together in a state of harmony. There is, of course, no question that the spouse has wronged the other person, and should make it up to them. But the idea of divorce should only be the last possible resort.
The author can be reached at [email protected]