I have never canceled my subscription to the New York Times because I am of the belief that you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I also find it interesting to hear differing positions. I generally peruse the entire newspaper but only read the articles and columns that I find relevant.

The New York Times Magazine section runs a weekly column entitled The Ethicist which occasionally piques my interest. On July 5th an Orthodox Jewish woman’s dilemma was addressed in the question to Randy Cohen, the author of this column. The questioner had been dating a man she was getting to like but he was quite evasive about his past. After some serious research she “discovered that he is a female-to-male transgendered individual.” At that point she ended her relationship with him. As a member of an Orthodox community she sought the columns advice regarding how to handle the information she had about this man but her one real question was, “Should I urge our rabbi to out this person?”

The columnist responded “you have every right to talk this over with friends. We are entitled to discuss the most intimate aspects of our own lives — or what are friends for? But you may not distribute handbills around the neighborhood or ask your rabbi to announce this from the pulpit.”  Seems like a fair response, but when it comes to people, their social, communal and religious beliefs and needs there is no simple, fair response for several complex reasons.

A careful reading of the Chofetz Chaim suggests that it is not only proper to convey certain information in dating situations but it may be required in certain specific instances. In the Makor Hacahaim (6,7) the Chofetz Chaim indicates that if it is known that there are hidden but major shortcomings to a possible groom that there is no issur (law against) of rechilus, which is the prohibition of carrying tales that are true, to divulging that information and protecting someone from finding it out too late.

Of course, the Chofetz Chaim is quick to point out the ways that it is acceptable to convey the information and determining the truth even before speaking it. But, there may be no reason to speak about these types of issues with friends unless they may be dating the same individual. On this ground alone The Ethicist’s approach is seemingly different. He indicates that it is fair to speak about the topic with friends but not with someone who will announce it to the community. But, this may just be what the Chofetz Chaim implies as well. Telling a friend, a natural reaction when needing someone to share emotional pain with, may not be always allowed because of the laws of lashon hora, but telling a friend who may ultimately consider dating this person surely is allowed.

There is also the issue of telling the Rabbi. The questioner wanted to know if it is okay to tell her Rabbi “to out this person.”  The Ethicist says no. But he does not say that it is wrong simply to tell her Rabbi. My question though is what will the Rabbi do with the information?  If the Rabbi is in a position to inform people and protect them from going out with someone that is anathema for them then it is likely that he should know and tell. What happens when the Rabbi is properly informed but does not tell?

In our rush to see young people get married we tend to overlook many significant issues. I am, of course, not speaking about ignoring the inconsequential items such as table cloth color or which pre-school someone attended.

I am personally aware of instances when people who were in the know didn’t divulge very pertinent information such as whether a potential mate had a history of being abusive, or was a homosexual or had been hospitalized for a major physical or psychological illness or was a transgendered person.

In those instances which I have been involved, and they are not few, I have always asked those who knew relevant information but did not divulge why they did not properly reveal their insight. Matchmakers, Rabbis and others have inevitably responded in one of three ways. The most common response is that they did not want to “farshter the shidduch”. This excuse of not derailing the match is perhaps the most ludicrous of the three because if the information had been divulged in advance there never would have been a match to derail and the relationship would not have ended in pain or even divorce.

Some others have responded that they would never give any information out because it is lashon hora. As we have seen this excuse does not fit and may indicate a poor working knowledge of the Halacha too because even the Chofetz Chaim indicates information of this nature should be supplied. Surprisingly, I have been told this excuse not just by matchmakers but Rabbis as well.

The third most common response is “It’s not my place”. I have never understood this reaction. If someone is dating a person who has a major flaw and they ask you if you know the person and if that individual is hiding something, and you don’t tell, that is, simply stated, lying.

 There are ways to say things and not every tidbit of information should be discussed but withholding important knowledge that may prevent two people and their families from being hurt may actually serve to be an accessory to the act of causing pain. It is time we got past the irrelevant issues and when they exist, discuss the more significant ones. Too many young people are being hurt.

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