“And he took the gold rings and bracelets and placed them on her nose and hands. Then he asked, ‘Whose daughter are you?'” (Bereshith 24:22- 3)
“I [Eliezer] questioned her and asked, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She replied, ‘I am a daughter of Bethuel son of Nachor, whom Milkah bore to him.’ I then placed a ring on her nose and bracelets on her arm.” (Bereshith 24:47)
When Eliezer related the story to Rivka’s family of how he had met Rivka, he reversed the order of events, telling them that he had questioned her first, when in fact he first gave her gifts and only afterwards questioned her. At the well, Eliezer had felt no need to question Rivka; his faith in God was so strong and secure that he knew beyond doubt that God had sent him Yitzchak’s intended wife. Yet he also knew that Lavan and Bethuel were evil by nature, and would be suspicious of his actions. He therefore related the events out of order when he spoke with them, so that they would not be able to catch him in his own words, demanding to know, “How could you have given Rivka anything when you didn’t even know who she was?!” (1)
Because helping someone find a shidduch (match) is an extremely sensitive task, situations often arise in which it is important that a shadchan (matchmaker) refrain from telling the “whole truth.” When Eyov (Job) would meet a widow who was having a difficult time arranging a match for herself, he would tell people that she was related to him so that, with her newly established yichuth (genealogy), she would more easily be able to find a husband (2). Rav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld once told a woman that she was allowed to claim that a certain orphan was his relative, relying on the fact that all Jewish people are related (3).
This is not to imply that a shadchan has carte blanche to deviate from the truth in any convenient way. “Stretching the truth” for the sake of a shidduch is permitted only under certain conditions, and the shadchan must be extremely careful, deviating from the truth only when absolutely necessary for both individuals’ benefit (4). When major problems such as diseases are under discussion, it is absolutely forbidden to lie (5). If a third party is questioned about a prospective shidduch, that person may provide the information requested, even if it will adversely affect the shidduch, so long as he abides by the halachoth that apply to relating derogatory information (6).
The question of whether one is allowed to lie about one’s age when shidduchim are concerned comes up quite often. There is no standard answer to this question, for many complex factors may be involved, and each case must be judged individually. In many societies, for example, after a person reaches a certain age, it is assumed that when relating one’s age a certain number of years have been subtracted. In such a case, relating one’s actual age may in fact amount to deception (7). Thus the rule regarding all such questions is that one must consult a competent halachic authority in every case.
1. Rashi on Bereshith 24:47.
2. Bava Bathra 16a.
3. Torah Lives p. 170.
4. It has become so commonplace for some shadchanim to go overboard in misrepresenting the truth that some commentators have explained that the word Shadchan is an acronym for “Sheker diber; cesef notel – Speaks Falsehood; Takes Money.” It is wrong to suggest a shidduch if there is no reason to believe that their meeting could result in an engagement.
5. Minchath Yitzchak 3:116. However, depending on the circumstances, one may not be required to disclose this information immediately. A halachic authority should be consulted in every case.
6. As cited in Sefer Chofetz Chaim, Hilchos Rechiluth 9:2.
7. Heard from Rav Yitzchak Berkowitz.
Text Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org