Solely In Black and White: A Burring Question: Loyalties?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Burring Question: Loyalties?

Let us try this again. In continuing with this post, which I was purposely and immensely crypt about the subject matter, there are now more details and facts that I can share with you and I hope that I can now present a clearer picture. For the record the reason the original post was so cryptic and convoluted was because I was worried perhaps one of the parties involved may stumble upon the post. But now that the post is irrelevant entirely, I can proceed with clarifying some details. 

Alright, so here is (was?) the situation. I knew a little secret about a friend of mine. In short: he smokes occasionally. Terrible, I know. ;-) Now I should clarify that. He isn’t a big smoker, but I knew he used to smoke with “boys” once in a while, vis-à-vis (because the French are notorious smokers :-) ) a social thing, not a dire addiction. If I had to guess, or if I were to ask the fellow directly, I am sure I would walk away with the conclusion that he wouldn’t smoke after he got married. Or so I would be lead to believe by his demeanor and personality. Also to confound the issue, this little secret is probably something that his parents probably don’t even know about and it’s probably something only a handful of his friends know about. Okay, we’ll that’s all fine and dandy… that is… until one day someone calls me up and asks me for Shidduch info on this guy. :-/ uh-oh…. :-( 

If you have ever been questioned by a mother in shidduchim, you know one of the primary questions she will ask is: “does he smoke?” and the response to that question is general of significant importance, as it should be. So the question I have, to which I am still very unsure, who should I be loyal to? The mother who is placing her trust in me, and to which I am one the few people who know the truth? Or should I be loyal to my friend who is also placing his trust in me and allow him to answer for his actions himself when the time is right?

Although I specifically used smoking as the primary example in the above scenario because that was the pertinent issue at the time, there are so many others issue that are synonymous. :-/ And don’t for a second think this doesn’t apply to girls either! ;-) Girls have been known to cover for their friends too! The few classic examples include neatness, tznius related issues, and nuanced shabbos observance or lack-there-of…. As an aside, this particular incident is now just a theoretical discussion because the aforementioned shidduch idea never came into fruition. I mean it was never even redt to begin with! But that is beside the point. So the question I present to you, the original question, who was I supposed to be loyal to: The inquisitive mother or my friend? 


  1. While I can't recall the exact halacha, my gut says that your loyalty should be to the emes. If the mother asks whether he smokes, answer how you explained to us: "No, he is not a constant smoker, but yes, he has smoked in the past."

  2. 'does he smoke' can be answered with 'he's not a smoker' and you can rest assured that you have remained neutral...
    the question of loyalties is interesting - what does it mean to be loyal? i'm pretty sure it doesn't mean to "cover for their friends"...

  3. It think you should call/text your friend and tell him that he can use you as a reference but he should know that if that question is asked you are going to tell the truth. That way, he can tell the people who need to know and you don't lose your integrity.

  4. I agree with Yehuda - for your own yishuv hada'as, but I agree with the others as well.

    If there is something as blatant (and uncomplicated to answer) as "does he smoke" then I think it should be answered truthfully. Yes, he has to "answer for his actions himself when the time is right" for certain things that the girl may have heard about and want to address, such as a past negative experience that she was told he had grown because of, or moved on from since it occurred.

    I can think of many examples that would fit this description, but being an active smoker is not one of them.

  5. Smoking is one of those things that for guys are really not black and white. In high school, when it was cool, I smoked socially. In Beis Medrash for my first two years the same. From that point until my wedding, probably less than 2 packs total and since my wedding 6 years ago, nothing. So I would not call myself a smoker, ever. Many guys are the same way and I do not consider these types of people smokers. However, girls and their mother's do not understand this. There is this misconception that all it takes is one cigarette and you are hooked for life. Total nonsense. There is a very real chance that answering the question "yes he once had a cigarette with his friends but doesn't really smoke" will kill the shidduch unnecessarily. Hence, I answer in my estimation truthfully - no he is not a smoker (same with drinking IMO). I don't think girls have a similar issue to this. A girl who does not dress tznius here and there but generally does is not a tzenuah. Same with shabbos. There is no grey there you either keep it or you don't.

  6. @ZZB:
    I disagreed, although I am also unsure of the exact halacha in this particular case. I do recall once hearing from a rav that one can lie about things which won’t affect the marriage but will affect the shidduch. While I could have answered what I had written in the post, I got the vibe from the mother that an answer like that would have killed the shidduch immediately. She sounded very anxious when asking the question.

    @Anonymous 1:
    Face it, many times in life one has to lie. There are even halachas that pertain specifically to this, such as when one is actually obligated to lie! The question is, is this case one of the times where one does need a lie?

    I agree with the way you worded it. That makes senses. Now about loyalty, Why not? Wouldn’t you expect your friends to cover for you? Isn’t that what friends are for? ;-)

    The problem was, I wasn’t this guy’s official reference. I just happened to get a call from someone who knew me and they wanted information on the spot. In the past I have warned friends that I wouldn’t cover for them if someone asked me a direct question, but this was a different situation and required a split second decision.

    @ Shades of Grey:
    Agreed, but how am I going to have yishuv hada'as if I know I wrongfully killed a potential shidduch? ;-)

    @ Anonymous 2:
    I agree with your views on smoking. I don’t think mothers know or care to differentiate how much someone smokes, which is why it is very difficult to tell them the truth. However, I don’t agree that there isn’t a female equivalent. Some tznius and shabbos issues are grey matters, as in some people find it acceptable while some people do not. Also, like smoking tznius and shabbos issues can potential affect the couple or family, but they can also be corrected with some self-introspection.

  7. In that case I think if i got a call out of the blue for someone who didnt have me listed, i would probably say something like "Why are you calling me if I'm not on his list and how did you get my number? Is there something you are trying to prove by talking to someone off the list?"


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