Moderated by Rachel Stein | firstname.lastname@example.org
Recap: Linda meets up with her friend Jillian, who ecstatically shares that her daughter, Sandy, is engaged. When Linda hears the fiancé’s name, Jakie Abramson, she is tormented by the knowledge that, as a school-age child, Jakie manifested clear symptoms of some type of mental health disorder.
Is Linda obligated to relate what she knows about Jakie? She doesn’t want to dissolve the couple’s future happiness, but she wants to do the right thing.
What If the Tables Were Turned?
Tough dilemma; I feel for you. Perhaps Jakie is a stable young man now, and his unruly history was a passing childish phase. So many youths struggle, and once maturity sets in, they become different people.
But even if Jakie’s condition was not ephemeral, with the right therapeutic interventions, there is a strong possibility that he has conquered the problem and will be a wonderful husband and father. So why should you rock the boat and destroy a young couple’s hopeful dreams?
Imagine for a moment that your child stood on the cusp of engagement. You are brimming with joy and gratitude and share your news with a friend. If this friend were privy to information about the fiancé, wouldn’t you expect her to share it with you?
What kind of friend would withhold information that could have massive repercussions for your child and her entire future?
I’m not saying it’s easy; doing the right thing is often paved with thorns.
Wishing you luck with the confrontation,
Be True to Yourself
Perhaps a little investigation is in order. Put on your detective hat and see whether you can sniff out some more up-to-date information about Jakie. What do his peers say about him now? Does he have a rabbi?
If you hear conclusively good reports, then it would seem that his history is just that — history — and doesn’t need to be shared with Jillian and her daughter, Sandy.
However, if you hear anything disturbing that could adversely affect a marriage and children, it is your obligation as a caring friend to share the information. Would you be able to live with yourself if somewhere down the line Sandy got divorced and you could have prevented the pain?
If there are children, the anguish will have increased exponentially.
The couple might not get divorced, yet they could be suffering from Jakie’s illness behind closed doors. Then, too, the liability would be yours — the blame of a family living in pain that could have been prevented.
Realize that not every person is open to hearing truth. Friendships can be tossed aside, even those that have spanned many years, because of what one party views as hurtful and insensitive remarks. Yet Jillian’s possible reaction should not be your gauge as to how to conduct yourself in this situation. You have to be true to yourself.
Rabbi Judith Klein
Seek Rabbinical Advice
We often think we have to make decisions on our own. Locked within a maze of confusion, how do we know which way to turn?
We were not created alone. We have people, qualified leaders, who are equipped to answer questions when the going gets tough.
I would advise you, as a thinking Jew, to flesh this out with your local rabbi.
A rabbi spends years immersed in Torah learning, imbibing G-d’s wisdom and direction. A sincere rabbi will never think he has studied enough Torah and will continue to spend time plumbing its depths on a daily basis throughout his life. And if a question arises that he doesn’t feel qualified to answer, he will humbly turn it over to an even more qualified sage to guide him in guiding you.
It is to this type of leader that I suggest you pose your dilemma.
As Joseph said to Pharaoh’s courtiers when they were distressed by their confounding dreams, “Do not interpretations belong to G-d? Relate it to me, if you please” (Genesis 40:8).
Rabbi Y. Fishman