Jewish Ethicist is a weekly column produced by the JCT Center for
Business Ethics in cooperation with Aish.com. In each edition,
Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir answers questions related to everyday
business and work dilemmas.
Is it ethical to lie about someone's age for the purpose of dating?
Q. A single friend of mine who is 48 or 49 would like to marry a woman in
her 30's, so he pretends to be 40. He has asked me to confirm that he is 40
if I am asked. Is what my friend doing alright? Should I play along? SW
A. This is a common question. Marriage and integrity are both paramount
values in Judaism, and so our tradition has detailed criteria for combining
the two in guidelines for "disclosure in dating."
There are two basic rules of integrity in selling merchandise:
1. A common deficiency which many people don't mind doesn't need to be disclosed, but it may not be deceitfully hidden.
2. A true defect must be honestly disclosed to the purchaser even if he doesn't ask.
The same basic principle applies in dating. A man in an academic milieu doesn't have to tell prospective dates that he has only a tenth-grade
education, though he shouldn't go around wearing a college ring. But a person deserves to know if a prospective mate has a serious heart
However, there are two reasons we make a slight modification to account for
the special situation of dating:
Experience shows that many single people are concerned about relatively insignificant things which they consider irrelevant after closer
acquaintance. Example: some men avoid dating women older than themselves,
but once they create a warm relationship, a small age difference is the last
thing on their minds.
Since a person doesn't finally make up his or her mind until the
engagement, it's sometimes better to keep surprises under wraps for a few
dates so that they don't become an obstacle to getting acquainted with each other.
So your friend is allowed to keep the ladies guessing about his age, and if
one calls you up before a first or second date to ask his age, it may be
better to dodge the question. Example: "I never really pay attention to ages."
Maybe after she gets to know him she won't mind his age - after all, chances are she's not getting any younger herself.
But if your friend keeps his secret even after things get serious, you should
re-evaluate the situation. If you suspect that the true age difference may
really be worrisome to his sweetheart, you should consider calling her up
and informing her that your friend is a wonderful and caring person, but that
he is a little bit past forty. (Tell her 1953 was a vintage year.)
A person may never outright lie about the characteristics of a potential
match, such as age. Your friend may not say that he is forty, and if he does
you may not back him up.
I wish your friend the best of luck in finding his "beshert" (destined wife)
in the near future!
SOURCE: These criteria are based on the book "HaNisuin Kehilkhatam," by
Rabbi Binyamin Adler, chapter 3.
Send your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org
Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir
is Research Director of the Center for Business Ethics, Jerusalem
College of Technology. Rabbi Dr. Meir received his PhD in Economics from
MIT, and previously studied at Harvard. He subsequently studied at
various Israeli yeshivot, and received his ordination from the Israeli
Chief Rabbinate. Prior to moving to Israel, he worked at the Council of
Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration. Rabbi Dr. Meir is also a
Senior Lecturer in Economics at the Jerusalem College of Technology and
has published several articles on the subjects of modern business and
economics and Jewish law. He is also the author of Meaning
in Mitzvot, an OU.ORG feature.
The Jewish Ethicist
presents some general principles of Jewish law and ethics. For specific
questions and direct application, please consult a qualified Rabbi.
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