Keeping Mental Illness A Secret In Shidduchim – A Halachic Analysis

(By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for the Five Towns Jewish Times) It is an issue that drew lots of attention in a very recent YWN Coffee Room discussion. The question posed by a certain “David111” was: Why do many people think that it’s right to marry off a child that has mental illness without revealing this before a Shidduch? David111 went on to write: “It should be the duty of parents to reveal this before ruining someone else’s life.” The issue has numerous associated questions with it. Is one halachically obligated to tell a future spouse of mental illness? From where would such an obligation stem? Shouldn’t we be concerned about our own children first? If there is an obligation, when must the other party be informed? What type of psychiatric condition falls under this “obligation?” If there is an obligation to tell – whose obligation is it? Is it primarily on the person dating, the parents, siblings, or anyone who knows? And what if it is an undiagnosed disorder? Comments in that discussion suggested that people specifically do not get a diagnosis in order to avoid any obligation to say anything. Another issue brought up was Borderline Personality Disorder. BPD is a long-term pattern of abnormal behavior characterized by unstable relationships with other people, an unstable sense of self, and unstable emotions. Statistics cited in journals show that 1.6 percent of the population suffers from it. WHAT THE POSKIM HAVE WRITTEN Dayan Yitzchak Weiss zatzal, in his Minchas Yitzchok (7:93) cites the Sefer Chassidim (#507) regarding the general issue. The Sefer Chassidim writes that a person should not cover up a serious malady among his household if they need to get married, and if it were to be revealed the other party would not marry them. The question is whether this Sefer Chassidim is discussing a halachic obligation or merely giving good advice. Dayan Weiss cites this Sefer Chasidim as authoritative, and it would seem that this is an obligation – not merely good advice. Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal as well rules that there is an obligation to reveal negative information prior to getting serious in a relationship (See Igros Moshe OC IV #118). He further writes (Igros Moshe EH IV 73:2) that a 25 year old young man who has Marfan Syndrome is also obligated to reveal it to his future spouse. Rav Shmuel Vosner zt”l (Shaivet HaLevi Volume VI #205) indicates the same position in a responsa concerning a single girl suffering from a dermatological disorder where she lost all her hair and wears a sheitel (alopecia?). This would certainly seem to apply to mental illness as well. Rav Eliezer Yehuda Waldenberg in his Tzitz Eliezer (Vol. XIII #81:2) writes that a doctor has an obligation to reveal information that will do damage another party, notwithstanding issues of professional obligations of confidentiality. Rav Waldenberg (Tzitz Eliezer Vol. XVI #4:1) points out that there is a strong obligation to warn a girl about a man who is dating her and planning not to reveal it. It may be theoretically possible to view the aforementioned Sefer Chassidim as merely good advice, but the manner in which Rav Moshe , Rav Waldenberg, and Rav Vosner discuss the obligation seems to indicate that the issue lies beyond mere good advice. UNDIAGNOSED What … Continue reading Keeping Mental Illness A Secret In Shidduchim – A Halachic Analysis