Destructive Labeling

The Chofetz Chaim devotes the remainder of his sefer to the topic of shidduchim (marriage matches).

If we were to look at the Torah as a kind of “Manufacturer’s Manual” for how to conduct ourselves in this world in which our Creator has placed us, we would find the power of speech under a chapter entitled “Dangerous Material — Handle with Care.” In no area would this title be more appropriate than in the area of shidduchim. The information which we provide to a party who is considering someone else as a marriage partner for himself or for his child may well determine that person’s decision. Thus, such information may affect the lives of both parties for eternity. The Chofetz Chaim notes that his initial guidelines in this area are so obvious that they should not have to be stated. Nevertheless, he states them, “because of the terrible results which come [from ignoring these guidelines] — and [ignoring them] is perfectly correct to many people. Therefore, I have been forced to explain the great treachery of the baalei loshon hora in this matter. Perhaps through this, Hashem will help to remove some of the intense blindness in this area.”

The Chofetz Chaim has very strong words for those who have the practice of labeling people with derogatory descriptions which have no basis. Labeling is an easy way of showing a complete understanding of someone’s personality when in fact the assessment may be far off the mark.

The Chofetz Chaim offers the example of a young man who is intelligent, but his sincere, innocent nature makes it difficult for him to recognize the shrewd, crafty dealings of others. Or, his spiritual level places him above taking part in the exchange of jokes or verbal fencing which his cynical acquaintances seem to enjoy so much. When an inquiring party seeks information about the young man, they are told, “He’s a nice boy, but not that bright.” Naturally, the party immediately loses interest. Because of this labeling, the young man endures many rejections from potential partners.

The Chofetz Chaim has extremely harsh words for loose-tongued cynics who carelessly offer such false assessments. He applies to them the verse, “May Hashem cut off all lips of smooth talk, the tongue which speaks boastfully” (Tehillim 12:4). The Chofetz Chaim deems these individuals baalei motzi’ei shem ra, those who habitually speak slander, since they give false information about others. They are also guilty of causing others to sin, because they create the impression that to be considered “successful” one needs to demonstrate a quick wit. In fact, those who regularly engage in “quick-witted” conversation often are guilty of transgressing the laws of shmiras haloshon (guarding one’s tongue).

The best way to deal with such people, says the Chofetz Chaim, is to stay far away from them.

This segment concludes with the Chofetz Chaim cautioning us that when asked information concerning a shidduch, we are not to offer negative information about the party’s ancestors. What is important is the person, not his or her family tree.

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© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation

© 2020 Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation