At Purim it’s customary to give “Purim Torah” – words of Torah with a light-hearted approach but still with a serious message. Here is this year’s Purim version of the Jewish Ethicist.
Q. I’m a corporate lawyer new to the Jewish dating scene. My suggested date gave me a lengthy questionnaire. Am I allowed to bill the time it takes to fill out and deduct it from the cost of dinner?
A.Your situation has become increasingly common in the 21st century dating scene. Let’s examine some of the ethical issues that arise.
First, let’s discuss the questionnaire itself. Jewish dating seems to have followed investing in this respect. In the past, people used to invest in stocks based on personal familiarity with the firm and its product, but now it is more popular to use impersonal “screens” which automatically choose suitable investment candidates. A similar process has been taking place in dating, and it seems to be working – singles who use these exclusive screens are able to find many more prospects, go out with many more dates, and are successful in delaying marriage for much longer.
Privacy issues dictate that the questionnaire shouldn’t include any queries which are not directly relevant to your ability to hit it off with the prospective date, such as: What schools did your relatives attend? Or, Where do you buy your suits? Rather, it should focus on matters which directly relate to your mutual compatibility. Good questions include: Will I personally find you sensitive and caring? Will your sense of humor appeal to me? (Of course you can really learn the answers to these questions only on a date itself, but even so a questionnaire is of obvious value.)
As you are a lawyer, I don’t need to tell you that you should insist that your date sign a non-disclosure agreement regarding the content of the questionnaire.
Charging your date for the time you spend filling out the questionnaire is a very delicate question. According to Jewish law, it would be inappropriate to charge your normal rate for “billable hours” since filling out questionnaires does not require a corporate lawyer. The most ethical solution is to calculate the amount of money people are normally paid to fill out dating questionnaires in the marketplace.
If the questionnaire respondent is a woman, then the same principles apply in reverse. You should demand a more expensive dinner to cover your paperwork expenses.
A fundamental principal in business ethics is to strive for “win-win” solutions. Instead of deducting the cost from dinner, why don’t you give your date a choice? Tell her that given your time budget she can choose between a fancy dinner and a “blind” date or a simple dinner with questionnaire firmly in hand – if of course you pass her screens. (If you are a lady, then the opposite – explain that you can fill out the questionnaire only if you get an extra course.)
Ultimately, the most equitable solution is to develop a uniform Jewish dating CV. Experts in the scene can formulate the most universally important questions such as: What color is the tablecloth in your parents’ home[s]? How many distant relatives are intermarried? What family, genus, species, and variety do you belong to in the Jewish world? This will enable singles to be informed of the most vital information about prospective matches without the time and expense of personalized questionnaires, before they decide whether to go out on a date.
By the way, if it doesn’t work out I know the most charming young lady from such a respectable family who studied in the best schools who would love to meet an ethical young man who just happens to work in corporate law.