Pesachim 81-82 Shaming people- Is it ever allowed?

The Mishna at the bottom of daf 81b tells us that if all or most of a קרבן פסח became impure, it needed to be burnt on the public fire.

The Gemara quotes רבי יוסי בר חיננא  who explains that this to embarrass those people who were not careful enough with their קרבן.

This seems a rather extreme penalty for something that is unlikely to have been done intentionally- After all, it is well known how harshly Chazal speak of shaming someone in public, to the point that it is compared to murder )B.M. 58b), and one can lose one’s עולם הבא for doing so (Avos 3/11.)

Chazal even said that a person should rather jump into a fiery furnace than shame his friend in public! )Brachos 43b)

Even though there is a biblical command to rebuke one’s neighbor when he does wrong, derived from the passukהוכח תוכיח את עמיתך  (Vayikra 19/17),  Chazal tell us, based on the continuation of the verse “ולא תשא עליו חטא”  that this must be done without embarrassing him (ספרא קדושים פרשה ב פרק ד אות ח)

The seriousness of shaming sinners is illustrated in a frightening story (B.M 59a) where Chazal describe how David haMelech was sitting and learning in the בית מדרש  after his terrible sin with בת-שבע.

People began to scorn him, asking him rhetorically what the punishment for committing adultery was.

His sharp reply should shake us all- “One who commits adultery deserves strength by strangulation but has a share in the world to come.  Yet one who embarrasses his friend in public has no share in the world to come.”

It seems from this statement of Chazal  that the prohibition of shaming someone in public applies towards one who has committed one of the worst sins intentionally, how much more so towards one who was somewhat negligent and didn’t stop his קרבן  from becoming impure , hardly a sin on the level of that discussed there.

This idea is also illustrated in the continuation of this very sugya on Pesachim 82a:

Although one is allowed to use the communal wood for publicly burning his impure קרבן פסח  when required, the Mishna brings a Beraisa which rules, amongst other things, that one who wishes to use his own wood is not permitted to do so.

There is a dispute between Rav Yosef  and Rava regarding why- Rav Yosef rules that it is in order not to embarrass those who do not have their own wood to bring, whereas Rava rules that it is in order to avoid them being suspected of stealing from the public when they take back their remaining wood.

We are dealing with people who are made to burn their impure sacrifices publicly in order to shame them, yet Rav Yoseif tells us that we don’t let them bring their own wood in order not to shame others who have been equally negligent but don’t have their own to bring!

Yet as if not to less us get carried away, the Gemara then continues to explain how the impure Kohanim were made to stand outside the הר הבית  on the Eastern sideת while their fellow kohanim offered up the קרבנות and Rav Yosef’s view here is that this is in order to embarrass them for not being extra careful to remain pure before Erev Pesach!

Perhaps one can argue that there is a difference between shaming that is an integral part of the prescribed punishment and shaming that comes in addition to it, or after one has already been punished.

An intrinsic part of many punishments prescribed by the Torah is shaming, which Chazal said (Brachos 12b) can get one pardoned for all his sins!

One of the primary results of מלקות (lashes)  is ונקלה אחיך לעניך (Your brother will be degraded in front of your eyes-Devarim 25/3)

On the other hand, the mitzva of rebuking a person is not  a punishment  and must be done without shaming.

Furthermore, even while a person is being punished, it seems that no more shame than that which is integral to the punishment as instituted may be applied.

As such, even a person who has been negligent and allowed most or all of his sacrifice to become impure may not be shamed any more than the prescribed punishment itself allows for.

At the very same time as he is shamed by having to publicly burn his sacrifice, we do not allow more shame to be inflicted upon him because someone else brings his own wood and he is unable too- such is the sensitivity required even when shaming a person is required!

Another possible explanation could be that although the Beis Din is required to do their professional job and punish people in ways that involves some humiliation, everyone else is still forbidden to shame the person any further, and certainly someone who is as guilty as him may certainly not be allowed to do things that could cause him shame.

Although this is the view of Rav Yosef, we have noted that Rava disagrees and does not appear concerned about him causing shame to his friend by bringing wood when his friend has none to bring.

Does this mean that he holds that when a person is already being shamed as part of his punishment, we do not have to be so sensitive as to avoid actions that could shame him further?

Not necessarily- it could be that Rava holds that one is not required to refrain from doing a positive act, such as using one’s own wood and sparing the public the expense, in order to avoid shaming someone who is unable to do so.

This is a very complex subject, and our analysis could have many practical ramifications, but my main intention here is only to raise some of the issues- Although in practise there might be times when one is indeed  permitted or even required to shame someone publicly to stop him from public transgressions that involve חלול ה’  or that others could learn from (see Rema 608/2 and M.B.there) , or in a teacher-student setting (see Rambam Hilchos Talmud Torah 4/5), one should only do this with correct halachik guidance and may never take a serious prohibition like this lightly in anyway.

These posts are intended to raise issues and stimulate further research and discussion on contemporary topics related to the daf. They are not intended as psak halacha.