The final lines of today’s daf (Yevamot 106b) elaborate upon Devarim 25:10 which informs us, concerning the Yavam who refuses to fulfil the mitzvah of Yibum and instead chooses Halitzah, that וְנִקְרָא שְׁמוֹ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵל בֵּית חֲלוּץ הַנָּעַל – ‘and his name shall be called in Israel, “The house of the one whose shoe was removed (halutz)”’. In fact, as the Mishna (Yevamot 12:6) explains, the end of a Halitzah ceremony involves all those present saying these words towards the Yavam. Undoubtedly this is a form of shaming, and this raises the question whether and when shaming is permitted.
Significantly, the following verse in the Torah (Devarim 25:11) speaks of a situation where a woman protects her husband from the attack of another man by seizing his genitals. Yet, as the Sforno explains while considering the relationship between these two laws, ‘even though it is a mitzvah for the Yevamah to shame her brother-in-law for not caring about her husband[‘s legacy], this woman is not permitted to shame the one who fights with her husband’. What this tells us is that in certain situations shaming is permitted, and in others, it is not.
I mention this because earlier on in our daf, reference is made to ‘get’ refusers and to the steps that can be taken to force them to give a ‘get’ to their wives. Admittedly, as the Gemara explains, a ‘get’ is invalid if given unwillingly. At the same time, the Gemara is very clear that efforts can – and should – be made to compel the husband until he says רוצה אני – ‘I am willing’. And this brings us to the question of whether shaming – especially while using the power of social media – can be used to try and bring a ‘get’ refuser to say רוצה אני?
The short answer is ‘Yes’ – with this topic specifically being discussed in a fascinating article by Rabbi Yehuda Zoldan (in Techumin Vol. 37/2017). Nevertheless, just as we saw in the comments of the Sforno, it is important to be crystal clear about ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ someone is being shamed. As such, Rabbi Zoldan concludes his essay by explaining that while ‘there are situations in which it is permissible and even desirable to publicize and shame those who act unjustly…in order to apply pressure to those wrongdoers so they cease their nefarious deeds because it is presumed that those wrongdoers will feel very uncomfortable when they become aware that others know of their wrongdoing, and in the face of protest and social and public condemnation, they will change their behaviors…[Nevertheless] this depends on the fulfillment of several conditions: The one that condemns and shames must know with absolute certainty that injustices were committed – ideally based on reports of other people or a professional body that researched the matter; they know that there have been previous attempts to stop these acts but to no avail; their intention is only to create pressure to stop the acts of injustice, without ulterior motive; they shame and condemn with precision, pointing out only the acts of injustice; and they do not cause the individual more harm than the damage that would have been caused had the matter been heard by a court.’
Personally, I am a strong advocate for harnessing social media, as well as all other options available within our community, to pressurize get refusers to say רוצה אני, and I applaud the work of organisations like ORA and GETToutUK who work incredibly hard – while also adhering to ethical principles such as those outlined by Rabbi Zoldan.
At the same time, in cases completely different to Halitzah and especially get refusal, there is nevertheless a tendency for many people to use sharp language about others on the many forms of social media and when talking in person with others. And given this unpleasant trend of the modern world, it is important to remember that shaming is generally strictly forbidden and is only permitted (and at times necessary) in very specific instances, for a constructive purpose, and based on facts – not opinions.