The Jewish Eye
Binyan Tzion: Is it Permitted to Embarrass Someone in Public for the Purpose of Saving Your Life?
The Gemarah says that it is preferable to fall into a fiery furnace rather than to embarrass someone publicly. We learn this from Tamar who did not say explicitly that her children were from Yehudah even though she was about to be put to death by fire. Tosofos says that the reason that embarrassing someone publicly is not included with the three Aveiros that a person must give up his life before committing them is because the Aveirah of embarrassing someone publicly is not explicit in the Torah.
Rabbeinu Yonah in Sharrei Teshuvah gives a different reason. He says that embarrassing someone publicly is tantamount to the transgression of killing someone. The Be'raysah says that anyone who causes his friend's face to pale it is as if he spilled his blood. Since embarrassing someone publicly is equated with killing it is included in the prohibition of killing and thus included among those transgressions that a person must give up his life for.
The conclusion is that a person may not embarrass someone publicly even if it will cost him his life. If there are three people present other than the potential victim it is regarded as a public setting and it would be prohibited. The potential instigator is included among the three and therefore if there are two Jewish people present it is prohibited to embarrass someone even if your refusal puts your own life at risk.
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