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Asked by my kid (albeit less fleshed-out than the way I'm presenting it here):

One should rather submit himself to be burned alive than cause another to blanch in shame in public, according to Sota 10:2. Tosafos there seem to take it as halachic fact, but, even if not, it seems at the very least to be a moral equivalence: causing another public shame is on a par with being burned alive. (Imagine how bad being shamed publicly must be!)

How then — at least in a case of an act of nezek that occurred in public — can the courts possibly evaluate boshes, the monetary damages for embarrassment, as some finite amount of money? It would seem it should be an inestimably large sum of money: the act committed by the tortfeasor is as bad as being burned alive!

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הכל לפי המבייש והמתבייש Could the mishna have been any clearer? :) –  Double AA Feb 19 '12 at 5:41
    
Doesn't the Torah give us fixed prices for people being killed? –  avi Feb 19 '12 at 9:35
    
@DoubleAA, that's how they evaluate it. The question is how the amount of many can be finite, or anything less than extraordinarily large. I'll edit the question. –  msh210 Feb 19 '12 at 14:56
    
@msh210 I was being sarcastic. Edit if you want, but I did understand the intention. I'm just pointing out how vague the mishna is about this. –  Double AA Feb 19 '12 at 14:58
    
@avi, kofer is, if I'm not mistaken, the value of the person (as a slave). So in any case of halbanas p'ne chavero barabim (which is also a tort) the boshes should be precisely the full value of the injured party (or perhaps of the tortfeasor, since he's the one who should have been burned alive)? –  msh210 Feb 19 '12 at 16:09
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In theory maybe you are right. The concept of paying the full value of someone's life certainly exists - as is the case by kofer (when one's mu'ad animal kills a person). So your kid's point is not merely rhetorical. In practice of course we have to judge based on exactly how much the person was actually shamed, but I don't see why it can't be possible that in certain cases one would indeed be required to pay an extremely large amount of money.

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