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By: Rabbi Daniel D. Levy

Ayin Hara –The Evil Eye

1

 

               Is ayin haraa superstition or
           are there actual sources for
           this belief?

There are many sources for ayin harathroughout the oral Torah and halachah. We will list a few sources. A) R’ Yehoshua says:  Ayin hara, yetzer hara(evil inclination), and hatred of others, causes one to leave this world (more quickly). Pirkei Avot Chapter 2 Mishnah 11. B) Chananya, Mishael, and Azaryah died from ayin hara[according to Rav]. The Gemara in Sanhedrin 93 later on mentions that 99 out of 100 deaths are a result of ayin hara.C) In Parshat Vayechi, Yaakov blessed Yosef, “Bein porat aley ayin etc.” Rashi quotes the Gemara in Berachot 20 that ayin hara should not take effect on Yosef’s offspring. (This is because Yosef guarded his eyes from looking at what wasn’t his. He was blessed that others with an evil eye would have no effect on him –
which is midah k’neged midah, measure for measure). Yaakov also blessed Yosef’s children Menashe and Ephraim that they be like the fish, which are concealed underwater and protected from ayin hara

 

2         Should one hold back from
           performing a mitzvah because
           of concern of ayin hara? 

The Peleh Yoetz explains one should not hold back from doing a mitzvah because of fear of ayin hara. He quotes, “One who does a mitzvah will know no evil” (regarding that action). This is provided that he is cautious to be humble and accredit his success to Hashem. The Ben Ish Hai in Aderet Eliyahu on Parshat Balak says that scholars and other great people who are in the spotlight should not be concerned about ayin harasince the Torah protects them as long as their motives are altruistic for the sake of Hashem.

3

 

           What is the right attitude
           to have towards ayin hara? 

R’ Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe – Even Haezer 3, 26) states the advised attitude towards ayin harais: Don’t over worry. Although one shouldn’t dismiss it, one should not be paranoid or obsessive regarding ayin hara. Some people take the approach that, well, if I don’t believe in it, it can’t affect me. This is incorrect. However, the Torah Temimah (Bamidbar 23, 23) does say that one can increase ayin hara by being neurotic or obsessive about it.

4

 

           What can one do to protect
           oneself from ayin hara? 

If the root cause for ayin harais attracting attention and being in the spotlight, then the primary way to protect oneself from ayin harais to avoid being the focus of attention and conversation, and just lay low. This concept is alluded to by Yaakov Avinu when he told his sons on their way down to Egypt, “Lama titraou?” (Bereishit 42:1). Why attract attention, just stay low key. Furthermore, one should deflect personal compliments by saying thank you and crediting Hashemas the source of it all. He gave me the power, wisdom, financial means, health, and blessing to accomplish what I did or have. When one connects sincerely with Hashem,the source of it all, and acknowledges the credit of his success to Hashem, then it weakens any power the evil eye has. This is why Bilam was unsuccessful cursing and instilling ayin haraon the Jewish nation, who was moral (at the time) and extremely connected to Hashem. A minority are of the belief that wearing a red string can ward off ayin hara, however, there are only a few weak sources for this.

 

5         Should a pregnant woman keep
           extra quiet and not announce
           that she is expecting because
           of ayin hara? 

There is no mitzvah for a lady to announce that she is expecting, as unnecessary extra attention causes an ayin hara,especially within the first 3 months, when it is not noticeable that she is pregnant. On the other hand, she doesn’t need to go out of herway to hide the fact that she is pregnant, and she can answer “thank you” or “amen” to one who wishes her “besha tovah”(to give birth at a good time). If it is the acceptable practice in her community to tell her parents and in-laws that she is pregnant,then that is fine.

 

6         Should a woman not dress
           her children in the same cute outfits
           because of the possibility of ayin hara?

There is nothing wrong with dressing our children in matching clothing. However, if a lady dresses her entire family (example five children or more) in the same attire, especially intentionally awaiting compliments on how adorable everyone looks, the door is open for ayin hara to affect the family. Everything is relative to what is the accepted norm in that community, and it is advisable to avoid extra eye catching dressing that will stand out and attract unnecessary attention.

 

7            How does ayin hara work? 

When one has an object that is in the “spotlight” – being analyzed and discussed by others - Hashem judges if that individual truly deserves to keep the object or not. If not, the Rabbeinu Yonah in Pirkei Avot (2, 11) explains that when one desires an object and is jealous of his friend’s belongings, air emanates from his jealous thoughts and burns the object that the evil eye had penetrated. 

 

 

8         Should an elderly man or woman
           try to conceal his or her age
           because of fear of ayin hara?   

Many elderly people who merited longevity had the custom to not disclose their exact age in fear of ayin hara.In fact, one commentary explains that after Yaakov Avinu was forced to disclose his age to Pharaoh, he exclaimed the days of my life were few and bad (difficult) to ward off the evil eye.

 

9         What are some halachot
           that revolve around ayin hara?

A) We do not allow a son to get an aliyah to the Torah after his father. B) The Gemara Yoma (22) says one should not count people outright. This is one of the reasons they counted people via contributions of machasit hashekel.C) One should not stand in his friend’s field when it is in its blossoming state [as his looking at his friend’s success can cause jealousy and even ruin his friends blessed field]. (Baba Metzia 107 Hoshen Mishpat 388, 5) D) One should not shake out a lost object he finds in front of others (Gemara Baba Metzia).

 

10

 

           What is the significance
           of the number 400? 

Ayin ra– spelled ayin yud nun reish ayin, equals the numerical value of 400. Rabbeinu Bachyeh explains this was the reason that Efron Hachiti specifically requested 400 shekel for the purchase of Mearat Hamachpela from Avraham Avinu – to instill ayin hara. Likewise, this was the intention of Eisav, who took 400 men to combat Yaakov Avinu. He asked Yaakov, who are all these children, animals, and wealth to you – attempting to instill ayin harain Yaakov’s family and possessions. Yaakov accredited Hashem, and said these are the family and possessions which Elokim (Gd) has granted your servant. By humbling himself and connecting with the source of it all he was protected from Eisav’s evil eye (Agra Depirka – Siman 32). It is no coincidence that Tosafot in Berachot says that a cup worth 400 zuzwas customarily broken at a wedding to ward off the evil eye.