Thursday, August 24, 2023

Evil Eye

 Rabbeinu Bachye (Bereishis 30:38) Do not question how it is possible that the power of the evil eye is so great that it can even interfere with miracles! We find that the birth of Yaakov’s children was influenced by the power of the evil eye. Leah had made a single comment in that she thanked the Lord for allowing her to have born a fourth son, i.e. more than the three sons out of twelve which she could expect to bear by right, and as a result of this comment she became subject to the power of the evil eye. Immediately after she had made this comment we read ותעמוד מלדת “she stopped giving birth.” The mere fact that she had said herself that she had received more than she was entitled to exposed her to the envy of others. Furthermore, we find in connection with the tribe of Joseph who had been favoured by miraculous increases in numbers due to the special blessing of their patriarch Yaakov who had said בן פורת יוסף בן פורת עלי עין, that Joseph’s descendants would prove especially fruitful. When these people told Joshua (Joshua 17,14) that G’d had made them inordinately numerous and the land allocated to them was inadequate for their needs, Joshua answered them that they would be best of to move to a wooded region . Our sages in Sotah 36 comment on this that Joshua (who was also of the tribe of Ephrayim) meant that they should hide in the forests so as not to arouse other people’s evil eye, envy. Furthermore, you will agree that there never was a greater miracle than occurred at the revelation at Mount Sinai, and we find that even on that occasion the evil eye was very much in evidence. In searching for a reason why the first set of Tablets were smashed, Tanchuma Ki Tissa 31 claims that it was because they were given to the Jewish people in public, [I am sure this refers to the text, and not the actual Tablets as the former was announced at the revelation. Ed.] an area where the evil eye is rampant. This is why the second set of Tablets was given in secret, i.e. Moses was told that (Exodus 34,3) ואיש לא יעלה עמך וגם איש אל ירא בכל ההר, “no one is to go up the mountain with you, nor is anyone to be seen at the mountain.” When the second Tablets were given the evil eye as not present, hence they were not smashed [even though the Jews repeatedly served idols after they had lived in the land of Israel for a while. Ed.] Yaakov therefore had good reason not to arouse the envy of Lavan and his sons.

Berachos (20a) Rabbi Yochanan said" I am a descendant of Joseph over whom the evil eye had no control", Rabbi Yosi said, "Just as fish in the sea are covered with water and protected from the evil eye, so too the descendents of Joseph (who are said to multiply like fish) are protected from the evil eye". 

Berachos (55b) One who enters a city and fears the evil eye should hold the thumb of his right hand in his left hand and the thumb of his left hand in his right hand and recite the following: I, so-and-so son of so-and-so, come from the descendants of Joseph, over whom the evil eye has no dominion.

Bava Basra (2b) the rabbis say it is “ is prohibited for a person to stand in another’s field and look at his crop while the grain is standing, because he casts an evil eye upon it and thereby causes him damage, and the same is true for a garden.”

Bava Basra (118a) And if it be said that Scripture recorded the case of him only who complained and benefited, but did not record the case of anyone who complained and did not benefit, it may be retorted: The children of Joseph, surely, complained and did not benefit, and yet Scripture recorded their case. There, it may be replied, Scripture desired to impart to us good advice, namely, that a person should he on his guard against an evil eye. And this indeed is [the purpose of what Joshua said unto them; as it is written, And Joshua said unto them: ‘If thou be a great people, get thee up to the forest’. It is this that he said to them: ‘Go and hide yourselves in the forests so that an evil eye may have no power over you’.

Bava Metzia (84b)   When Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel and R. Joshua b. Karhah sat on benches, R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon and Rabbi sat in front of them on the ground, raising objections and answering them. Said they, ‘We drink their water [i.e., benefit from their learning], yet they sit upon the ground; let seats be placed for them!’ Thus were they promoted. But R. Simeon b. Gamaliel protested: ‘I have a pigeon amongst you, and ye wish to destroy it!’[by the evil eye] So Rabbi was put down. Thereupon R. Joshua b. Karhah said: ‘Shall he, who has a father, live, whilst he who has no father die!’ So R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon too was put down, whereat he felt hurt saying, ‘Ye have made him equal to me!’ Now, until that day, whenever Rabbi made a statement, R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon supported him. But from then onward, when Rabbi said, ‘I have an objection,’ R. Eleazar son of R. Simeon retorted, ‘If you have such and such an objection, this is your answer; now have you encompassed us with loads of answers in which there is no substance.’ Rabbi, being thus humiliated, went and complained to his father. ‘Let it not grieve you,’ he answered, ‘for he is a lion, and the son of a lion, whereas you are a lion, the son of a fox.’ To this Rabbi alluded when he said, Three were humble; viz., my father,

Bereishis Rabbah (91:02) . AND JACOB SAID UNTO HIS SONS: WHY SHOULD YE MAKE YOURSELVES CONSPICUOUS? Do not go out, he bade them, with bread in your hands, and do not all enter through one gate. Do not go out with bread in your hands so as not to arouse ill-feeling, and do not all enter through one gate for fear of the evil eye.

Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 378:5) אפי' בראייתו אם יש בו היזק לחבירו אסור להסתכל בו לפיכך אסור לאדם לעמוד על שדה חבירו בשעה שעומדת בקמותיה:


  1. Is the evil eye an independent force, chas v'shalom? Or is it describing how we lose protection , or receive punishment because we are lax in certain areas of Torah? To say the wrong thing, can cause problems, as the case mentioned above .

  2. S Judaica

    EVIL EYE (Heb. עַיִן הָרָע, ayin ha-ra; lit., "the eye of the evil"; Aram. עֵינָא בִּישָׁא, eina bisha), a widespread belief that some persons may produce malevolent effects on others by looking at them, based on the supposed power of some eyes to bewitch or harm by glance. In early Jewish literature the acceptance of the existence of the evil eye as fact precluded any theoretical explanation of this phenomenon and discussion of its origin. In post-talmudic literature, however, one of the following two explanations is generally found: (1) the evil eye contains the element of fire, and so spreads destruction (Judah Loew b. Bezalel ("Maharal") in Netivot Olam, 107d); (2) the angry glance of a man's eye calls into being an evil angel who takes vengeance on the cause of wrath (Manasseh Ben Israel in Nishmat Ḥayyim, 3:27; cf. Sefer Ḥasidim, ed. by J. Wistinetzki (19242), 242 no. 981).


    Rambam on the subject


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