Volume 28 Number 55
                 Produced: Tue Feb 23  6:41:26 US/Eastern 1999

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Aiyan Hora (6)
         [<Phyllostac@...>, David Ziants, Chaim Shapiro, David
Glasner, Joseph Geretz, Yeshaya Halevi]


From: <Phyllostac@...>
Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 02:08:00 EST
Subject: Aiyan Hora

I heard the following explanation of 'ayin hara'-
 If one person is prominently blessed and, for example, errects an
excessively extravagant mansion and his poor,struggling neighbor is
pained by the sight of his neighbor being able to do such a thing while
he is painfully struggling to get by-which causes the struggling
neighbor to think-even fleetingly/subconsciously that something is
wrong/unfair with him living so extravagantly and so much above
himself-then a greater scrutiny/din (akin to an IRS audit perhaps?) can
be generated from heaven upon the rich person (or the person in the
better situation) by the pain the struggling man feels-which is noticed
in Heaven-with possibly negative results.If the person doesn't
flaunt/plays down/conceals his blessings,then he is unlikely to generate
such negative emotions in a less-blessed neighbor,and thereby he will
hopefully be spared from 'ayin hara'.


From: David Ziants <davidz@...>
Subject: Re: Aiyan Hora

My understanding is that Aiyen Hara is related to jealosy. A person
shouldn't do or say something that is likely to make someone else
jealous, because a human jealousy can cause a judgement in heaven as to
whether the person really deserves what he has.

Examples I can think of (I am sorry that I do not know the sources):
a) Not calling a father and son consecutively to the Torah (I guess so
that orphans should not be put at risk in having thoughts of jealousy).
b) People who have both parents alive not staying in Shul during the
private Yizkor prayer.
c) Not checking ones money in public. (People who don't have as much as you
might become jealous.)
d) Saying "b'li ayin hara", when refering to someone's vitues like family
size, health, possesions, etc. 

David Ziants
Ma'aleh Adumim, Israel

From: Chaim Shapiro <Dagoobster@...>
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 23:21:45 EST
Subject: Aiyan Hora

      I appreciate all the answers I recieved to my Aiyan Hora question.
However, I must still ask a few questions.  First, assuming that aiyan
hora is in fact causing one's case to be reexamined in heaven, how on
earth is saying bli aiyan hora, or tossing salt going to change that?
	Why are some things considered aiyan horas and others not?  Why
is two brothers recieving aliyahs worse than having ten children?
Either could arose jealousy in others.  In fact, I would argue that
having many children is even worse in this regard!  Certainly having a
fancy car, or being honored by a yeshiva would cause others who do not
have such to be jealous!  However, those are not considred aiyan horas!
	Looking at other's possesions with jealousy is prohibited by Lo
Sachmod (10th commandment).  Why would Hashem allow the aiverah an
individual is violating cause harm to the person he is violating it

From: David Glasner <DGLASNER@...>
Date: Fri, 19 Feb 1999 12:27:00 -0500
Subject: Aiyan Hora

The concept of ayin ha-rah is very difficult, and I think it requires
deep research into the sources. The way it is usually presented and
discussed and the sorts of customs that are widely practiced in its name
are difficult to distinguish from run of the mill superstition, like
fear of black cats, broken mirrors, the number 13, Friday the 13th, and
the like.  Many of these practices, it seems to me, potentially run
afoul of the prohibitions of darkei ha-emori etc.  Nor do they have the
ritualistic endorsement that another questionable practice, kapparot,
has.  On the other hand, it is important to recognize that the
underlying concept of ayin ha-rah is well grounded in the Talmud and
Midrash, which are full of references to "ayin ha-ra" and "eina bisha"
and measures taken to ward it off, "k'dei shelo yishlot bei eina bisha
[so that the evil eye should not have dominion over him]."  Which is why
the whole topic cries out for further elucidatiaon.  Rashi, in his
commentary on the Torah, cites one of these Midrashim concerning the
sons of Jacob who, following Jacob's instructions, entered Egypt in
search of food through ten separate gates in order that they not be
subject to an evil eye.  The point being that if the ten brothers
entered as a group, the good looks and imposing stature that they all
shared would draw attention to themselves, which might lead to the ayin
ha-ra having dominion over them.  So the Talmud and Rashi clearly
accepted as a matter of course that an evil eye could have adverse
consequences. Now I would be prepared to entertain the possibility that
the Sages were in fact misled by superstitious views concerning ayin
ha-ra.  Some of the Sages seem to have accepted astrological concepts
that modern science teaches us to be rank nonsense.  On the other hand,
we should not assume that the Sages would have lightly overlooked the
Biblical prohibition against darkhei ha-emori either.

I think one source of confusion here is that we are not careful in a)
understanding exactly what the term "ayin ha-ra" signifies in the
Talmud, and b) thinking about how that applies to the potential damage
that can result from "ayin ha-ra."

In the Talmud the simple meaning of "ayin ra" is "stingy" and the
corresponding term "ayin tov" means "generous."  This is clearly how R.
Eliezer b. Hyrcanus and R. Yohanan b. Zakkai understand the terms in
Avot 2:12-13.  In the following Mishnah, R. Joshua lists "ayin ra'ah" as
one of the three things that drives one from this world.  And iit is
clear from the context that he is referring to the effect of "ayin
ra'ah" on the person who exhibits the quality of "ayin ra'ah" not the
object of those feelings.  The terms are used similarly in connection
with the giving of terumah to the Priests.  Unlike the tithes, there is
no fixed percentage of his crop that one must give to the priest.
However, the Talmud says that if one is generous (ayin tov) one gives
one-fortieth of his crop to the Priest and if one is stingy (ayin ra)
one gives only one-sixtieth of his crop to the Priest.

Thus, "ayin ha-ra" refers to a quality of stinginess and lack of
generosity, which also manifests itself in the related qualities of
jealousy (not wanting someone else to have something that you have) and
envy (not wanting someone else to have what you don't have).  I think
the assumption of the Talmud is that people's inner feelings (especially
hostile ones) can have physical repercussions on those against whom the
feelings are directed.  A famous example of this phenomenon is the
tragic epilogue to the story in Bava Metzia 59b concerning the dispute
between R. Joshua and R. Eliezer about the "tanur achanai."  R. Eliezer
was excommunicated for maintaining his own opinion against the majority
opinion (R. Joshua's).  Apparently R.  Eliezer bore particular
resentment against his own brother-in-law, R. Shimon b. Gamliel, the
Nasi, who had presided over his excommunication.  That resentment nearly
led to R. Shimon's death at sea, but R. Shimon was able to avert the
danger by pleading to the Almighty (Who in the story was also an
agrieved party) that he took action against R. Eliezer not for any
personal consideration but for the sake of Torah.  After this narrow
escape, R.  Eliezer's wife (R. Shimon b. Gamliel's sister) never allowed
R. Eliezer to say tahanun, realizing that R. Eliezer's expression of
anguish and frustration was a mortal threat to her brother.  But one
day, as the result of either confusion or distraction, she failed to
prevent R. Eliezer from saying tahanun.  As soon as she saw that her
husband had fallen on his face, she cried out, "you have killed my
brother."  And R. Shimon died on the spot.

R. Eliezer's resentment was not an expression of "ayin ha-ra."  But
nevertheless, the story shows that the Talmud accepts that feelings,
negative feelings and resentment, may have adverse physical
conseuqences.  Not everyone's feelings can be assumed to be as potent as
R. Eliezer's, nevertheless one can see why the Talmud might have
considered it prudent to take care to avoid the potential adverse
consequences of bad feelings.  However. while the Talmud does refer to
various external signs or amulets that people used to ward off the evil
eye, my impression is that the Talmud does not endorse their efficacy.
The case that Rashi quotes shows only that Jacob attempted to avoid
provoking an evil eye by sending his sons through separate entrances.
He did not provide them with a red thread or any other supposed
safeguard.  Similarly the sister of R. Shimon did not provide him with
any physical protection against her husband's despair, she simply
prevented R. Eliezer (with one fatal exception) from reciting tahanun.
So it may be that believing in ayin ha-ra does not violate the
prohibition of darkhei ha-emori, but that believing that a red thread
can ward it off does.

What I would call the vulgar conception of of "ayin horoh" (as opposed
to the Talmud's conception of "ayin ha-ra") assumes that "ayin horoh" is
a kind of independent evil force that is lurking in the world that can
be triggered by one's own good fortune or by drawing attention to one's
self in the wrong kind of way.  In this vulgar conception, "ayin horoh"
seems to be a kind of jinx occasioned by one's good fortune or by
"tempting fate" as it were.  For example, a healthy person should not
sit in a wheel chair, because by doing so one might give oneself an
"ayin horoh."  This vulgar conception of "ayin horoh", which to me seems
the predominant one, does strike me as a likely violation of the
prohibition of darkhei ha-emori.  A somewhat different, and less
problematic interpretation of these activities is that they should be
avoided because of the principle of "al tiftach peh l'satan," which
advises us not to put ourselves in a situation that invites the Almighty
to pass judgment upon us.  For example, the Mishnah in ba-meh madlikin
tells us that women die in childbirth because of three sins, laxity in
nidah, challah, and lighting of Sabbath candles.  This suggests, a)
careful observance of the mitzvot, and b) not putting oneself
unnecessarily in any dangerous situation (like childbirth), but could
also involve putting oneself, in some sense, in the place of a person
who suffers from some affliction, because doing so could trigger an
adverse divine judgment.  However, in the popular mind, this idea seems
to have been assimilated under the heading of not giving oneself an
"ayin horoh."

By the same token, it may be appropriate (though I personally would not
encourage the practice) for one who is complimenting or remarking on the
good fortune of another person to say "b'li ayin ha-ra" or "kaneine
horoh" as a way of indicating the sincerity of one's gladness at the
good fortune of his friend.  On the other hand, for the one who is
himself experiencing the good fortune to say "b'li ayin ha-ra" in the
expectation that the incantation of those words (or similar ones like
"knock on wood") would serve as a barrier against "ayin ha-ra" might run
afoul of the "darkhei ha-emori" prohibition (the usual disclaimers about
consulting reputable halakhic authorities apply).

David Glasner

From: Joseph Geretz <jgeretz@...>
Subject: Aiyan Hora

I don't know about spitting or throwing salt, but there is a perfectly
rational explanation for the manifestation known as Ayin Hora.

When a person singles out another individual for observation, with
perhaps (even mild) jealous emotional overtones, it arouses in Heaven as
well, a speculation of the individual being observed, in the context of
why he is more deserving than the fellow who is observing him. This
could lead to a prosecution of the observed individual with the
resulting Heavenly verdict that he is not so deserving of his good
fortune and status in life, and something bad might be decreed upon him.

For example, we do not call up a father and son or two brothers
consecutively to an Aliya, because an observer might feel jealous since
he has not gotten an Aliya while two individuals from the same family
have gotten Aliyos.

(It's not considered an Ayin Hora per se for an individual to get an
Aliya, even though not everyone in the Shul will be getting an Aliya,
because people understand that there is a fixed number of Aliyos and not
everyone can get an Aliya each week, thus the jealous overtones are not

It's interesting to note, that on Simchas Torah, in my Shul, the Rav
allows a father and son, or two brothers to be called consecutively for
an Aliya.  That is because, since everyone is getting an Aliya, there is
no critical or jealous observation involved for anyone who observes the
father and son getting the Aliya together.

If you examine many customs used to ward of the Ayin Hora, you will find
that they are designed to divert the attention from the individual. For
example, At a Pidyon Haben, the baby is brought out on a tray or pillow
surrounded by jewelry and/or sweets to divert the attention from the
baby.  And although I don't subscribe personally to the red band from
Kever Rachel, again, it seems to me that the bright thread is meant to
catch the eye of an observer, thus diverting attention from the
individual herself.

There is even a Mitzva which is designed to prevent Ayin Hora and that
is the commandment never to take a census by counting individuals,
rather each individual should contribute an amount and the contributions
should be counted. Again, by counting contributions, rather than
individuals, the focus on the individual is eliminated.

> Stepping over a child will stunt his growth
> Eating the end of the challah will result in having boys

Some of the actions mentioned, fall into the realm of Al Tiftach Peh
L'Satan, or Segulos, not Ayin Hora. I'm not going to touch Segulos, but
for Al Tiftach Peh L'Satan, a similar rational approach exists, namely,
that the Satan always has his eye on us and unseemly actions give him an
opening for a prosecutorial approach. As far as stepping over someone, I
was brought up never to do this because walking over a person casts that
person in the light of a dead person Chas VeShalom. Similarly, to play
with crutches, a cane or to take a joyride in a wheelchair was also
prohibited since these actions cast a person in the role of a sick or
injured person.

Joseph Geretz

From: Yeshaya Halevi <CHIHAL@...>
Date: Wed, 17 Feb 1999 22:58:25 EST
Subject: Re: Aiyan Hora

        Several people have posted elaborate rationales on the "evil
eye."  I am greatly distressed that anybody would spend even a moment
worrying about [this].
        Herewith some cut and paste from the Encyclopedia of Judaism.
Since it's a bit dicey to take major parts of an encyclopedia article
and reprint them, let me compensate by urging everyone to spend the
modest money it takes to buy this low-cost alternative to the
Encyc. Judaica.
    Yeshaya Halevi (<Chihal@...>)

EVIL EYE (ayin ra'ah or en ha-ra; popularly ayin ha- ra).  Widespread
belief that certain individuals have the ability to cause harm by
directing their gaze at others. According to this ancient, deep-rooted
preconception, anyone gifted with the evil eye may inflict bad luck,
sickness, or even death, and the potential victim must therefore devise
ways to safeguard his person or property against a harmful glance.
Superstitions of this kind originated in an idolatrous fear of provoking
the gods or of tempting jealous mortals and "familiars" to cast an evil

Practical MAGIC was used by the ancient inhabitants of Canaan to
neutralize the effects of human or demonic malevolence: at Gezer, for
example, archeologists have unearthed eye-shaped talismans presumably
designed for that purpose (see AMULET). Biblical law, however, sternly
forbade the Israelites to adopt such heathen practices and the "evil
eye" in both Bible and Mishnah simply denoted ill will, jealousy, or an
envious, niggardly character, (e.g., Prov.  23:6-7, 28:22; Avot 2.9,11;

A more sinister note begins to appear in the Talmud and Midrash,
possibly as a result of foreign (Babylonian?)  influences.  The aggadic
reinterpretation of biblical narrative portrays the evil eye at work,
casting spells on Jacob and Joseph (Ber. 54b), inspiring the Golden Calf
idolatry that led to the shattering of the first Mosaic tablets
(Num. R. 12.4), and being responsible for the death of 99 persons out of
100 (BM 107b). Although some of the sages, notably R. SIMEON BAR YOHAI,
could use the power of the eye to good effect (Shab. 34a), their chief
concern was to deflect the evil eye and biblical verses were ingeniously
interpreted to demonstrate that Jews could not be affected by it
(Ber. 20a). However, despite this assurance, various countermeasures
were prescribed.  The evil eye might be averted by such precautions as
concealing a woman's beauty, not flaunting one's wealth, and giving
another name to an infant. Protective charms and talismans might be
worn, while red or blue colors and mirrors were used to ward off a
malevolent glance.  Amulets are often mentioned in early rabbinic

Although roundly condemned by Maimonides (Yad, Akkum 11) and other
authorities, popular faith in these superstitions never wavered.  Among
Jewish communities in both Christian and Islamic lands, various residual
practices bear witness to a latent fear of the evil eye even today. It
has been suggested as an explanation for the breaking of a glass at a
wedding ceremony and for the rule whereby a father and son or two
brothers are not called in succession to the Reading of the Law.


End of Volume 28 Issue 55