There are numerous examples of the ayin hara all throughout classical Torah sources:
- Sara put an ayin hara on Yishmael (Rashi on Bereishit 21:14) which gave him a fever and an inability to walk. That explains why, when Avraham threw Hagar out of the house, Hagar needed to actually carry Yishmael. In addition, the medrash (Bereishit Rabbah 45:5) says that Sarah caused Hagar to miscarry by using the ayin hara.
- Yaakov told his sons not to all enter the same gate when they first went to Egypt to buy grain – to avoid an ayin hara (Rashi on Bereishit 42:5).
- Ayin hara is one of the five possibilities of the derech ra’ah (bad path) that we should avoid – Pirke Avot (2:14). It is also one of the things that remove us from the world – Pirke Avot (2:16). This seems to be related to jealousy.
- The first set of luchot (tablets given to Moshe at Mount Sinai) were given with much publicity, which led to an ayin hara and destruction; while the second set, given more quietly, were able to last forever.
- We give a half-shekel [for the purposes of a census] and don’t count Jews directly to avoid an ayin hara.
- Orach Chaim (241:6): Relatives don’t get consecutive aliyot – to avoid an ayin hara.
- Baba Metziah 107a – Rav Yehuda told Ravin not to buy property adjacent to the city, because it would then be subject to an ayin hara which would be able to damage it.
- Shulchan Aruch – It is forbidden to stare at another’s property in a case where this could damage it. This is called hezek re’iya (damage from the eye).
- Shabbat 33b – After spending twelve years learning Torah in a cave, Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai burned up various things that he looked at in the world outside the cave.
- Brachot 58b – Rav Papa and Rav Huna gazed upon Rebbe Chanina when they felt he had followed a strange approach with a particular bracha, and this caused him to die.
- Baba Metzia 14a – The Rabbis gazed upon Rav Acha bar Yaakov after he had accomplished something close to miraculous with his writing of a sefer Torah, causing him to die.
Therefore, we see that ayin hara is a very well-established Torah concept.
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Rabbi Asher Resnick serves as a senior lecturer at Aish HaTorah’s Executive Learning Center, and is a senior training lecturer for Aish’s Rabbinical Ordination program. As a close student of Rav Noach Weinberg, zt”l, he developed a special expertise in addressing fundamental issues in Judaism, as well as in bringing classical texts to life. As a bereaved parent, Rabbi Resnick’s extensive writings on loss, suffering and trauma provide a sensitive Jewish perspective on coping with these fundamental life cycle issues. Olami & NLEResources.com is happy to highlight several essays over the coming months featured on his website JewishClarity.com.