There are numerous examples of the ayin hara all throughout classical Torah sources:

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. We give a half-shekel [for the purposes of a census] and don’t count Jews directly to avoid an ayin hara.
  6. Orach Chaim (241:6): Relatives don’t get consecutive aliyot – to avoid an ayin hara.
  7. 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.
  8. 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).
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.

 

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