So great is the potential damage from hezek re’eyah that the Gemara states that that one can sometimes require neighbors to construct some sort of partition to prevent hezek re’eyah.
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, zt”l, famed mashgiach ruchani of the Ponevez Yeshiva in Bnei Be’rak, addresses the matter of ayin hara in a different light in his Michtav Me’Eliyahu (vol. 3, p.313). He shares some ideas from a letter his father, Rabbi Reuven Dessler, zt”l, sent him. The letter discusses the responsibility a person bears for the pain he inflicts upon others even though the pain ultimately came from Hashem as Divine justice – “mishpe’tei Hashem emet tzadku yachdav – the judgments of Hashem are true, altogether righteous” (Psalms 19:10).
Rav Eliyahu Dessler addresses his father regarding the comments in his letter: “You are alluding to that which our sages state regarding accidental killers required to flee to the cities of refuge in biblical Israel.”
The Gemara (Makkot 10b) explains their need for flight with the following parable: Two individuals each caused the death of another person. The first did so accidentally, while the second did so intentionally. Both incidents occurred without witnesses. What does the Almighty do? He causes both to meet at the same inn, which is a public place full of witnesses. The one who killed with intent will sit under a ladder while the other who killed accidentally will be at the top of the same ladder. The latter will then descend and fall, thus killing the intentional murderer. Now, the two-time accidental murderer, even though he was the instrument of divine justice, must flee to the city of refuge because this time there were witnesses. This follows the premise in Tractate Shabbos (32a): “megalgelin chov al yedei chayav – punishment is meted through a guilty person.”
Rabbi Dessler further explains (citing Eruvin 64b and Rashi s.v. “ba’al b’nichsei ishto”) that one who is blessed with wealth and seeks to protect it should perform mitzvot with it; by being charitable, one will stave off the evil eye. He notes in contrast that someone who causes his fellow to suffer pangs of jealousy by acting ostentatiously leaves himself vulnerable to punishment; he may even lose his wealth. Rabbi Dessler concludes: “There is such great import in this matter. Even though I have much more to discuss at length in this matter, now is not the time because of the lateness of the hour.”
We see that a person can potentially be the cause of his own punishment via the evil eye. Thus, we should take its potential effects into consideration.
(To be continued)
Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is Torah Editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.