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Ayin Hara: Real Or Imagined?
It has dawned on me lately that many people who fear an ayin hara avoid telling divorcees, widowers, and never-married singles if someone is engaged, for fear that “we singles” will jinx them or not fargin them to have such a simcha.
I have also noticed this trend when a couple has a fertility problem; they will not be told that another couple is expecting, for fear that they will be jealous and will give them an ayin hara. This is insulting and is not done to spare our feelings. We are made to feel like failures if we are not married or have children, and we are assumed to be so bitter as to not want others to be happy, because Hashem did not give us mazel in these areas.
On the contrary, we are not bitter and even believe that if we pray for others to have mazel, Hashem will send that mazel back to us! So my message to those folks who think that we are a jinx for the ayin hara: this is your psychological problem, not ours.
We are kind and understanding and not bitter, and we wish good for all. Hashem gives us what we deserve in life, and by being envious we are just not following the Torah. So enjoy your simchas, and don’t be afraid to tell us about them. If anything, some good may result if we go – maybe our basherts are there for us to find.
Thanks for letting me sound off on this sensitive issue.
A True Blue Imperfect Friend
Dear True Blue,
Many readers will no doubt identify not only with you, but also with those who are in fear of another’s envy. Human nature, as well as the concept of an ayin hara, can be quite complex. As happy as one can genuinely be over another’s good fortune, it is sometimes very difficult for the underprivileged not to feel a twinge of jealousy. And it is also normal for the one who has cause to celebrate to dread sharing the good news with an obviously embittered person.
While there are exceptions – exceptionally good souls who are sincerely elated over the good fortune of their friends, an ayin hara can actually be triggered by mere “big eyes,” even when there is no jealousy or resentment to speak of.
How can that be? Simply, when attention is called to one’s success in any area, there is potential for an ayin hara. For example, if a friend visits your elaborately decorated new home and gushes, “Wow!! I’ve never seen anything so dazzling!” – this can provoke a furor in shamayim over whether the homeowner is indeed deserving of such largesse. Thus, an ayin hara has been discharged, with no mal-intent in the picture. It is therefore prudent to keep a low profile and to live modestly, whether one has or hasn’t the means for an elaborate lifestyle. (Showing off may not be in one’s best interest. Draw those curtains on your new, smashing chandelier.)
As for sharing good news with others less fortunate, one should do so with sensitivity. Instead of withholding the exciting details from a less lucky friend or relative until the news becomes common knowledge, one ought to go out of her/his way to make sure that this friend gets the scoop up front personally. Such special sharing and caring will spare needless hurts, and the friend will be made to feel like a genuine part of your simcha.
Yaakov Avinu blessed his son Yosef with “Vayidgu larov b’kerev ha’aretz…” – may they increase like fish in the land… Fish are concealed under water, rendering the ayin hara powerless over the modest inhabitant of the sea. It is said that as a result of this brachah, the descendents of Yosef are forever protected against the evil eye.
But rather than rely on our genealogy, we’d do better to avoid arousing the “evil eye” in the first place. Quite astonishingly, the Talmud states that 99 percent of all deaths can be attributed to an ayin hara. (Bava Metzia 107B) Controlling the impulse to be envious of others is another healthy habit worth acquiring. Our sages have spelled it out for us: Jealousy is a trait that removes one from the world.
Your letter, True Blue, demonstrates that you are a good soul who can bring yourself to feel happiness at another’s good tidings. May fortune smile upon you, and may you and yours be blessed with your heart’s desire.