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April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Glassman’

Q & A: Ayin Hara (Part II)

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Question: I know there is a dispute in the Gemara regarding ayin hara, the evil eye. Can you discuss the origin of it?

Ben Glassman

(Via E-Mail)

Answer: The Rambam (Hilchot Gezela v’Aveidah 13:11) and the Mechaber (Choshen Mishpat 267:18) write that one who finds a garment must periodically air it out, but not when there are guests around. This halacha is based on Bava Metzia 29b, where the gemara mentions two reasons for avoiding displaying a found garment before guests – either because of ayin hara or because of possible theft. Neither the Rambam nor the Mechaber mention the ayin hara concern. The Aruch Hashulchan (Choshen Mishpat, Hilchos Hashavat Aveidah 267:11) records the same halacha but adds that the finder may air out the garment before guests if he is sure they are people of integrity, in which case, there is no concern of theft or the evil eye. The Bach, to the Tur (C.M. ad loc.), mentions that the Rambam and the Mechaber only mention theft and not ayin hara because the concern of theft is easier for the general populace to understand. (The Rosh and the Rif mention both reasons.)

* * * * *

Let us delve into the biblical source for ayin hara (since there would be no halachic basis for being concerned about the evil eye if our sages did not find this concept grounded in scripture). We read in Parshat Lech Lecha that our Matriarch Sarah, childless after many years of marriage to Abraham, gives her maidservant Hagar to Abraham as a wife in order that she bear him children. Hagar immediately conceives and becomes so enamored of her pregnancy that she becomes disrespectful to her mistress. Sarah then confronts her husband, “Chamasi alecha; anochi natati shifchati becheikecha, vateirei ki harata va’ekal be’eineha. Yishpot Hashem beini u’veinecha! – The wrong done to me is due to you; I gave my maidservant to you, and now that she sees that she has conceived, I became lowered in her esteem. Let G-d judge between you and me!” (Genesis 16:5).

Sarah subsequently deals harshly with her maidservant, and Hagar flees. An angel of G-d finds her near a spring in the desert and asks her where she is headed. She tells him that she is fleeing from her mistress. The angel exhorts her to return to the servitude of her mistress, promising her a multitude of descendants from Abraham. He tells Hagar, “Hinach harah veyoladt ben, vekarat shemo Yishmael ki shama Hashem el onyech – You are [will be] with child and will give birth to a son, and you shall name him Ishmael because G-d heard your affliction” (ibid., 16:11).

The term “hinach harah” can be understood to indicate the future tense as well as the present. In his commentary to the two verses quoted above, Rashi understands the term to indicate the future tense. Based on the Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 48:8), Rashi explains that Hagar had suffered a miscarriage and the angel was promising her another pregnancy. The Midrash deduces that Hagar miscarried due to the ayin hara that Sarah had cast upon her.

The power of the evil eye is also alluded to in connection with the famine in the land of Canaan in the days of our Patriarch Jacob. Jacob sent his sons to Egypt (which had a huge storehouse of food thanks to the astute planning of Joseph) to acquire wheat. Jacob said to his sons, “Why should you show yourselves?” (Genesis 42:1). The Talmud (Ta’anit 10b, see Rashi) points out that Jacob’s family had enough wheat to eat. Jacob, however, was cautioning them not to appear sated before the families of Esau and Ishmael because if they did, they would envy them. Thus, the whole mission to buy food in Egypt was primarily intended to ward off the evil eye.

Scripture also tells us, “Va’yavo’u bnei Yisrael lishbor betoch haba’im – And Jacob’s sons came to buy provisions among the arrivals” (ibid., 42:5). Rashi quotes a Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah 91:6) that Jacob had also warned his sons not to all enter Egypt via the same gate since they were men of stature and pleasant features, and he wanted to stave off the evil eye of those who might look at them. Thus, he was clearly concerned about an ayin hara.

 

(To be continued)

 

Rabbi Yaakov Klass, rav of Congregation K’hal Bnei Matisyahu in Flatbush, Brooklyn, is the Torah editor of The Jewish Press. He can be contacted at yklass@jewishpress.com.

Q & A: Ayin Hara (Part I)

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

Question: I know there is a dispute in the Gemara regarding ayin hara, the evil eye. Can you discuss the origin of it?

Ben Glassman

(Via E-Mail)

The Halacha: The Mechaber (Choshen Mishpat 267:18) rules: “If one found a wool garment he is to shake it once in 30 days [as long as it is in his safekeeping pending its eventual return to its rightful owner], but he should not shake it by means of a stick [i.e. by hitting it] nor should it be done with two people holding it. He should spread it on a bed only for its own need but not for its need and his need. Should he happen to have guests, he should not spread it, even for its own need, for perhaps it will be stolen.”

The Discussion: The above halacha is based on a mishnah (Bava Metzia 29b). The mishnah states: If one found a garment, he should shake it once in 30 days. He should shake it for its own need but not for his honor (benefiting from both its beauty and utility – to use it as a bedspread or even a wall hanging). The Gemara (infra 30a) states that if shaking it helps the garment and him at the same time, it is permitted. Indeed, the Gemara notes that if he spreads it on a bed or on a frame, it is prohibited if he does so solely for his own need but permitted if he does so for its need (in order that it be aired out properly). However, if houseguests arrive, it is prohibited because of ayin hara or possible theft.

The Rambam (Hilchot Gezela v’Aveidah 13:11) codifies this halacha and explains that someone who finds a lost object is required to examine it in order that it not become destroyed due to lack of use, as the verse states in Parshat Ki Teitzei (Deuteronomy 22:2): “Ve’im lo karov achicha elecha velo yedato va’asafto el toch beitecha ve’haya imcha ad drosh achicha oto va’hashevoto lo – If your brother is not near you and unknown to you, then you are to gather it into your house and it shall remain with you until your brother inquires after it and you return it to him.” It states “and you return it to him,” which means take care of it and keep it in returnable condition. How so? If one found a garment of wool, he should shake it once every 30 days but not with a stick nor together with someone else. He may place it on a bed for its need but not for its need and his need. If houseguests arrive he is not to spread it out before them lest it be stolen.

We see that both the Rambam and the Mechaber cite only the Gemara’s second reason – fear of theft – and make no mention of the Gemara’s first reason – fear of the evil eye.

The Aruch Hashulchan (Choshen Mishpat, Hilchos Hashavat Aveidah 267:11) similarly cites the halacha, but he adds that the founder may leave it spread out when guests come if he knows they are people of integrity since there is no concern for theft or an evil eye. Thus, we see that an evil eye is perhaps a matter of concern.

Indeed, the Bach to the Tur (C.M. ad loc.) explains that the Rambam and the Mechaber only mention theft and not ayin hara because the former concern is easier for the general populace to understand. (The Rif and the Rosh mention both reasons of the Gemara in their codification of the halacha.)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-ayin-hara-part-i/2011/11/24/

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