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Posts Tagged ‘Bereishit Rabbah’

Lost And Found

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

My son lost his backpack when traveling back to his base. He had put it in the hold of the bus in which he was traveling. He would need to replace his wallet, tefillin, clothes, books, phone charger and all of his documentation. Of course the tefillin was the most important item of all. It was a bar mitzvah gift from his grandparents and specially written for him, and we all know how expensive tefillin are. But obviously the sentimental value was irreplaceable.

We were both very upset. It was certainly possible that someone had mistakenly taken it and would call. But what if it had fallen out of the bus? What if someone had purposely taken it (though I’ve never heard of this happening)? My son went to the lost and found department at the Egged Central Bus Station (the terminus of the bus) in Ashkelon. Not holding out too much hope that the backpack would be recovered, I searched on the web for the prayer attributed to the Tanna, Rabbi Meir Baal Haness, that one says for lost objects. I’m not usually one for segulos, but I felt that a miracle was needed in this situation. I gave 10 shekels to tzedakah and said the prayer three times. The very second I finished my son called to tell me that someone who took the bag by accident returned it. Baruch Hashem, I’m a believer!

Wanting to publicize the miracle, I wrote to a few people telling them what had happened. One wrote back, saying that a lady she knows has a secular son living in the South Pacific who is slowly mellowing to Yiddishkeit. He had lost his glasses and hadn’t been able to replace them for a month. It suddenly occurred to her that she should say the prayer for finding lost objects. The very same day she said the prayer, he called her to report that the glasses had been found!

On 14 Iyar, Pesach Sheini, the Yom Hilula of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness takes place. When a Jew is in trouble there is a longstanding custom to give money l’ilui nishmas Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. But it is most popularly used as a segulah for finding lost objects. The money should specifically go toward helping the poor in Eretz Yisrael because Rabbi Meir Baal Haness said he would help those that gave to Eretz Yisrael’s poor – for the sake of his soul.

The source for this custom is the Gemara (Avodah Zarah 18a-b) where we learn that Rebbi Meir bribed a guard to release the imprisoned sister of his wife Bruriah, who had been dispatched by the Romans to a brothel as punishment for her parents teaching Torah. The guard asked what would happen if he’d be caught. Rebbi Meir told him to say the words, “Eloka d’Meir, aneini – God of Meir, answer me” three times and he would be saved. The guard secured the release of Rebbi Meir’s unharmed sister-in-law, and the guard was miraculously saved when he uttered the words Rebbi Meir had instructed him to say.

The first part of the prayer that begins with “Amar Rabbi Binyamin” derives from Bereishit Rabbah 53:14, referring to Hagar having her eyes opened and being able to see the well from which she could draw water to save herself and her son. The lesson: Something might be right under your nose, but you need God’s enlightenment to see it. This is often the case when we lose something.

Especially on the Tanna’s yahrzeit, it is very meritorious to give charity or light a candle l’ilui nishmas Rabbi Meir Baal Haness and to say “Eloka d’Meir, aneini” three times.

As ultimate redemption, of course, comes from God, we shouldn’t attribute the miracle to the Tanna; we are, after all, calling out to Hashem. But it is in the merit of tzaddikim that we can ask for a little more help from Above. Apparently we can get it – if we’re not at a loss for words.

Q & A: Ayin Hara (Part III)

Thursday, December 8th, 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.), argues 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.)

    We find that our forefathers’ and mothers’ actions at times have been influenced by the evil eye. According to the Midrash Rabbah, Hagar miscarried due to the ayin hara that Sarah cast upon her. And the Talmud (Ta’anit 10b, see Rashi) states that the only reason Jacob sent his sons to go down to Egypt to buy food was to ward off the evil eye (Jacob, in fact, had enough food to eat). According to Bereishit Rabbah 91:6, he also instructed them enter Egypt through separate gates for the same reason (they were all tall and handsome).

* * * *     We have discussed instances referring to the power of ayin hara. There are also sources, though, pointing to its inefficacy. Thus Berachot 20a states that R. Yochanan (who was famous for his good looks) was accustomed to go and sit at the gates of the mikveh. He said, “When the daughters of Israel come up from their immersion they look at me and have children as handsome as I am.” The Rabbis said to him, “Is not the Master afraid of the evil eye?” to which he retorted, “I am of the seed of Joseph over whom the evil eye has no power, as it is written (Bereishit 49:22), ‘Ben porat Yosef, ben porat alei ayin.’ ” The Gemara continues, “And R. Abbahu said in regard to this verse: Do not read ‘alei ayin’ but ‘olei ayin’ ” (literally, “rising above the eye,” i.e., above the power of the evil eye).

Berachot (ad loc.) also states: “R. Yossi son of R. Chanina derived [proof that the evil eye has no power over the descendants of Joseph] from the verse [containing Jacob's blessing to Joseph's sons]: ‘Ve’yid’gu larov bekerev ha’aretz – And let them multiply like fish throughout the land.’ Just as the fish in the sea are covered by water and the evil eye has no power over them, so, too, the evil eye has no power over the seed of Joseph. Or, if you prefer [namely, another reason], I can say: The evil eye has no power over the eye that chose not to partake of that which did not belong to it [Joseph resisted the advances of Potiphar’s wife].”

Berachot (55b) also discusses various remedies for bad dreams and other matters: “If a man entering a town is afraid of the evil eye, let him take the thumb of his right hand in his left hand and the thumb of his left hand in his right hand, and say: I [inserting his name], son of [his father's name], am of the seed of Joseph over whom the evil eye has no effect, as it is written, ‘Ben porat Yosef, ben porat alei ayin.’ ”

The Maharsha (ad loc.) points out that R. Yochanan (ibid. 20a) clearly stated that he was Joseph’s descendant. Tractate Sotah (36b) also refers specifically to “bnei Yosef.” But this Gemara seems to be talking about a remedy for all Jews entering a city, many of whom obviously do not descend from Joseph! Some argue that, indeed, the suggested remedy is effective only for those who turn out to be descendants of Joseph. Others, however, maintain that all Jews are considered the children of Joseph, as it says (Tehillim 80:2), “Ro’eh Yisrael ha’azinah, noheg katzon Yosef – Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, who leads Joseph like a flock.” Rashi and Metzudat David explain that since Joseph sustained his brothers and their families in Egypt, they are referred to by his name.

This last explanation implies that since we are all immune to the destructive power of the evil eye, it is impossible to cast an ayin hara upon another Jew. How, then, do we explain the statement in Tractate Bava Metzia attributed to Rav (107b): “Ninety-nine [of the dead in the cemetery where he was standing] died as a result of the evil eye, and [only] one from natural causes” as well as the other statements and examples mentioned above?

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-ayin-hara-part-ii/2011/11/30/

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