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April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Yaakov Klass’

Q & A: Ayin Hara (Part IV)

Thursday, December 15th, 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.

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).

The evil eye should not always concern us. R. Yochanan asserts in Tractate Berachot (20a) that he has no fear of the evil eye since he descends from Joseph. R. Yossi ben R. Chanina explains that the evil eye has no power over the eye (i.e., Joseph) that chose not to partake of that which did not belong to it (the wife of his master Potiphar). Tractate Berachot (55b) suggests that one who is afraid of the evil eye should, among other things, say “I…am of the seed of Joseph over whom the evil eye has no effect.”

There is some discussion about whether all Jews enjoy this protection from the evil eye. Rashi and Metzudat David (to Tehillim 80:2) explain that since Joseph sustained his brothers and their families in Egypt, they are referred to by his name. If we are immune to the destructive power of the evil eye, however, the following statement by Rav about a cemetery is problematic: “Ninety-nine died as a result of the evil eye, and only one naturally” (Tractate Bava Metzia 107b).

* * * * *

Let us refer back to the matriarch Sarah and Hagar’s miscarriage. Why did Sarah’s ayin hara have such a great effect? The answer seems to lay in the unique ability we attribute to the righteous, colloquially referred to as “Tzaddik gozer v’Hakadosh Baruch Hu mekayyem – The righteous decrees and G-d upholds.”

Tractate Ketubbot (103b) describes what happened after Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi died. According to Rabbi Yehuda’s deathbed wish, R. Chanina ben Chama was to have succeeded him as head of the academy. R. Chanina, however, did not accept the position because R. Affes was older, and so R. Affes presided at the academy. He, however, died soon afterward. The Gemara concludes: “Since Rabbi [Yehuda Hanassi] decreed that R. Chanina ben Chama should preside at the academy, there could be no possibility of him not becoming head, for about the righteous it is written (Job 22:28), “vetigzar omer v’yakam lach – you would utter a decree and it would be done.” Indeed, such is the power of the righteous – they decree and G-d upholds their decree.

The Gemara in Tractate Shabbos (63a) goes even further, stating, “R. Assi – others say R. Chanina – said, ‘Even if the Holy One, blessed be He, issues a decree, he [the righteous man] can dispose of it.’ ” Tractate Mo’ed Katan (16b) comments on the verse (II Samuel 23:3), “Amar Elokei Yisrael li dibber tzur Yisrael, Moshel ba’adam tzaddik, moshel yir’at Elokim – The G-d of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spoke to me [King David], ruler over man shall be the righteous, he that rules with the fear of G-d.” R. Abahu says that this verse is to be interpreted thus: The G-d of Israel said to David, “I rule man; who influences Me? the righteous – for I issue a decree and he [the righteous] may dispose of it.”

All this points to the power of the righteous man, the tzaddik. We might perhaps find an explanation to this phenomenon in a Midrash preceding the one cited above about Jacob sending his sons to buy food in Egypt. The Midrash states, “From the day Joseph was kidnapped, the Divine Inspiration departed from Jacob [for Jacob was in mourning, and the Divine Inspiration does not rest upon man in gloom]. He would see and not see, hear and not hear.” Scripture (Genesis 42:1) informs us that “Jacob saw that there was corn [being sold] in Egypt.” Actually, Jacob could not literally see what was going on in Egypt. Indeed, in the next verse Jacob tells his sons, “I have heard that there is corn [being sold] in Egypt.” The Midrash (which is quoted by Rashi) points out that we have to interpret “shever” (literally, food being sold) as “sever,” hope. Jacob saw in a prophetic inspiration that his hope – i.e., Joseph – was in Egypt.

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: Incongruous And Unbecoming (Part III)

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

Question: Lately I have seen some young men who though they wear a yarmulke have ponytails or other long unruly hair – I’ve even seen some ear piercings. Somehow I find this behavior to be incongruous. My real problem is that my own nephew and a few of his friends wear their hair in this manner. Even though his parents look upon it as a passing fad, I am at a loss to understand such behavior. Luckily, whether right or wrong, I’ve held my tongue. I wonder what is the proper positive action in this matter.

No Name Please

Via e-mail

Synopsis:  Parashat Acharei Mot includes (Leviticus 18:3),  “K’ma’aseh eretz mitzrayim… u’che’ma’aseh eretz cana’an…lo ta’asu u’bechukoteihem lo telechu – Like the practice of the land of Egypt… and of the land of Canaan… you shall not do, and in their ways you shall not walk [go].” Rashi (ad loc) at first seems to limit the prohibition to practices found in these two most corrupt lands, but then adds that  “ in their ways” refers to going to theaters and stadiums, applying to all lands.  Rashi refers to the gemara (Shabbos 67a and Jerusalem Talmud Shabbos 6:9) where our sages explain “darkei ha’amori – the ways of the Amorites” including carrying a fox’s tooth or similar amulet [either as idolatry or superstition] as not exclusive to the Amorites. Rambam (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim Chap.11: 1) explains that we are not to appear like them in dress, hair and similar matters. He allows one who mingles with the secular authorities (11:3) to dress as necessary. The Mechaber (Yoreh Deah 179: 1-2) rules accordingly.

 

Rema (ad. loc. 179:2) notes that the obligation not to copy the idolaters (today – the gentile society) applies when a practice is done for pritzut – licentiousness or superstition, and other practices (other than those forbidden elsewhere in the Torah) are allowed. We are not required to be different in general, rather we are to avoid pagan and heathen behavior.

 

One’s hairstyle may not be darkei Amori. The Gemara (Bava Kamma 83a) cites a baraita about having one’s hair cut in a komi style, which Rashi explains as leaving a  beloriyoth – a  specific pattern of hair growth which leaves hair either only in the back or on the crown of the head.  This hairstyle is associated with idol worship (see the Mishna Avoda Zara 8a). Rambam’s opinion (Hilchos Avoda Zara 11:1) is debated: Some say he did not interpret growing bangs or forelocks as a transgression, while others (Bach Y.D. 178; Machatzis HaShekel, Orach Chayyim 27) maintain that he did.

 

 

Some people interpret  Mishna Berura (Orach Chayyim 27: sk15) as disallowing forelocks, yet he only discusses hair as a potential  chatzitza  – an interposition between the tefillin shel rosh and the forehead. Rabbi Yom Tov Lipman Heller (Divrei Chamudot, found in Vilna Shas at the end of tractate Menachot) cites Rashba’s view that a head covering [and surely one’s own hair] is not necessarily a chatzitza under tefillin. Rashba also cites the Jerusalem Talmud saying that we see what the preponderance of people do (compare B.T. Berachot 45a). Today we do see that to have some hair in the front is common practice even under tefillin.

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

Interestingly, we may violate the prohibition of darkei ha’amori – following in their ways – without realizing it. An interesting example is the use of birthday cakes with candles, as pointed out to me by my copy editor, Mrs. Bracha Holczer. According to sources that she found, this centerpiece of many birthday parties is grounded in ancient Roman and Greek culture.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-incongruous-and-unbecoming-part-iii/2011/11/02/

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