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Posts Tagged ‘Tractate Berachot’

Q & A: Ayin Hara (Part VI)

Thursday, December 29th, 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, which mentions two reasons for this rule – 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) notes 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).

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, request protection in Joseph’s merit. Possibly all Jews enjoy this protection (see Rashi and Metzudat David [Tehillim 80:2]). If we are immune to the destructive power of the evil eye, Rav’s statement about a cemetery, “Ninety-nine died as a result of the evil eye, and only one naturally” (Tractate Bava Metzia 107b), perhaps refers to people who are overly ostentatious and thus more susceptible to the evil eye (Yefei Einayim).

It seems there are two types of evil eye. One is the evil eye of wicked who intend harm, which has no power over Jews and ultimately destroys the wicked person himself, even if he is a Jew (as Rabbenu Yona explains based on Avot 2:11). The other type is the evil eye of the righteous, which does affect Jews, particularly the wicked (Tractate Ketubbot 103b; see also Tractate Berachot 58a about a Sadducee who contradicted R. Sheshet and became a heap of bones, as well Tractate Shabbos 33b-34a, which records a similar incident with R. Shimon b. Yochai).

Resultant damage from the evil eye is termed hezek re’eyah – damage caused by looking at someone else’s property (Bava Batra 2b) – and the Gemara details halachot about constructing partitions to prevent it. A person is entitled to a degree of privacy on his premises and more so within his house.

Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, zt”l (Michtav Me’Eliyahu vol. 3: p.313) explains (citing Eruvin 64b and Rashi) that the wealthy should perform mitzvot with their wealth to protect it from the evil eye, as ostentation causes jealousy which invites ayin hara.

* * * *

Many people would be surprised at the number of everyday situations where we take ayin hara into account. For example, the Mechaber (Orach Chayyim 230:2, based on Bava Metzia 42a) rules that when one is about to measure new grain [the new season’s growth], he recites a blessing, “Yehi ratzon milfanecha Hashem Elokeinu shetishlach beracha b’chri hazeh – May it be your will O L-rd, our G-d, that You send blessing upon this pile.” When one begins to actually measure, he recites, “Baruch Hashole’ach beracha b’chri hazeh – Blessed is He who sends [His] blessing upon this pile.” If, however, he has already started measuring he shouldn’t say the blessing as it would be a prayer uttered in vain. Why? Because blessing is only found in that which is hidden from the eye.

Our sages derived this concept from the pasuk in Prashat Ki Tavo (Deuteronomy 28:8) “Yetzav Hashem itcha et ha’beracha ba’asamecha – Hashem will command the blessing for you in your storehouses.” From the word “asamecha – storehouses,” they extrapolate that blessing applies to that which is “samui – hidden,” i.e., the quantity is yet unknown. The Maharsha (Bava Metzia ibid.) explains that the reason this is necessary due to ayin hara.

There is a dispute whether one should use the Divine name – Shem u’Malchut – when reciting this beracha. The Ritvah (novella to Bava Metzia ad. loc.) argues that one does. Ramban (novella, ad loc.), on the other hand, writes that one recites Shem u’Malchut only when separating terumot and maasarot.

Q & A: Ayin Hara (Part V)

Wednesday, December 21st, 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, which mentions two reasons for this rule – 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) notes 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).

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, request protection in Joseph’s merit.

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 and enjoy his protection. The statement of Rav about a cemetery, “Ninety-nine died as a result of the evil eye, and only one naturally” (Tractate Bava Metzia 107b), perhaps refers to people who are overly ostentatious and thus more susceptible to the evil eye (Yefei Einayim).

It seems there are two types of evil eye. One is the evil eye of wicked who intend harm, which has no power over Jews and ultimately destroys the wicked person himself, even if he is a Jew (as Rabbenu Yona explains based on Avot 2:11). The other type is the evil eye of the righteous, which does affect Jews, particularly the wicked (Tractate Ketubbot 103b; see also Tractate Berachot 58a about a Sadducee who contradicted R. Sheshet and became a heap of bones, as well Tractate Shabbos 33b-34a, which records a similar incident with R. Shimon b. Yochai).

* * * *

What do we really mean when we speak of the resultant damage from the evil eye? The Gemara (Bava Batra 2b) refers to this as hezek re’eyah – damage caused by looking at someone else’s property. The Gemara forbids one to look at another person’s field when produce is growing, and Rashi (s.v. “asur l’adam she’ya’amod”) explains this is due to the evil eye. We are concerned that an ayin hara will affect the produce.

Even though the Gemara is clear that only in such or similar instances do we classify the damage as due to the evil eye, it would nevertheless seem that all hezek re’eyah has an undertone of ayin hara.

The concept of hezek re’eyah, in general, is that a person is entitled to a degree of privacy when using his own premises. If he is within his house then there is an even greater expectation of privacy (as Rashi notes, s.v.”hezeka d’bayit sha’ani”) since a person engages in matters that are more private; hence, there are issues of personal modesty which might be violated if this expected privacy is breached.

It is thus understandable that today, in the course of either the construction or renovation of a house, a large fence will be erected all about the property or, at a minimum, the houses’ windows will be covered or clouded to protect the family from unwanted viewing. Though the fence this may be required by city ordinance to protect passerby from any falling debris, we might nevertheless attribute some of this safeguard to a concern of ayin hara; we don’t want any mishap in the course of construction (just like the Gemara is concerned about the produce in the field).

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.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/ask-the-rabbi/q-a-ayin-hara-part-iv/2011/12/15/

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