Wednesday, May 24, 2017

What Is The Evil Eye?

What is Ayin Hara - the “Evil Eye”?

Can it be given to inanimate objects, to animals, or only to people?

Can you give an ayin hara to yourself?

Does it require physically seeing something?

How exactly does it work?

Is there a way to protect against it?

What is the rationalist view on this, and what is the mystical view?

And what does all this have to do with ostriches?

I will be discussing the extremely surprising answers to these questions in a presentation entitled "Ostriches and the Evil Eye" this Sunday night, which you can either attend in person or via live online streaming. This is part of the "Night At The Museum" lecture series, which you can sign up for at Meanwhile, I would be very interested to hear people's thoughts on the questions above - please write your answers in the comments!


  1. Ayin Hara is something similar to this incredible scientific experiment:

    1. and now for some rationalism

      Emoto's work has largely been neglected by mainstream scientists, although a few have pointed out the obvious lack of controls and subjective nature of the photographing processes that completely negate his claims. He also refused James Randi's million-dollar prize to redo the experiment with proper double-blind conditions. Emoto did not particularly care about science though; he was primarily interested, of course, in selling his books, promoting his expensive "seminars" and "lectures", and selling overpriced water.

  2. Will the lecture be available online for those that are not available to tune in to the live stream?

    1. I second the motion! With work its possible I wont be able to tune in!

    2. Yes, once you register you can also watch it afterwards.

  3. Spoiler alert:

    אבות ב:יא:
    רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אוֹמֵר, עַיִן הָרָע, וְיֵצֶר הָרָע, וְשִׂנְאַת הַבְּרִיּוֹת, מוֹצִיאִין אֶת הָאָדָם מִן הָעוֹלָם:

    אמר שחריצות לממון ורוב התאוה ורוע הנפש והוא חולי המרה השחורה שיביא האדם למאוס ראות עיניו וישנאהו וייטב לו חברת החיות והתבודדות במדברות וביערות ויבחר לו מקום שאינן מיושב וזה אצלם לא מצד פרושות רק לרוע תאותם וקנאתם בזולתם אלו ימיתו [האדם] בלא ספק כי יחלה גופו וימות טרם עתו:

    רבי עובדיה מברטנורא:
    עין הרע - כמו עין רעה שאינו מסתפק במה שיש לו ומחזר אחר דברים אחרים. ויש מפרשים עין הרע, שמכניס עין הרע בממון חבירו או בבניו ומזיק לו:

    תוספות יום טוב:
    עין הרע. פירש הר"ב כמו עין רעה. ואמר שמוציאין את האדם מן העולם ואין צ"ל שיתרחק אדם ממנה ולפיכך אמר ר יהושע לעיל שהדרך שיתרחק ממנה האדם הוא חבר רע. וזהו חדוש יותר. כ"פ במדרש שמואל:

    Ayin hara is jealousy. People who indulge in conspicuous consumption, enjoying the envy of their neighbors or listeners, open themselves up to Hashem perhaps deciding that they are misusing His resource and He should allocate elsewhere. There are too many factors to say that reward and punishment reliably occur in this world (שכר מצות בהאי עלמא ליכא).

    Still there is a metaphysical force that pushes toward repaying this behavior with the loss of the object. Among all the other vectors. This is the "ayin hora" of popular imagination.

    How does my answer align with yours? Please let me know on Monday!

    1. Additionally, the "envious" may also incur a feeling of low self-worth and esteem that causes them to suffer. The Ayin Hara may be a punishment for causing that suffering.

    2. The Yerushalmi understandsays ayin hara as a "begrudging eye". Eg, a householder who is stingy with sharing his bread with guests has an ayin hara.

      The metaphysical ayin hara is a product of Bavel.

  4. AYIN HARA is "Eye of Evil". AYIN RA'A is "Evil eye".

    1. Neither of those is correct, because רע doesn't mean evil. It means bad. We translate it as evil when we refer to someone we believe is inherently bad, aka evil. Similarly, the phrase evil eye is more than just the sum of its words. It has a meaning of its own, which happens to closely match with עין הרע.

  5. Shadal (beginning of Ki Tisa) goes beyond the binary of rationalist vs. mystical. I think that is a fascinating third option.

  6. The traditional approaches have been covered in the previous comments. Suggestion- following the scientific method take a case study where it applies and see if you can reverse engineer its facets. I'll supply maareh mkomot (contact me off line) to the case of 2 brothers getting aliyot

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