Please Download Sedra Sheet Here

26/05/2017


 

Thoughts from the Parasha 
Neutralising the influence of the Evil Eye
Our Parasha במדבר, begins with the second census of the Jewish people as they prepared militarily to enter the Land of Israel. In contrast to the census which King David ordered which resulted in a plague and many Israelites dying, there was no such occurrence in the wilderness. Ramban gives a number of explanations for the difference. One of the reasons he gives is that in our parasha’s census there was a reason that is to prepare to enter the land whilst David only ordered the census so he could glorify himself in the size of the population and by doing so gave power to the “evil eye”.
Our sages tell us to be very careful in counting people to avoid the evil eye. Hence, when counting a minyan we typically recite a verse with ten words rather than count to 10.  So, what is the evil eye, how does it have power and what should we do to confront it?
Whilst the evil eye is only alluded to in the written Torah in Yaacov’s blessing to Yoseph, בן פורת יוסף, בן פורת עלי עין (Bereshit 49:22), the Talmud is more explicit with Rav suggesting that 99% of deaths are caused by it (Bava Metzia 107b) and legislation for damages linked to sight נזק ראייה (Bava Metzia 30a). Whilst Rambam explains this as a protection of an individual’s privacy, most commentators put the damages down to the evil eye.
Ribbi Eliezer Ben Hyrcanus one of Ribbi Yochanan Ben Zaccai’s students suggests the evil eye is the worst trait someone can have (and equally a good eye as the best trait) (Pirkei Avot 2:9). This is understood as feeling jealous about what someone else has, coveting it and by doing so has a negative influence.
What about the victim of the evil eye? Why should she or he suffer? The rabbis explain that by showing off what you have the heavenly court questions whether you should have it at all. Additionally, it is argued that the person who is jealous of what others have is more likely to be on the receiving end.
There are of course various customs and amulets used to ward off the evil eye, many of which border on the superstitious and are shared by a multiplicity of cultures around the world – the Hamsa being just one example. In a rational world, the right approach for a Jew to take is to be content with what she or he has, to only count what one has for a specific and constructive purpose, not flaunt one’s possessions and not desire what others have but rather be happy for them. שבת שלום.