This week I spoke about ayin hara. The Gemara in Berachos (20a) learns that part of the beracha that Yosef received was that his descendants would not be influenced by an ayin hara. We find several places in Shas and Poskim where the idea of ayin hara is mentioned including a couple that are halacha l’ma’aseh. For example, the gemara in Bava Basra 2B says one is considered a mazik if one stands next to a friend’s field and look at it. Rashi explains the hezek is you are putting an ayin hara on your friend. We also pasken in Shulchan Orach that 2 brothers should not receive consecutive aliyos because of ayin hara. The 2 questions that need to be answered is a) how does ayin hara actually work b) how can you be mazik someone through an ayin hara if the person doesn’t deserve to be punished.
There are two mehalchim in explaining ayin hara.
1) The Chazon Ish (Likutim Baba Basra 14a) seems to understand that ayin hara is a koach people have that allows them to harm someone. My understanding of the Chazon Ish is that just like a can be mazik a person by stealing his money or physically damaging his car, so too I can be mazik a person through my thoughts. How is it possible to harm someone even though tey don’t deserve it? The Chazon Ish writes that you can’t. If HKB”H determined that this person is deserving of punishment then one way it can be brought about is through an ayin hara. For example, let’s say it was decreed that a person should lose his car. It can either be stolen, smashed up or lost through an ayin hara. Ayin hara is just a mechanism through which Hashem will punish the person.
A similar mehalach is found in the Michtav M’Eliyahu (Chelek 4 page 5&6) and elaborated on by the Sifsei Chiam (Emunah V’Hashgacha chelek 1). Rav Dessler writes that every person has a connection on a ruchniyu slevel. When Reuvain is jealous of Shimon, this causes a chisaron in Shimon’s “shefa hachaim” and makes him more susceptible to be harmed. The Sifsei Chaim explains this to mean that a person has a koach haratzon through his machshava to harm someone. Just like HKB”H created the world through his ratzon, we also have the ability to impact someone through our koach haratzon and machshava.
This is similar to the Chazon Ish. However, there is one main difference in the way the Sifsei Chaim explains it. The Sifsei Chaim asks how can you hurt someone who doesn’t deserve it? He gives 2 answers. His first answer is that just like Reuvein has a koach haratzon and bechirah, so too does Shimon. The question is whose koach haratzon is stronger. Is Reuvein’s koach haratzon to hurt Shimon is stronger than Shimon’s koach haratzon to not be hurt? If Reuvein’s koach is stronger than Shimon can be harmed. The Sifsei Chaim explains this does not mean that Reuvein is the shaliach of Hashem to damage Shimon. In this sense he is different than the Chazon Ish (according to my understanding of the Chazon Ish).
His second answer is that Rav Dessler also writes that when a person causes someone else to be jealous, he has harmed that person spiritually. Therefore, this person now has a kitrug on him and deserves an onesh min hashamayim. Since this person is now b’sha’as sakana (throughhis own doing) he enables the koach haratzon of Reuvein to affect him.
2) I heard a second mehalach from Rav Hershel Schachter in a shiur on ayin hara. The Torah tells us that if you mistreat a widow or an orphan and they cry out to Hashem, that you will be punished. How does this work? When the widow cries out to Hashem, she is asking that her tormentor be punished. Normally, Hashem lets things slide and doesn’t punish people right away. None of us our deserving of anything-we all do aveiros and we all deserve to be punished. The fact that we aren’t punished right away is part of Hashem’s chesed. However, when someone asks Hashem to punish us, then He looks at what we have done more closely and decides if we really deserve what we have.
Similarly, when someone is jealous of someone’s money or wealth there is an implicit tefilla to Hashem that it’s not fair that this person deserves what he has. The jealous person is asking Hashem to take away what we have because it isn’t fair. Consequently, Hashem will look more closely at whether we deserve what we have and He might take away certain things.
The poskim point out that an ayin hara will not affect someone who is not makpid. How are we to understand this based on the two mehalchim?
According to the Chazon Ish/Rav Dessler perhaps we can say that if you are not makpid about an ayin hara, this means that you don’t walk around making people jealous of you. As Rav Dessler says, if you are a “nosein” people won’t be jealous of you. M’meilah if everyonre likes you and is not jealous they won’t put in ayin hara on you. According to Rav Schachter’s mehalech, he mentions that the way to combat ayin hara is through tefilla and by recognizing “ein od milvado”. Perhaps that is also the pshat in not being makpid about an ayin hara. When you realize everything is from Hashem and “ein od milvado”, you by nature also won’t be makpid about an ayin hara.