Halacha for Wednesday 4 Tammuz 5784 July 10 2024

Protection from Ayin Hara

We have mentioned that our Sages discussed certain situations where one should be wary of Ayin Hara. Thus, two brothers or a father and son should not receive consecutive Aliyot to the Torah, for anything which engenders feelings of great excitement or admiration among people or attracts undue attention can be susceptible to the harmful effects of Ayin Hara.

Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l writes that even a talented orator who uses his abilities to give lectures and bring Jews closer to Hashem is susceptible to Ayin Hara, in spite of being involved in a great Mitzvah. As a Segulah (auspicious practice) to ward off Ayin Hara, one may follow the counsel of the Sages (Berachot 55b) regarding an individual who enters a city where he is unknown and is concerned that people may be amazed by his great knowledge or pleasant voice and the like, one should do the following: Place one’s right thumb in one’s left palm and left thumb in one’s right palm and recite, “I, so-and-so son/daughter of so-and-so (one’s mother) descend from the offspring of Yosef, who is no susceptible to Ayin Hara,” as the verse states, “A charming son is Yosef, a son charming to the eye.” This verse is to be deciphered as the progeny of Yosef being in control of Ayin Hara, as opposed to being under its control. Another verse which proves this point is, “And they shall multiply like fish increasingly throughout the land,” for just as fish are protected from Ayin Hara because they are covered by the seas, so too, the offspring of Yosef are protected from Ayin Hara as well.

The fact that one exclaims that one is from the offspring of Yosef although this is probably not the case, for most of us descend from other tribes, is not a falsehood since the entire Jewish nation is considered the children of Yosef, as the verse (Tehillim 77) states, “You redeemed your nation with might, the children of Yaakov and Yosef, Selah.” The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni, Shmuel II) expounds this verse, as follows: “Did Yosef bear all of them? Only Yaakov did! Rather, Yaakov bore all of the tribes, but because Yosef sustained the entire household of his father, they are all called by his name.”

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 92a) states in the name of Rabbi Elazar that one should always be lowly and inconspicuous, and he will continue to exist. This follows Hannah’s prayer (Berachot 31b) where she prayed for her son to be among people and not stand out too much.

Nevertheless, Maran zt”l adds that if one is a gifted speaker and is able to influence the public positively, one should not abstain from doing so due to Ayin Hara concerns, for ultimately, “One who observes a Mitzvah shall know no harm” and Mitzvot protect and save one from harm. Additionally, one is not so concerned about the effects of Ayin Hara is not as susceptible to its effects, as our Sages taught, “One who is not concerned, we (Ayin Hara) are not concerned about him.” It is just an added measure of protection to perform the Segulah quoted by the Gemara which we have mentioned above, for Ayin Hara is an actual concern and not like some scholars who have tried to debunk the harmful nature of Ayin Hara. Indeed, the Ramban has rebuffed their claims and proved that Ayin Hara is an actual reality.

On the other hand, those that are overly involved with Ayin Hara are not only deviating from the primary service of Hashem and focusing on the secondary, for their hyperfocus on Ayin Hara prevents them from probing their actions, they are also more susceptible to the effects of Ayin Hara because they are constantly concerned about it. Thus, the proper way is to follow the middle path, not to be overly concerned about Ayin Hara, however, when possible and necessary, one should implement the Segulot against Ayin Hara.

Maran Ha’Chida writes in his Sefer Kikar La’Aden (page 285a) that the ruda/rue plant is extremely beneficial in warding off Ayin Hara and witchcraft. He writes that he heard from the sages of Jerusalem that there is a holy name "רוטה" and one who carries this plant should concentrate on it and it will protect him. This plant is also beneficial in warding off plague.

Za’atar (Ezov or Syrian Oregano) is not a Segulah against Ayin Hara, however, it is beneficial for other things, as Rabbeinu Moshe Zakut writes in his commentary on the Zohar (quoted in Midbar Kedomot, Ma’arechet Alef) that one who carries around Za’atar shall not be harmed by witchcraft. The Ari z”l writes that one should always have Za'atar on one’s table.

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