DAF TOPICS by Yakov Schonberg from OHR HAMERCAZ

On Daf 107a Rav is quoted as saying that it is forbidden for a person to stand at his neighbour’s field when the field is filled with ripened produce. Rashi explains that by casting an evil eye (ayin hara) on the field, one can cause it to suffer a loss. This follows the teaching that it is inadvisable to buy a field near a town, where people constantly walk by, and there is the increased possibility of people looking at this field with an ayin hara. The gemora portrays ayin hara as a form of metaphysical power, analogous to a physical force that can cause damage. The laws of damage by neighbours are discussed at the beginning of Bava Basra, where a separating fence four amos high is required between neighbouring yards to prevent invasion of the neighbour’s privacy. If it is forbidden to look at a neighbour’s produce, is a high wall required to prevent looking in?



Rambam (Hilchos Shechenim 2:16) writes that whilst the fence between courtyards must be four amos high, the wall between vegetable gardens is only required to be ten tefachim high. Ravad disagrees and insists on a high wall for both situations. Besides Ravad, other Rishonim also disagree and require a high wall for gardens as well, on the basis that gazing causes damage. If one is not supposed to see over the fence, how could a low fence of ten tefachim be effective? This question was posed to Rambam (Teshuvos [Blau] 395) in his lifetime, and he replied that the prohibition in our gemora is only midas chassidus and therefore demarcation is sufficient. Shulchan Aruch (CM158:3) appears to pasken for a low wall like Rambam, although the high-wall view is noted as secondary alternative. On the other hand, CM378:5 rules that one may not gaze at one’s neighbour’s field, without mention of midas chassidus, and that should require a high partition. Sema answers that privacy damage, where the neighbour watching impedes his normal use of the yard, relates to conflicts of interest between neighbours which belong to Hilchos Shechenim, but our halacha is brought in Hilchos Nezikin, which concerns damage by a mazik, where demarcation to prevent infringement of property rights is sufficient. Some suggest that Chazal would not demand a high wall for the short period when produce is standing fully ripened.



The question arises whether there would be any liability for damage caused in a non-natural manner – our gemora is silent on this point. The earliest source in this regard is a question presented to Rabbi Chagiz (Halachos Ketanos-2:98, Venice 1704) where he was asked about criminal culpability if someone kills with a Name or sorcery. In an extremely brief teshuva, he responds that: ‘perhaps since through his word he has performed an act, his status is comparable to a person who kills by shooting an arrow of whom the prophet said, “their tongue is a sharpened arrow” (Yirmiyahu 9:7)’. Chida (Devash le-Pi-mem:5) emphasizes that employment of a Divine Name involves a freely willed human act and should therefore be ascribed to that person. Chida addresses the problem that there are numerous Talmudic anecdotes concerning Chachamim who “cast their eyes” upon wrongdoers, who became a heap of bones, yet there is no indication of censure of these Tzadikkim. Chida asserts that their intention was to withdraw the spark of kedusha within that person, and that left him being a heap of bones. Perhaps his meaning is that a body without its innert kedusha is no more than a heap of bones, a body without proper life. Similarly, Aruch Hashulchan (CM-378:1) rules that such claims are not actionable in Beis Din, but there would be Heavenly liability. Ayin hara cannot be viewed as a direct physical act, so at best it would be gerama, which only carries Heavenly liability.



Maharal (Nesivos Olam, Nesiv Ayin Tov) understands ayin hara to be a destructive power inherent in nature. It is a spiritual rather than a physical force, where celestial attention is drawn to the good fortune of the object of the ayin hara and prompts a heavenly review of that individual’s standing to determine whether he is actually deserving of such good fortune. Chazon Ish (Chosen Mishpat Likkutim-21) asserts that one of the forces embedded in Creation is that a person’s thoughts can effect changes even in solid, physical things. When people are perplexed or astonished at something exceptionally successful, that good fortune is in danger of attack. However, everything is fixed from Heaven and if it was not so preordained, it cannot be caused by someone’s ayin hara. Heavenly decrees can be triggered in different ways and if ayin hara causes revelation of someone’s shortcomings, that may activate a reduction in his entitlement. The Steipler (Kehillos Yakov, Bava Kama-45) quotes the above Chida and asserts that the Tzadikkim were not regarded as culpable, as they simply confirmed the wrongdoer’s true status as being without kedusha. However, Kehillos Yakov agrees with Halachos Ketanos that intentionally invoking a supernatural force in order to kill another individual would be a criminal offense. However, but there would be great difficulty in providing Beis Din with hard evidence that he was directly responsible for death, so liability could not be imposed. Rabbi Dessler (Michtav MeEliyahu 3:p313, 4:p5) suggests that the mechanism through which ayin hara works is an ethical one. The blessings bestowed by Hashem upon an individual should not serve as a source of anguish to others. If one allows his wealth, children etc. to cause pain to others less fortunate, and certainly one who flaunts his bounty, arouses a Divine judgement against himself and a re-evaluation of whether he deserves those blessings.



We find many halachos relating to ayin hara in connection with simchos. It is a mitzvah for all to join in celebration of a bris or wedding, but at the same time this could cause pain to others who are less fortunate and are without children or a shidduch. Two family members should not have aliyos consecutively, names should not be duplicated within the family, and two brothers should not marry two sisters (Sefer Chassidim-477), all because of attracting attention to extraordinary situations which can generate ayin hara thoughts. Rabbi Yochanan Luria, writing in Meshivas Nefesh (Noach) more than 500 years ago, states that it is inevitable that some people may feel their personal lack of good fortune at a wedding and to counter any ayin hara, they respond amen to the blessings and wish ‘mazel tov’ to demonstrate their belief that everyone receives what he deserves in his own time.



There is an interesting Tefillah often included at the end of zemiros for Motzei Shabbos where one recites eleven pesukim, each of which begins and ends with nun, which is headed with a note that it is beneficial against ayin hara. Rabbeinu Bachya (Bamidbar 32:32) writes that he has a tradition that the Shem HaMeforesh of thirteen letters emanates from these pesukim and their recital is a protection. It is interesting to note that this list is found in the printed massorah gedola on Vayikra 13:9, but has its origin in the earliest massora work, Ochla VeOchla, which dates back to Geonim. It is the last item written in the Halle Ochla manuscript as illustrated (but is not in the Paris manuscript which was used for the printed edition) but is also found as marginal notes in ancient Ben Asher manuscripts such as Codex Cairo (Yirmiyahu-50:8) and Leningrad (Vayikra-13:9), which are over 1,000 years old. Massora generally controls the spelling of words and this list of pesukim does that because words were modified so that they started with nun. The second pasuk starts with the word נחנו which should really read אנחנו but the aleph has been dropped to ensure that the pasuk starts with nun. Possibly the connection with ayin hora is something similar to the use of a pair of inverted nunin at ויהי בנסוע acting as a form of brackets. By enclosing each pasuk with brackets in the form of initial and final nunin, the pasuk is concealed and protected from ayin hora vision. Furthermore, Bava Basra 118b explains why fish (in Hebrew = nun) are a siman beracha, because they are covered in the sea and are not looked at. Rokeach points out that these 11 pesukim contain no samech – symbolising anti-satanic protection.



The sequence of the pesukim in the zemiros is different from Ochla. In Masora, the order of quotations will either have the sequence of the 24 books stipulated in Bava Basra 14b or that followed in our Tenachim, according to the chronological order of authors. Interestingly, the order of the reading of sefarim as printed in Tikkun Leil Shavuos is again different and that is because each sefer is associated with a series of Sheimos based on Arizal, which governs their order. Rabbeinu Bachya also referred to Sheimos emanating from these pesukim and that is probably the reason why they have a different order in the zemiros.