Monday, December 29, 2014

Tikkun for an Evil Eye

Art: Linda Boucher

"He who possesses a beneficient eye shall be blessed." [Proverbs 22:9]

There is a “beneficient eye” and an “evil eye”. Both terms have been used for several millennia and are found in the Talmud as indicators of the measure of a man.

Abraham was the paradigm of one who possesses a “beneficient eye”. He always looked for good in others, and felt neither jealousy of, nor hatred for, his fellow man. Bilaam, on the other hand, epitomized the possessor of an “evil eye” – one who always looks for fault or is jealous of another’s possessions or status.

The Talmud, when referring to the evil eye, credits it with almost mystical powers. Looking at another’s possessions with jealousy in your eyes can cause evil to befall that person. For this reason Talmudic law forbids us to build our homes too close to that of our neighbours. Privacy is very important, lest we look upon our neighbours’ possessions with a covetous eye. Neighbours should maintain a reasonable distance between one another, or, at the very least, homes should be built with a separation and a space between them.

Having an “evil eye” is usually understood as looking at another person with the intent that evil should befall him. It also includes coveting another’s possessions, being annoyed at his success (as if his success somehow impinges on our ability to succeed in life), pettiness and so on.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that an evil eye leads to an increased breathing rate. Somehow, jealousy and rage at another’s success causes one to draw breath at an accelerated pace.The Talmud therefore teaches “The cup of benediction at the conclusion of a meal should be given to one with a good eye. It is thus written (Proverbs 22:9) “He who possesses a beneficient eye shall be blessed.” Do not only read “shall be blessed” but shall bless….”

Conversely, one should beware of people with stingy and jealous eyes, as King Solomon cautions (Proverbs 23:6) “Do not break bread with [one who possesses] an evil eye”.

It is not merely a matter of superstition. As much as a good eye blesses, an evil eye takes. The source of the power of the evil eye is greed. When one looks upon another's possessions with greed, and the other is in any way guilty of mis-using his money, or is otherwise unworthy of the wealth he possesses, he might lose his possessions, G-d forbid. Clearly the way we look upon another's possessions can arouse Divine judgment against him. In the same vein, when we view the possessions of others generously, we can with a mere look of our eyes, bring blessing upon them.

When we realise that the eyes are the "windows to the mind" the significance of "evil eye" increases.

Rebbe Nachman taught: Memory depends upon the eyes, as in (Exodus 13:9) "[the tefillin shall be as] a remembrance between your eyes". In order to guard one's memory, one must first guard oneself from an evil eye - from evil thoughts about others, from jealousy, and from all forms of negativity. The evil eye can cause harm not only to the one being focused upon, but also to the one who is focusing, to an even greater degree. Conversely, maintaining an evil eye goes hand in hand with forgetfulness."

Yet we needn't live in constant fear of the evil eye, of others who may wish us harm. Rebbe Nachman teaches that if we feel incapable of guarding ourselves against an evil eye, then we should flee from it. However, if we can come to understand the essence of the evil eye, our actions can be far more effective: we can rectify it.

For example, a person might have an evil eye against another's position in life. This evil eye stems from the fallen attribute of Malkhut (kingship) which, when blemished, leads to low self-esteem and the need to put others down in order to get ahead. To correct one's own fallen Malkhut, one should strive to elevate G-d's Malkhut - by learning Torah or by otherwise disseminating G-d's Name in the world. In this way, one demonstrates one's allegiance to G-d, rather than to one's own need for self-aggrandizement. This serves to rectify the evil eye of the fallen Malkhut at its root.

Source: "Anatomy of the Soul" - Chaim Kramer - from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

When you invite jealousy, you're inviting negative energy from someone else. For this insensitivity or transgression on your part, you may incur a Divine consequence of losing some of your blessing. [If you give a child a toy and he hits his little brother with it, you might take the toy away. He's not using it the way you intended.]

Another spiritual rule that the kabbalists describe, explains the evil eye like this:

When someone stares at your blessing and thinks, "Why should so-and-so have that brand new Hummer? He's not so righteous. Why is God rewarding him?", it's like a complaint to Heaven, and an accusation that gets registered. The heavenly court then examines you and your blessing to determine if you in fact deserve it. If you don't, your blessing may be damaged or lost.

Of course, the accuser doesn't get off scott free, either, because then the heavenly court decides to investigate the accuser. "Who is this that comes to judge My child?" God asks.

So it's always a bad idea to give someone else an evil eye. And it's a bad idea to expose yourself to it, too.

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