The Evil Eye (Ayin Hara), How to Prevent the Evil Eye, How to Remove the Mal Occhio

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The Evil Eye (Ayin Hara)

The Evil Eye.  I just say the words and images of ululation and palms of hands with fingers spread wide and hissing  “Hamsa! Hamsa!” come to mind.  Add to that some spitting “tfu! tfu! tfu!” and the picture is almost complete.  I hear shchuuuuuur (in Hebrew, black magic spells) with a drawn out vowel and more dark, ominous figures of various sorts with bulging pairs of eyes and raised brows, of course.   Not for nothing arise associations of an ancient, old world society – uneducated, illiterate, complete with an old witch bearing a prominent wart and missing, rotten teeth.


Where does the Evil Eye come from?


Although indeed, the evil eye is mentioned in the Bible, it is acceptable in Jewish tradition gains power and momentum as long as people believe in it and when we do not believe in the evil eye, it becomes weak, insignificant and whittles down to nothing.  On the other hand, ancient Greece brought forth the concept of the evil eye and thus the same notion of the evil eye spread, like wildfire, throughout the Mediterranean and reached Europe.  As a culture, the subject of the evil eye seeped into Islam and also Judaism.


Is there Ayin Hara (Evil Eye) in Modern Times?


Due to the fact that every generation thinks it rediscovered all kinds of things, in the modern age we don’t hear so much about the evil eye – there are euphemisms borrowed from other cultures, idol worshipping cultures.  We live in an era where everything is programmed, applicable and can be understood – is it so?

In the same way that Uri Geller has energy that bends spoons, etc., the evil eye is intangible, cannot be photographed, nor can it be measured in a laboratory.  If so, then how can the evil eye exist?  How many people hear from time to time “kennahorah,” “Ben Porat Yosef” (the same meaning as kennahorah in the Sefardic culture); how many times do we see hand gestures or people knocking on wood – today they knock on glass and metal, too.  The custom of touching wood or knocking on wood is Christian in origin because of their belief that touching the cross that was made of wood would ward off the evil eye.  Today we hear more terms like negative energies, etc.


The Evil Eye in Judaism


Judaism teaches that the evil eye is created when one person sees something that his/her soul years for and cannot attain and the soul cries out for this and shouts to the heavens and then an angel is created that comes and takes the coveted object from the one who has it, in order to balance the equation, since for one reason or another, it is not possible to give this to the one who wants it and covets.

The Maharal of Prague, zt”l of Blessed Memory, a genius and kabbalist, wrote in his book, Netivot Olam – chapter 3 and also in another book, Derech Chaim

“We know that the evil eye has a personal burning power and a person is harmed by that which has personal burning power, for the evil eye burns like the fire that it burns.

The person who possesses the energy of the evil eye uses more force from his soul, until he burns everything with his eye and this is a great mental exertion, much more than it should be, and in doing so it comes out the other side, that a person was not created only in a balance of body and soul and what he puts on the edge sticks to him without any explanation.”[1]

The Evil Eye (Ayin Hara), How to Prevent the Evil Eye, How to Remove the Mal Occhio


The Maharal tells us, in essence, that a person has different and strange powers, both in body and soul.  As in our five senses, from person to person it is different, just like sight, hearing, speech, etc.  One person has particular senses that are more developed and keener and another person has less.  Like a person who has large, more developed muscles, there are people who have a heightened sense and power of the evil eye – they possess negative energies and can project them to the environment.  A high spiritual level is like any inborn talent that can be developed and a person can use it for good and for bad.

“Ethics of our Fathers” of the Mishnah, chapter 2, tractate 11, says:  “Rabi Yehoshua says the evil eye and the evil inclination and baseless hatred for creation take a person from this world.”[2]  Likewise, there are also commentaries by Rashi and proverbs that speak of the evil eye.

The Evil Eye (Ayin Hara), How to Prevent the Evil Eye, How to Remove the Mal Occhio

Real Life Stories about the Ayin Hara (Evil Eye)


My mother, of Blessed Memory, told me that when I was a very small child of under two years of age, she sat with friends while I drank milk from a bottle.  One of her friends said “Oh, look at how nicely she is drinking from the bottle!”  Suddenly, I threw the bottle to the floor and began crying and screaming.  In a moment I was burning up with fever.

A friend once told me that when she was a baby she fell very ill and lay listless, with a very high fever.  No matter what they gave her or did for her, the fever would not come down and she lay in bed without moving.  Her mother spoke with some neighbor, who told her the baby has an evil eye and to take a knife and place it under the baby’s mattress.  Without question, the mother took the big kitchen knife and placed it under the crib mattress.  The baby arose the following morning bright, cheerful and healthy, as though nothing had happened.

I remember that when my brother was a baby, my mother taught us that people put a hamsa as an amulet on the infant’s undershirt, with a diaper pin to protect the newborn against the evil eye, of course.  Imagine this teeny newborn wearing a huge diaper pin – the ones with the thick safety closures – remember those?

When my son was born, my mother who was then a brand new grandmother, came to put the diaper pin with the hamsa.  My husband almost had apoplexy – I thought I would have to call him an ambulance!  He absolutely refused to put the pin on our son’s clothing, arguing sensibly that it could open up and stick him.  We reached a compromise and attached the pin behind the crib pillow.

When I got married, people told me that to protect the bride from the evil eye, they would sew a few stitches with red thread to her undergarment and my mother, may she rest in peace, did the same.  Allow me to say that it didn’t really help but so be it.

I have heard stories about children with bumps on their foreheads and the adults remark breathlessly – “What!  The child has a mark on his forehead that looks exactly like an eye!


Removal of the Evil Eye


What haven’t people done to get rid of the evil eye?  In Jerusalem especially, many a child was taken to the neighborhood witch who was strongly recommended, who in order to remove the evil eye burned some powder, sulfur or lead and mumbled and made all kinds of gestures over the child’s head.  There were people who in order to remove the evil eye took urine – yes, you read that right – urine and rubbed it on the eye shaped bruise.  There are many more customs that derived from superstition and folklore that most people today do not even know from where they originated, all for the purpose of removing the mal occhio (evil eye).

The Evil Eye (Ayin Hara), How to Prevent the Evil Eye, How to Remove the Mal Occhio

There is the red string (a.k.a. kabbalah thread) that is purportedly from the Tomb of Rachel and also the blue eye, a hamsa with a chai, etc.  There are kameas (talismans) of this or that Babba and also of various ultra-orthodox Hassidic sects.  People are afraid and look to grasp onto physical symbols.  Of course there are prayers and psalms for protection and ridding the evil eye.

I believe people fight on the level of the problem.  That is, if the problem is spiritual then they fight on a spiritual level with prayer, psalms and good deeds.  A good mystic can also be a messenger who offers guidance and direction.  There are also legitimate seers who can guide people how to get rid of the evil eye, etc.

In any path you choose, I wish you much success!

[1] Author’s translation of text presented in:

[2] Ibid.

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