Liability for an Evil Eye – Bava Metzia 107


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Rav Yehudah said to Ravin bar Rav Nachman: Do not buy a field close to the city. This is as Rabbi Avahu said in the name of Rav Huna who said in the name of Rav: A person is forbidden from standing near his friend’s field when its stalks are grown. [Rav Yehudah advised not buy such a field because people in the city will tend to admire it, and therefore cause it to be damaged by their evil eye.]

Shulchan Aruch cites this halachah; however, the Ramabm omits it.

The Maggid Mishnah explains that the Rambam maintains that this is not actually a prohibition; rather, it is a midas chassidus – one who wishes to act piously should avoid standing near his fellow’s field when there is standing grain. This is why we do not force neighbors, whose roofs are adjacent to each other, to build a fence so one should be prevented from looking into the other’s area.

The Raavad disagrees, and holds that a wall of four amos is required by a garden.

The Steipler Gaon quotes from a wise man that one who damages by casting an evil eye on another will not be liable to pay. It is for this reason that the Gemora utilizes the term “it is forbidden,” and not that “one is liable.” The Steipler disagrees, and explains that the reason the term “liable” is not used is because we have no way of determining without a doubt that the damage occurred on account of this person’s evil eye. However, if we would know for certain that it was due to him, he would be liable (except according to the Rambam).

Evil Eye

The Gemora (30a) states that one is forbidden to spread out a lost article that he is watching when he has guests because when the guests see the article being displayed, they may be envious and they will cast an evil eye on the article.

One must wonder why one should be concerned of someone else’s jealousy, especially if it is said: and the rotting of the bones is jealousy. Why should one be concerned that someone else’s envy will harm his belongings and property?

We find that the gentile prophet Balaam, when blessing the Jewish people, declared, how good are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, O Israel. The Gemora states that Balaam saw that every Jewish tent was aligned in a way that no one could see inside his neighbors’ tent. Besides for the issue of privacy, there was another dimension to this blessing. Balaam had an evil eye, and Balaam wished to curse the Jewish People with his influence. By casting an evil eye on a neighbor, one is essentially influencing his Jewish friend with the character of Balaam, and this is detrimental to one’s well being. For this reason one should avoid casting an evil eye on someone else, and one must also be careful to avoid allowing others to cast an evil eye on himself or on his possessions.