Often time when people don’t have the proper guidance in spiritual matters things can be blown way out of proportion. This, unfortunately, is one of the ills which plagues us today; there are so many who have good intentions but lack guidance. With respect to Ayin Hara, it has certainly been taken out of context and exaggerated.
The concept of Ayin Hara does indeed exist in the rabbinical sources. It begs explanation; how could one person affect another by looking at them with an “evil eye”?
One of the leading sages of the past generation, Rabbi A. Y. Karelitz explains that God has endowed us with certain spiritual powers which give us the ability to affect things and people around us. One could use their spiritual energy in a positive way, to help others and bring blessing to the world. One could also choose to use the spirituality with him or her in a negative, destructive way.
One of the destructive ways that one could potentially utilize their spiritual power is through Ayin Hara, or an evil eye. Someone who is evil does actually have the potential of viewing another’s possessions with an “evil eye”, which is a type of curse which could cause a negative effect on another’s possesions or even upon the person himself.
That being said; it is too rare to find Jews with such evil intentions to have anything to be concerned about. Furthermore, there are few who possess such intense spiritual powers that their ayin hara would make a difference.
That doesn’t mean someone who’s very spiritual and his or her intentions are truly evil couldn’t make a difference, but it’s not something we need to be concerned about. Certainly it should not affect one’s inviting guests, going to shul, or any such things. On the contrary, performing a mitzvah is the best protection from any sort of harm.
Historically, being concerned about ayin hara meant not living an ostentatious lifestyle which would catch the attention and jealousy of many; among them perhaps someone very jealously could cast an ayin hara upon that person. This doesn’t concern someone living a normal lifestyle.
I have a personal custom to recite a special prayer every motzai Shabbat (Saturday night after the havdalah service) which is a protection from the affects of ayin hara. Since I maintain a public position I feel it’s prudent to do so. If someone was truly concerned about this issue I would recommend reciting that prayer once a week and not be concerned further. The Talmud mentions a an additional statement to be recited to be if one ever feels they’re in the presence of someone looking at them with ayin hara. But that’s not to say one needs to always be on the lookout or be concerned about it; on the contrary, we’re supposed to live a life full of joy with bitachon (trust) in Hashem that He watches over us.
In addition, we should assume that Jews have an ayin tova, a “good eye”, a positive outlook on their fellow Jews and wishing them well and only the best!
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried