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Hurricane Isaias Kicks Me Out of My Torah Class

Thursday, 6 August, 2020 - 3:37 pm

Every Tuesday, for the last three years, a couple of friends have gotten together for a weekly “lunch and learn” Torah class. This week, at the beginning of the class I commented that it's actually incredible that since COVID-19 started, we haven’t missed a single class. It used to be in a Midtown office, and there were weeks that many people were away so we’d postpone till the following week. But now that we’ve taken it online, everyone can attend no matter where they are. 

During our class, Hurricane Isaias was unleashing its fury upon millions of US residents, but I didn’t think we would be affected. Yet literally as that sentence – “we haven’t missed a class – came out of my mouth, I lost power and was booted from the Zoom class. I was able to log back in after a few minutes, but after being knocked out two more times, I gave up. Fortunately, we were still able to cover most of the material of the Torah class.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I frequently use the expression, “bli ayin hara” – “without the evil eye.” For example, when my children do well in school, or when our gala dinner is attended by over 1000 people, or when my brother has his 11th child, or when a friend makes a multi-million dollar deal, I say “bli ayin hara” – “without the evil eye.” 

Do Jews really believe in the evil eye? You bet!

Not only is the Torah rife with stories of people harmed by the evil eye, but many practices we do today are to ward off the evil eye. For example, when we need 10 men for a minyan, we don’t count them, “1, 2, 3…etc.” because of the evil eye. We don’t have baby showers because celebrating the baby before its birth can summon the evil eye. When we finish learning, we make sure to close the book, because if left open the powers of demons can cause harm. Yes, really. 

But when I commented on how well our class was going, I forgot to say those important words!

How does the evil eye work?

If we flaunt our blessings and draw undue attention to ourselves, especially if it causes ill will among others, it invokes the notice of the Heavenly court who may reevaluate: Do we really deserve this blessing?

It is something to keep in mind, but not something to actively worry about. Ultimately, connecting to G‑d through meditating on His greatness, learning His Torah, adding in mitzvahs, and making sure to be sensitive to others, is a tried and true remedy. There is no reason to live in fear of an evil eye or try any other hocus pocus means of protection.

So ultimately, why was I kicked out of my class? I have no idea. But the more we focus our efforts on G-d and on delving into His Torah, the less we need to concern ourselves with the evil eye and its effects. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Uriel Vigler

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