Evil Eye III: Getting Medieval on Your Tuchis
["The Evil Eye rules over counting." Former governor Sarah Palin gives one at the Iowa Straw Poll - is this one aimed at Rick Perry?]
Of all the commentators, the French exegete RaSHI gives the most attention to the ʿāyin hārā, but he is largely content to repeat and amplify rabbinic exegesis on the eye in the Abraham and Joseph cycles (Gen 16:5; 42:5), in the Balaam saga (Num 24:2), and in the conflict between David and Saul (I Sam 18:9). Yet occasionally he finds the eye present in previously overlooked narratives of the TaNaKH. The chief example is his comment that the plague that followed David’s census was a manifestation of the eye, for “…the evil eye rules over counting.” (Comment to Ex 30:11, c.f. I Sam 24:1). This idea took deep roots in Jewish consciousness, creating an aversion to counting people that persists into contemporary times.
The theme of counting related to the eye is further explored the Zohar (II:105a), though, all in all, the ʿayin ha-ra it is not a significant topic in the major works of theosophical Kabbalah. References more commonly appear in Hebrew magical literature of the period, such as Sefer haRaziel and Havdalah deRabbi Akiba.
Next Entry: The Evil Eye and Jewish law
Zal g'mor - To learn more consult the Encyclopedia of Jewish Myth, Magic, and Mysticism: http://www.amazon.com/Encyclopedia-Jewish-Myth-Magic-Mysticism/dp/0738709050