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After mentioning that someone has been benefited by God in some way — say, with longevity or good looks or wealth — people often add the Hebrew "בלי עין הרע" ("without the evil eye") or the Yiddish "קיין עין־הרע" ("no evil eye").

What does this mean, and what is it meant to accomplish? I seek sourced answers for the original or correct meaning, not how it's popularly understood.

  • Does it indicate that the speaker is (or claims to be) looking at the subject without an evil eye (i.e. an eye of jealousy)?
  • Does it (or is it meant to) effect that the speaker is looking at the subject without an evil eye (jealousy)? I.e., does it mean roughly "I hereby annul any evil eye I may otherwise be casting upon the subject"?
  • Does it indicate the speaker's desire/prayer that his evil eye (jealousy) not adversely affect the subject, irrespective of whether the jealousy is there?
  • Does it indicate the speaker's desire/prayer that the listener's evil eye (jealousy), if any, not adversely affect the subject?
  • Or what?
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Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/10615 –  msh210 Mar 17 '13 at 8:15
    
See also judaism.stackexchange.com/q/27641 –  msh210 Apr 4 '13 at 1:48
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1 Answer 1

Ohr Somayach “ask the Rabbi” explains, here is an extract:

What happens is the following: One person who has what another person lacks is "careless" and lets the other person see what he has. This causes pain to the other person, and his cry goes up to the Heavenly court.

We say "Bli Ayin Hara" (literally "Without the Evil Eye") as a prayer to Hashem, so that if there are any silent cries going up to the Heavenly court, He will not listen to them, and He will protect us from any harm.

Sources are in the original.

There is a similar answer at Jewishanswers.org

For this reason, when people relate their or others’ gains, assets or blessings, they say “kein ayin hora”—if they are bold (or, some might say, foolish) enough to speak of these things at all. Wealth, physical and spiritual, is not distributed evenly in the world. G-d gives to one person something that He does not give to another. This can naturally cause envy, which essentially is an emotion that corresponds to a sense of injustice. The Torah tells us that the resulting spiritual energy can actually trigger a process of judgement against the one who is envied and lead to very destructive consequences for them.

WRT msh210's comment, I think the Jewishanswers answer sees envy as the source of the ayin hora which can bring about the judgement.

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+1 for the ohr.edu excerpt; the other doesn't really explain the phrase. And I haven't checked the former's sources, but the wording of the answer there doesn't make it sound as though the sources it cites have anything to do with the phrase, either (though the answer there itself is a source also). –  msh210 Mar 17 '13 at 14:18
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