By Shlomoh Sherman
December 17, 2020 Euclid, OH

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi [All lectures at]says
-Some Jews, when mentioning their good fortune, will add: B'LI AYIN HARA, meaning 'Without an evil eye' or KENAHORA, meaning 'Let there be no evil eye'(Yiddish pronunciation of KEN AYIN HARA). The response used to be to spit three times; now it is to say 'ptoo, ptoo, ptoo' as standards of decency change.

When I was a little boy, the Yiddish speaking adults would normally say KENAHORA when offering a compliment. I never thought much about it till one day when I was about 11 years old, I was walking down the street with my mother. I lady sitting on one stoop said to her, "He's getting big now!."
My mother began to curse her under her breath. When I asked her why she was cursing the woman, my mother said, She didn't say, KENAHORA.

Still, as a child, I didn't give any credence to superstitions. But when I began to be religious and hanging around with Orthodox people, I was amazed at their belief in the Evil Eye. Once I told an acquaintance, Wow. I didn't understand that our religion has superstitions. He became indignant and said, in no uncertain terms, YIDDISHKAYT [Judaism] has no superstitions. Exactly what do you call a superstition in our religion? I answered, Well all this stuff about the ayin hara. He said, That's no superstition. It's real. I'll tell you a story. Once I went with a friend of mine to buy pickles. He was telling me how proud he was of the new hat he was wearing. He kept complimenting his hat. Suddenly, a wind came up and blew his hat into the pickle vat.

Since I knew that he was a true believer, I didn't say anything except Isn't that interesting?

Another thing. Orthodox Jews [supposedly expected to] believe in SHEDIM, demons. I was in a college class with a young Orthodox woman. We started talking about demons and I said, How can we believe in such idiocy? She said that demons are real. I started to mock her every day. How are the SHEDIM doing? One day she said that she knew SHEDIM were real since her grandfather had seen one. I said to her, Oh really! So how come the SHEDIM reveal themselves to your grandfather and not to me? She smiled and said, When they reveal themselves, it is a test of how righteous the person is. They know you would fail the test. After that, I never kidded her about demons again.

In reference to the Evil Eye, many cultures believe in it. I think that long ago, people began to have negative thoughts about others' possessions or were jealous of them. Maybe some thoughts bordered on wishing the person dead. Others felt pride in their own possessions and knowing that other people were not so fortunate as they, felt shame. Those who had those thoughts felt guilty and they projected the feelings of guilt on to some essence called the Evil Eye, really meaning the Evil Thought.

For some reason, it was not enough for our long-ago ancestors to believe only in good spirits or good angels. Where there was good, there had to be evil. The Greco-Roman world view was that the universe is consumed with evil. Just look around at how much pain and misery there is - even to people who don't deserve them. Early Jewish views of Satan were quite different from modern Jewish views. Today, we see Satan as an agent of God, not necessarily a good one but God's agent none the less. The ancient view of Satan crept into Christianity. The Gentiles to whom Paul spoke also believed in some kind of devil who causes human misery.

What is Jesus known for, among other things? He casts out demons just as many an extremely Orthodox rabbi does today; only they are called DYBIKS. I doubt that we will ever get rid of superstitious beliefs. Today's Jeremiahs attribute all manner of disaster, from 9/11 to Covid, not to flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness ...
Ephesians 6:12 KJV

One last thing from my childhood. There was a distant relative we had from the Old Country. This woman actually believed that my mother had the ability to cast out evil spirits. Neither my mother nor I had any idea why she believed this but when the woman approached my mother and begged her to "Speak the demon out of me!", my mother, in order to not embarrass her, humored her and made up some Yiddish spell that she had heard as a child in the Old Country. I'll ask my sister about it. She will remember the person.

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