A Religion of Superstition
The Evil Eye in Rabbinic Judaism
The rabbis gives dissidents and doubters the evil eye and magically transform them into piles of bones
The Babylonian Talmud relates three rabbinic killings by cursing people with the evil eye. The first is found in Brachot 58a. A supposedly "blind" rabbi --Rabbi Sheishet-- travels to see a king's procession. A dissident challenged the rabbi as follows: "Whole pitchers go to the river; where do broken vessels go?"
The reference is as follows: Whole pitchers are able to collect water from the river; broken pitchers are useless in this regard. By the same token, it is useless for a blind man to attend a royal pageant for he is unable to see.
Rabbi Sheishet proved his ability to see the pageant and to delineate between the king's party and the monarch himself. The Talmud relates this sarcastic dissident's fate. Rabbi Sheishet gave him the evil eye and the mocking dissident became a heap of bones.
The second account of the rabbinic practice of the evil eye appears in the story of the revered Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai, in B.T. Shabbat 33b-34a: After using hate speech against the Romans, an informant recounted the rabbi's words to the officials and Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai was sentenced to death. Forced to conceal himself, he first hid in the house of study.
When that place was compromised, he lived to a cave with his son, where the pair miraculously lived for years only on water, carob beans and Talmud and Kabbalah study. When the threat from the Romans subsided and Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai was able to come out in the open, he came upon the informant whose testimony had resulted in the Roman death sentence that had forced him into exile. Encountering the informant in a public place, Rabbi Shimon ben Yohai declared: "How is it that he is still alive?" Rabbi Yohai gave this this man the evil eye and the Talmud relates that the informant was instantly reduced to a pile of bones.
Another account in the Babylonian Talmud, in Bava Batra 75a (also cf. B. Sanhedrin 100a), states that Rabbi Yohanan taught that G-d will one day produce enormous jewels and pearls that will measure 30 cubits by 30 cubits. From these huge precious stones, G-d will cut openings of 10 cubits by 20 cubits and He will place them at the gates of the city of Jerusalem.
A skeptic laughed at this: "Nowadays we cannot find jewels and pearls that are even the size of an egg or of a small bird; how can stones of such immense proportions ever be found?"
Time passed and the skeptic was on a ship. There he saw angels cutting the precious stones as described by Rabbi Yohanan. The skeptic turned to the angels and asked, "For who are you making these?" The angels replied by exactly repeating Rabbi Yohanan's teaching. The skeptic returned to Rabbi Yohanan and exclaimed: "Master, speak! For you are right to speak, since just as you described it, so I have seen it!"
Rabbi Yohanan was unimpressed by the former doubter's new enthusiasm. The rabbi declared, "You worthless one! Had you not seen it yourself would you have doubted it! You are guilty of mocking the words of the sages." Rabbi Yohanan then cursed the erstwhile skeptic with the evil eye. The skeptic then died and was instantly was transformed into a heap of bones.
Hoffman is the author of Judaism Discovered: A Study of the Anti-Biblical Religion of Racism, Self-Worship, Superstition and Deceit.