Q. What is the meaning of kein einahora?
A. Literally it means, “no evil eye” – i.e. may evil forces have no effect. The term ayin ha-ra (evil eye) has undergone a change of meaning. In the Mishnah (Avot 2:2), Rabbi Joshua says, “The evil eye, the evil inclination and hatred of mankind put a person out of the world”. “Evil eye” in this context does not mean an evil force but human selfishness or envy, the opposite is ayin tovah, a good eye – good will or generosity.
The Talmud and later writings have many references to the evil eve in a magical sense, though Maimonides says that amulets that supposedly ward off the evil eye have no effect other than the psychological comfort they give the wearer. The late 19th century German authority, Rabbi David Hoffman, says one should not object to hanging amulets in a room where a woman is in labour, adding that even those who do not believe in such things admit that the amulets can be of psychological benefit (Melammed L’ho’il, 2:63).
The evil eye has an interesting effect on synagogue practice. A reason for not calling two brothers or a father and son to the Torah one after the other is ayin ha-ra, though this can be understood in terms that other members of the congregation might be envious at the one family apparently getting too many honours.