By: Rabbi Avrohom Adler
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The Gemora states that one is forbidden to spread out a lost article that he is watching when he has guests because when the guests see the article being displayed, they may be envious and they will cast an evil eye on the article.
One must wonder why one should be concerned of someone else’s jealousy, especially if it is said: and the rotting of the bones is jealousy. Why should one be concerned that someone else’s envy will harm his belongings and property?
We find that the gentile prophet Balaam, when blessing the Jewish people, declared, how good are your tents, Yaakov, your dwelling places, O Israel. The Gemora states that Balaam saw that every Jewish tent was aligned in a way that no one could see inside his neighbors’ tent. Besides for the issue of privacy, there was another dimension to this blessing. Balaam had an evil eye, and Balaam wished to curse the Jewish People with his influence. By casting an evil eye on a neighbor, one is essentially influencing his Jewish friend with the character of Balaam, and this is detrimental to one’s well being. For this reason one should avoid casting an evil eye on someone else, and one must also be careful to avoid allowing others to cast an evil eye on himself or on his possessions.