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Miscellaneous

“Kina Hora” and the Evil Eye

Could you please explain the etymology of the words “Kina Hora” and/or “Ein Kina Hora”? Are they Yiddish or Hebrew or a combination of both? How is this expression applied?

The phrase to which you refer can be pronounced either “Bli Ayin Hara” in Hebrew, or “Kein Ayin Hora” in Yiddish. Both expressions translate as, “without the evil eye” or “there should be no evil eye.” When it’s said quickly is can sometimes sound like “Kina Hora.”

The concept of the “evil eye” is primarily related to the destructive power of envy. When our patriarch Jacob blessed his grandchildren Ephraim and Menashe, part of his blessing was that “they should multiply like fish within the land” (Genesis 48:16). The Sages tell us that Jacob wanted them to emulate fish when it came to multiplying because fish do so under the water. It is impossible to view the fruitfulness of fish precisely because it occurs in a place that is shielded from view, and this hiddenness acts as a type of protection against the evil eye, in accordance with the Talmudic idea that “blessing only rests upon something that is concealed from the eye”.

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.

May we all learn to be happy for others, and be protected from the evil eye!

With blessings,
Tanchum Burton

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