The evil eye is usually caused unintentionally, but by someone whose intentions are malicious. Specifically, the curse stems from profound envy. When someone looks at you with envy, jealous and resentful of what you have, they cast the curse unintentionally.
Anyone, even you, could unwittingly bestow the evil eye upon someone else. Part of being a good person is being happy for other people. Envy is often equated with jealousy, but it’s a somewhat deeper concept. Envy means not only wanting what someone else has, but resenting that person for it.
There is a rich Jewish history of personal and community-wide measures that are taken to protect against the ill effects of the evil eye curse. Of particular interest are talismans and precautions to protect infants, who are especially susceptible.
Traditional Jewish Safeguards Against the Evil Eye
Historically, it was very desirable to have a large family. Having many children was considered a sign of prosperity. Not only did it foster strong family bonds and community bonds, but it was also economically beneficial. Those without families were considered susceptible to jealousy and the evil eye.
Today, there is a tradition of not allowing a father and a son to be called successively to read the Torah in Synagogue.
This stems from the evil eye: someone in the congregation who has recently lost a family member, or who has no family, may see them together and feel jealousy, enable them to cast the evil eye.
Another means of protecting large, happy families from jealousy was the way that a census was traditionally conducted. Instead of taking a formal census and counting people, which could open larger families to envy from others, the custom was that each person would pay one scheckel to the census taker.
Instead of counting people directly and writing down their names, the coins were counted instead. Relatedly, the best month for the census was Adar, associated with fishes and with the astrological zodiac sign Pisces. The evil eye is associated with dryness, and fish are considered immune.