For those of us who are familiar with the sight of seeing a bunch of Jewish ladies admiring a new child, one giving a compliment then naturally finishing off the thought with "K'nayna Harah," have you ever wondered what it was all about? Sure, it's to protect us from the Evil Eye, but what the hell is that? Some sort of boogeyman, a personified Eye, which randomly stalks neighborhoods and striking suffering upon those without a red bendel? Or perhaps it is a giant spirit of ill will which exists everywhere and nowhere like some sort of transcendent Satan.
Frankly, I don't even think people who declare "Keyn Ayin Harah" on a regular basis even know what they're talking about since they mispronounce it so regularly. I have even seen those who use the term "K'nayna Harah" as some sort of traditional baby talk. As if it means, "Isn't he cute!" So here's some info about what the Evil Eye is really all about:
The evil eye is a widely distributed element of folklore or superstition: a belief that some people, often women seen as witches, can bestow a curse on victims by the malevolent gaze of their magical eye. The effects on victims vary; some have them afflicted with bad luck of various sorts. Others believe the evil eye has even more baleful powers, that it can cause disease, wasting away, and even death.
Some cultures hold that the evil eye is an involuntary jinx that is cast unintentionally by people unlucky to be cursed with the power to bestow it by their gaze. Others hold that while it is not strictly voluntary, the power is called forth by the sin of envy. It may be that the term covet (to eye enviously) in the tenth Commandment refers to casting the evil eye, rather than to simple desire or envy.
Belief in the evil eye is strongest in the Middle East and Europe, especially the Mediterranean region; it has also spread to other areas like the Americas. In some more southern areas where light-colored eyes are relatively rare, people with blue eyes are feared to possess the power to bestow the curse, intentionally or unintentionally.
Belief in the evil eye features in Islamic mythology; it is not a part of Islamic doctrine, however, and is more a feature of Islamic folk religion. The evil eye is also significant in Jewish folklore; it is called the "ayin harah" in Hebrew. Ashkenazi Jews traditionally exclaim "Keyn aynhoreh!" meaning "No evil eye!" in Yiddish to ward off a jinx after something or someone has been rashly praised or good news spoken aloud. Some Jews also spit in order to ward off the effects of an evil gaze.