The concepts of lucky eye and evil eye have changed with time: “lucky eye” represented the selfless gaze and “evil eye” the selfish gaze. With the light from the eyes reflecting the soul, the lucky eye arises from magnanimity and the evil eye from greed. In this context Moses describes the man whose eye is evil toward his brother (Devarim or Deuteronomy 28:54), and the Proverbs describe the lucky eye and evil eye in 22:9, 23:6, 28:22. These very straightforward idioms also appear repeatedly in Tractate Aboth.
Later the internal states of the soul were also taken as having external force as well, in that directing the lucky eye upon someone could cause blessing, and directing the evil eye could cause great injury. This consideration led to people seeking blessing from the “ayin hatov” (lucky eye, or more properly “good eye”), and, with even much greater force and immediacy, to people seeking protection against the “ayin harah” (evil eye). Interestingly, the remedy for receiving the evil eye was not usually stated to be obtaining the good eye, but the avoidance of arousing jealousy or lust in others, and various formulas more or less superstitious.
The eye is sometimes a symbol in kabbalah jewelry, but this is not as clearly founded in kabbalah, because it does not have the potency of true eye contact; the associated “luck” is sometimes misunderstood as impersonal chance rather than intelligent order; it is often misunderstood as fighting the evil eye of others rather than conferring one’s own state of mind upon others; and it is often unclear whether the good eye or evil eye is intended to do this fighting.
As its first line of defense, the kabbalah bracelet (red string tied around the wrist) deflects the evil eye and attracts the good eye by the natural process of indicating a humble spirit. Of course, the kabbalah bracelets’ string should not be vitiated by ostentatious dress or other conspicuous consumption.
Further and more important, the bracelets’ string is a tactile reminder of one’s own need to direct only the good eye. With a little practice and self-awareness, one can easily tell when an emotion, either envy or contentment, sets the eyes in the direction of the evil or the good gaze. As one is reminded of one’s need for humility and selflessness through the physical process, one makes a practice of directing the good eye, and this is almost a greater attractor of receiving the good eye in return than a humble display.
The secret revealed to Avraham Avinu was that God would bless those who blessed him and curse those who cursed him: in God’s order, their natural state of soul, good or evil, naturally attracted like principles to themselves from all around them. This is as true of blessing and cursing as it is of generosity and stinginess or of positivity and negativity.
It is worthwhile to reaffirm the tension in tradition: on one hand, it is traditional to spare no expense in obtaining what is necessary to glorify the name of God; on the other, it is kabbalah responsibility to use wisely the resources that are entrusted to us by the cosmic order. It may be right to use your time resources to create your own unique kabbalah bracelet; red string is made just as meaningful by your own input as by that of others. Or it may be right to use your money resources to pay whatever the merchant demands, out of love for God.
One clear consideration pertaining to kabbalah bracelets and other attempts to defuse the envy of others is this: the more “bells and whistles” a merchant is offering as additional benefits of a bracelet, the more likely it is that these adornments themselves can unintentionally contribute to the envy they are intended to remove. The kabbalah red string bracelet should be nothing special: when it becomes something special, Self has lost some connection with what is outside itself.