Staring at a Wicked Person

Staring at a Wicked Person

According to halachah, there are a number of things that one is assur l’histakel (forbidden to gaze at): 

Assur l’histakel bifnei rasha (it’s forbidden to gaze at the face of wicked person)—yet many gedolei Yisroel (Jewish sages) met the political leaders of their time, whether kings, czars or ministers who were reshaim, and exchanged greetings; they must surely have been looking at them. 

Assur l’histakel bifnei keshes (it’s forbidden to gaze at a rainbow)—yet there’s a special brachah that we make upon seeing a rainbow, which necessitates looking at it.

One should also not be mistakel bifnei nasi (gaze at the Jewish leader of the generation), unless when learning Torah from him—yet there were many who seemingly didn’t comply with this either. 

The solution to these conundrums is that there’s a distinction in halachah between histaklus and re’iyah: histaklus means gazing intently for an extended period of time, which would be a problem in any of the instances listed above, whereas re’iyah means looking briefly; thus taking a quick glance before making a brachah on a rainbow wouldn’t be a problem, and neither would briefly looking at a rasha or conversely a nasi. #500?

Practical Halacha: One minute a day. By Horav Yosef Yeshaya Braun, shlita, Mara D'asra and member of the Badatz of Crown Heights.