This next verse is a long one, I’m afraid, and a short note.
A good eye, and a lowly soul, and a humble spirit (belong to) the disciple of Abraham: an evil eye, and a swelling soul, and a haughty spirit, to the disciple of Bile’am. And what difference is between the disciples of Abraham and the disciples of Bile’am? The disciples of Bile’am, go down to Gehinnom, for it is said, But thou, O God, shalt bring them down into the pit of destruction, but the disciples of Abraham inherit the Garden of ’Eden, for it is said, That I may cause those that love me to inherit SUBSTANCE; and I will fill their treasures.
Do y’all remember Bala’am (called Bale’am here by Charles Taylor for some reason) who was, I surmise, a very popular superhero wonder-worker in contemporary stories? No? Talking donkey? Yes, that one. R. Travers Herford surmises that for the Sages, Bala’am was a code name for Jesus, and all the stories about the wonder-worker who leads people astray, who hates the people Israel but is confounded in his attacks on it, and who is made mock of, and generally bested in every way, well those were stories about what we used to call JCSD in our undergraduate days, the ways Jews defined themselves against the emerging Jesusites (and vice versa). I am skeptical of this; I think that Jews in the first couple of centuries of the common era were probably much more worried about non-Jewish Romans than about the spread of Jesus-ism and eventually Christianity. Still, I think it’s worth pointing out that there were at this time various wonder-workers in the land, some of whom were fomenting rebellion against the Romans, and some of whom were fomenting rebellion against the Herod, and some of whom were fomenting rebellion against whatever you got. The distinction the Sages are making between the followers of Abraham (and the Old Ways) and the followers of any wonder-worker (and his New Ways) was bound to be political whether the wonder-worker has messianic claims to the Throne of David or not.
Having said that, the sages responded to the various political division, at least in this text, by recommending a good eye (meaning, presumably, the opposite of the evil eye, an eye that wishes good on what it sees), and a lowly soul, and a humble spirit.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,