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Title: Denting The Baby's Face
Major Focus: Pregnancy and Birth
Minor Focus: Angels, protecting people
Abstract: What do babies do inside the womb before being born?
Angels, talking to people
"God spoke to Moses saying: Speak to the Israelite people thus: When a woman at childbirth bears a male child, she shall be unclean seven days; she shall be unclean as during the time of her menstruation."
What do babies do in there before getting born? Is it boring in there? Is it hot and cramped? How do they entertain themselves? What do they think about? The Rabbis have speculated extensively on this subject. As is often the case with Talmudic and early Rabbinic literature, their knowledge of biology was very limited, their speculations on the subject is often far off target, but the psychology of their opinions is usually impeccable. Here is an adaptation of Rabbi Simlai's discourse found in Tractate Niddah 30b/31a:
What does the embryo resemble as it rests in the womb of its mother? Why, two folded writing tablets! Its hands rest on its two temples. Its two elbows rest on its two legs. Its heels are against its buttocks. Its head lies between its knees. Its mouth is closed and its navel is open. It eats what its mother eats and drinks what its mother drinks, but it produces no waste which might harm its mother. As soon as it is born, it sees the light and closes its navel, but opens its mouth.
A light burns over its head in the womb, and it looks from one end of the world to the other. There is no time in which a person enjoys greater happiness in their whole life, than during those days in the womb of one's mother.
These are the months of pregnancy. How soon we forget; how little we remember of the fullness of that time. This is as it should be. As soon as the child sees the light of the world, an angel approaches, taps it on the mouth, and causes it to forget all the Torah it has learned inside its mother's womb. The angel's love tap leaves a little dent between the lip and the nose.
The angel asks it to promise, in that last moment of great knowing, "Be righteous, do only good deeds, and never be wicked, for the soul God has given you is pure. Treasure it and keep it as pure as it was given to you." Thus we spend our lives devoted to learning the Torah, to marriage and family, and to good deeds, the three paths that lead to the happiness we all once knew.
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