One of my favorite pieces of folklore is the one that says while babies are gestating an angel comes and teaches them the entire torah. And then at nine months or so the angel KARATE-CHOPS THEM IN THE FACE, thereby punting them out of the womb screaming, and they forget everything they learned

That’s why we have a dent underneath our noses

Why go to all the trouble of teaching babies things and then karate-chopping their memory into oblivion?

So they have to spend their whole life looking around at the world EXTRA HARD in order to get rid of the feeling that they’ve forgotten something important

Jewish folktales… Am I right

[sovereign of the universe voice] yes, and you, that angel there, your task is to prenatally punch my people in the face, so that they may know hypervigilance

is it bad that I’m picturing this angel as looking a lot like Mad-Eye Moody?


Shouldn’t premature babies/babies born by C-section not have dents under their noses and know the entire Torah?

@althor42 @hpwot is there something you’re not telling me?

presumably the omniscient Being, by whom the angels are controlled by/an extension of, knows when premature babies and those born by C-section will be delivered?

also, when i heard this story, it was a gentle tap on the lip, and the point was so that any Torah you learnt over your life would never be new to you, you’d merely be remembering something you learnt way back when your body was still being knit together, and i found it sweet and romantic

i mean, what isn’t sweet and romantic about giving you an excuse for screaming, plus a reason to look extra hard at everything in the world? 

…okay, yeah, you raise a really good point

This is great, but I’m actually more fascinated by the fact that while many people have heard of this story, no-one actually knows where the “and that’s why” part comes from… Not the “learning Torah in the womb and forgetting it by angelic karate chop” part — that’s straight from the Talmud. But when did people first use that midrash to explain the philtrum (groove under the nose)? Nobody knows. The first recorded reference that anyone has been able to find is… believe it or not… Humphrey Bogart in the 1948 movie Key Largo (or, more accurately, its Russian-Jewish playwright, Richard Brooks). Totally serious — see Abraham Socher’s article and this blogpost for attempts to trace it. A mystery! If anybody has more leads, let me know! 😀

whoa…. that’s so cool! 

I know that if a boy is born by C-section, his bris is not performed on Shabbos, and is delayed to Sunday (if it would have been Shabbos). And a child delivered by c-section is not considered firstborn for the purposes of the pidyon haben. So it does seem that there’s a sense in which surgical delivery preempts the heavenly schedule.

Maybe while the surgical team is washing up, the angel makes an emergency visit of their own?

“Quick! Before the baby has time to give a d’var Torah, gotta karate chop it!” – an angel, probably

…see, now the whole story my Popoa told me about getting my Mongolian spot from being kicked in the ass by the King of Hell while in utero seems less weird.

This is really fascinating.

And, not gonna lie, a little disturbing.


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