On forgetting

30 09 2010

R. Simlai delivered the following discourse: What does an embryo resemble when it is in the bowels of its mother? Folded writing tablets. Its hands rest on its two temples respectively, its two elbows on its two legs and its two heels against its buttocks. Its head lies between its knees, its mouth is closed and its navel is open, and it eats what its mother eats and drinks what its mother drinks, but produces no excrements because otherwise it might kill its mother. As soon, however, as it sees the light the closed organ opens and the open one closes, for if that had not happened the embryo could not live even one single hour. A light burns above its head and it looks and sees from one end of the world to the other, as it is said, then his lamp shined above my head, and by His light I walked through darkness. And do not be astonished at this, for a person sleeping here might see a dream in Spain. And there is no time in which a man enjoys greater happiness than in those days, for it is said, O that I were as the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me; now which are the days’ that make up ‘months’ and do not make up years? The months of pregnancy of course. It is also taught all the Torah from beginning to end, for it is said, And he taught me, and said unto me: ‘Let thy heart hold fast my words, keep my commandments and live’, and it is also said, When the converse of God was upon my tent. Why the addition of ‘and it is also said’? — In case you might say that it was only the prophet who said that, come and hear ‘when the converse of God was upon my tent. As soon as it sees the light an angel approaches, slaps it on its mouth and causes it to forget all the Torah completely, as it is said, Sin coucheth at the door.

-from the Babylonian Talmud