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Knowledge, Gratitude and the Philtrum

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Five Aspects of Parenthood I Didn’t See Coming photo 2

The groove in the middle of a human’s upper lip is called the infranasal depression, or a philtrum. There is a Jewish myth, stemming from the Talmud (Niddah 30B) that explains the infranasal depression’s origin as follows:

When a baby is in the womb, he/she learns the entire Torah from start to finish. Upon seeing light for the first time at the moment of birth, an angel comes down, taps the baby on the mouth, causing the baby to forget everything that was learned. The tap is the cause of the infranasal depression. According to the legend, Jews are urged to spend the rest of their lives trying to learn all the Torah that was forgotten at birth.

This past summer, my wife and I were blessed to welcome our son into the world. Like any baby, he was born, seemingly helpless, without any knowledge of anything, Torah or otherwise. In an effort to be the best parents we can be, we naturally tried to care and protect him. We certainly comfort him when he is in distress and love him for the special person he is. We also have already begun teaching him everything we have learned, know and love about life, including Jewish life.

Granted, as a child that is not even six months old, he is not spouting Torah texts and Talmud tractates just yet. At the same time, he has been hearing the songs and prayers at home and in synagogue, chewing on holiday-themed board books, and accepting our blessing for children every Friday night since he was born. We are doing our best to lay the foundation for him to pursue a lifetime of Jewish learning.

Over the course of my lifetime, my parents have probably taught me more than anyone else I know. They were each instrumental in laying the foundation for me to take in a world of Torah knowledge. I owe a lot of what I know about what it means to be Jewish to them. As I celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I wanted to take a moment and thank my parents. Thanksgiving is not a Jewish holiday, per say, but I think we can all agree that gratitude is an important Jewish value. I have the deepest gratitude for what I have learned from them and hope to be as good a teacher for my children.

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