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Physiological context: The philtrum is the dip or groove in the middle of the upper lip below the nose (link). It is a feature of most mammals, thought to draw water from the mouth to the nose to keep the nose moist but is vestigial in humans. It is formed around the second month as the parts of the embryo's face grow together and meet there (link).

Anyway, I've heard that it is formed by an angel striking the lip just before a baby is born so it forgets all the Torah it learned in the womb. What is the source for this tradition? The best I found was Nidah 30B (PDF link) (point by point Daf Yomi link) which says, "Once he is born, an angel slaps him on the mouth, and he forgets everything." What is the link between that statement and it forming the philtrum? (I'm sure the chachamim would have seen the feature on stillborn fetuses, non-Jews, and maybe even noticed it on mammals, so it might not even make sense for them to say the angel forms the philtrum. I'm not sure if they do or don't; I'm asking for the source for the part of the tradition that says it changes the face.)

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Rav Ahron Lopiansky seemed to dispell this myth as being an old bubby's tale in a lecture. His words were some thing along the lines of "Yiddishe bubbies say that this is the makeh, (slap)", while gesturing to his philtrum, with a smile on his face.

He said that what that gemarah really means is that an angel grants us Ko'ach Ha'dibbur, the ability to speak and articulate and rationally think. We forget everything because up until this point everything we knew, we knew in a different, spiritual way. So we have to relearn it, in the state of this world which is a state of 'dibbur'.

If I remember correctly, I think he gave feelings and emotions sometimes brought on by music, (that can be difficult, or impossible to describe), as being an example of or a parable for how all of our knowledge was, before birth.

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I can try to ask him directly for an absolute answer, if you like. –  Baby Seal Dec 25 '13 at 18:32
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