The Gemara Niddah (30b) says that a fetus learns its entire Torah while in the womb but then the angel hits it on the mouth to forget everything it learned.

ומלמדין אותו כל התורה כולה שנאמר (משלי ד ד) ויורני ויאמר לי יתמך דברי לבך שמור מצותי וחיה ואומר (איוב כט, ד) בסוד אלוה עלי אהלי מאי ואומר וכי תימא נביא הוא דקאמר ת"ש בסוד אלוה עלי אהלי וכיון שבא לאויר העולם בא מלאך וסטרו על פיו ומשכחו כל התורה כולה שנאמר (בראשית ד, ז) לפתח חטאת רובץ - A fetus is taught the entire Torah while in the womb, as it is says, “And He taught me and said, 'Let your heart hold fast My words; keep My commandments, and live.'” (Mishlei 4:4). And it also states: “As I was in the days of my youth, when the converse of G-d was upon my tent” (Iyov 29:4). What is the purpose of the statement: And it also states: “When the converse of God was upon my tent”? Why is it necessary to cite this verse in addition to the previously quoted verse from Mishlei? The Gemara explains: And if you would say that the verse in Mishlei is insufficient, as it is a prophet who is saying that he was taught the entire Torah in his mother’s womb, but this does not apply to ordinary people, come and hear the verse in Iyov: “When the converse of G-d was upon my tent.” And once the fetus emerges into the airspace of the world, an angel comes and slaps it on its mouth, causing it to forget the entire Torah, as it is stated: “Sin crouches at the entrance” (Bereishis 4:7), i.e., when a person enters the world he is immediately liable to sin due to his loss of Torah knowledge.

At the same time, the Gemara Horayos (13b) says to frequently eat olive oil to regain the Torah once learned.

הרגיל בשמן זית מסייע ליה לרבי יוחנן דאמר רבי יוחנן כשם שהזית משכח לימוד של שבעים שנה כך שמן זית משיב לימוד של שבעים שנה - One who is accustomed to eating olive oil restores forgotten Torah study. This supports the opinion of Rabbi Yochanan, as Rabbi Yochanan said: Just as eating an olive causes one to forget seventy years’ worth of Torah study, olive oil restores seventy years’ worth of Torah study.

Does anyone suggest this as a solution to recover all the Torah learned in the womb? If not, what is the incorrect premise of this question? (e.g., Is learning Torah in the womb not called learning Torah?)

  • Maybe the Segula of eating olive oil to regain the Torah once learned, only works to regain Torah that was learned in THIS world, as a born person, not for Torah that the soul learned in heaven, while the body was in utero. Jun 12 at 17:26
  • 1
    All Torah learned in the womb is "remembered" whenever we learn anything. We learned the whole Torah there, so your question is a bit hard to process. Also, the womb isn't 70 years so it doesn't seem to be talking about mysteriously remembering Torah from the womb that we never learned since being born, as @IsraelReader says.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Jun 12 at 17:35
  • In fact, to add to @IsraelReader's and RabbiKaii's points, the Gemara (Niddah 30b), explaining Iyov 29:2, states that "which days have months but not years? The months of pregnancy." So "70 years' worth of Torah study" may be phrased that way specifically to exclude the time not measured in years.
    – Meir
    Jun 12 at 17:53
  • cc'ing @RabbiKaii
    – Meir
    Jun 12 at 17:53
  • I once heard an explanation that it’s not literal that we learn the entire Torah in the womb (though it could be), but the main point of the midrash is that in the womb all of our needs are provided for and we’re in this perfect state, just as the Torah is perfect, but once we’re born we’re instantly encompassed by chances to sin and whatnot, and so we lose that “Torah”/completion/safety that we had in the womb. Kinda messing up the explanation but it’s alone those lines. Not quite sure though how this would tie into the olive oil Jun 12 at 18:02


You must log in to answer this question.

Browse other questions tagged .