Breishit 2:7:

... He blew into his nostrils the soul of life ...

Why did HaShem use nostrils instead of mouth?

PS. ISTR that, according to a midrash, the fire which killed Nadav & Avihu did so via their nostrils too, is this related?

  • 4
    Why should He use the mouth instead of nostrils?
    – Double AA
    Sep 29, 2013 at 17:17
  • 5
    The phrase in hebrew is "נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים". Why Hashem should give Adam a soul via the means of breathing through his nostrils is a question in and of itself. However, if, for whatever reason it is related to the act of breathing then the primary function of a nostril is for breathing whereas the mouth is used for eating and speaking.
    – bondonk
    Sep 29, 2013 at 18:47
  • 2
    @bondonk Of course it's related to breathing. נשמה means a breath.
    – Double AA
    Oct 2, 2013 at 17:59
  • 1
    There are plenty of references to breath being in the nostrils (instead of somewhere else, like the mouth): Genesis, Job, Lamentations and probably more. Breathing in Biblical text seems to always be done through the nostrils. Why? I don't know, but @bondonk's comment seems to make sense.
    – Anthony
    Oct 10, 2013 at 8:26

1 Answer 1


Because the soul enters and exits the body via the nose. In the Midrash "Pirkei Rebbi Eliezer" it says that from the beginning of creation nobody became ill, but instead a person would sneeze and his soul would exit from his nostrils, until Yaakov came along and asked Hashem for mercy - that He shouldn't take his soul until he has time to command his offspring how to conduct themselves after he is dead. Hashem accepted his request, as it says Bereishis 48,1 "And it was after these things that Yosef was told: Behold! (something unusual!), your father is sick", something which had never occurred from the days of creation!

The Midrash concludes that therefore when a person sneezes one should wish him life (health) because sneezing used to signify the opposite of life. This is the source of saying Bless You or Gesundheit or לבריות or something similar in different languages.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .