In Talmudic times, the most honored class in the community were the scholars; a retentive memory was thus a particularly prized gift. It was natural, then, that superstitions should have accumulated on the subject. The following selections are taken from the Babylonian Talmud, Nezikin, Tractate Horayot 13b.

Five things make learning to be forgotten:

  • eating what had been nibbled by a mouse or by a cat;
  • regularly eating olives;
  • eating an animal's heart;
  • drinking water in which somebody has washed;
  • and placing one foot over the other while washing them.

Five things restore learning to the memory:

  • bread baked on coals;
  • soft-boiled eggs without salt;
  • frequent drinking of olive-oil and spiced wine;
  • and drinking the water which remains from kneading dough;
  • dipping the finger in salt and eating it.

Ten things are bad for memorizing study:

  • passing beneath the bridle of a camel;
  • and how much more so passing beneath the camel itself;
  • passing between two camels or two women, or being one of two men between whom a woman passes;
  • passing under a place where there is the foul odor of a carcass;
  • passing beneath a bridge under which water has not flowed for forty days;
  • eating bread not sufficiently baked;
  • eating meat from a soup-ladle;
  • drinking water from a conduit which passes through a cemetery;
  • gazing into the face of a corpse.
  • reading the inscriptions on tombstones.

And don't you forget it.

MEMORY Table of Contents



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