Lailah

There is an angel, Lailah, who brings the soul and the seed together and then sees to it that the seed is planted in the womb. In doing so, Lailah serves as a midwife of souls. While the infant grows in the womb, Lailah places a lighted candle at the head of the unborn infant, so he or she can see from one end of the world to the other. So too does the angel teach the unborn child the entire Torah, as well as the history of his or her soul. Then, when the time comes for the child to be born, the angel extinguishes the light in the womb and brings forth the child into the world. And the instant the child emerges, the angel lightly strikes its finger to the child’s lip, as if to say “Shh,” and this causes the child to forget everything learned in the womb. Still, the story implies, that knowledge is present, merely forgotten.… This myth also explains the origin of the mysterious indentation every person has on their upper lip. The myth goes on to say that Lailah watches over the child all of his days, serving as a guardian angel. And when the time comes for a person to take leave of this world, Lailah leads him from this world to the next.

This text is from an interview with Howard Schwartz, author of  Before You Were Born. Brookfield, CT: Roaring Brook Press, 2005.