Reading your rabbi’s observations about a baby’s behavior is probably going to be as incongruous as overhearing a cannibal enthusing about a veggie burger made of sweet potato, quinoa and black beans with a little creamy lime aioli drizzled on top. (Not sure what lime aioli is? Me neither.)
Nonetheless, I must tell you of something I recently noticed in an extremely cute little one year-old. While I was talking to him, his eyes were not on the only moving part of my face, my mouth. Instead, he gazed into my eyes. This made no sense to me because in general, babies’ eyes are drawn to movement. Yet while I was talking to him, he watched my motionless eyes instead of my moving mouth.
I was so puzzled by this that I tested it on a few other pre-talking little toddlers and discovered they all had this disconcerting tendency. I am obviously accustomed to adults looking into one another’s eyes. But babies? It would make most sense to me if their eyes were drawn to the mouths of those talking to them. But if they are not going to be looking at the moving mouth, why are they looking at the eyes rather than the conspicuous nose or huge expanse of forehead?
Ancient Jewish wisdom might suggest an explanation. In the Lord’s language, Hebrew, the word for eye is AYIN while the word for mouth is PEH. Those two words, AYIN and PEH are also the names of two consecutive letters in the Hebrew alphabet, the sixteenth and seventeenth letters, respectively.