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“The Ear Tests Words as The Palate Tastes Food”

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When Job reflected upon the wisdom of God’s creation “Truly the ear tests words as the palate tastes food” (12:11), could he have been alluding to the remarkable evolutionary development of the bones in our middle ear?  According to Natalie Angier in her article in the Science Times section of the New York Times today,

“Imagine what a dinner conversation would be like if you had decent table manners, but the ears of a lizard.  Not only would you have to stop eating whenever you wanted to speak, but, because parts of your ears are now attached to your jaw, you’d have to stop eating whenever you wanted to hear anybody else….Sometimes its the little things in life that make all the difference – in this case, the three littlest bones in the human body.  Tucked in our auditory canal, just on the inner side of the eardrum, are the musically named malleus, incus, and stapes, each minibone, each ossicle, about the size of a small freshwater pearl  and jointly the basis of one of evolution’s greatest inventions, the mammalian middle ear.  The middle ear gives us our sound bite, our capacity to masticate without being forced to turn a momentary deaf ear to the world, as most vertebrates are.   Who can say whether we humans would have become so voraciously verbal if not for the practice our ancestors had of jawboning around the wildebeest spit.”

Without this development, we’d have no Passover or Tu Bishvat seders, no motzi or kiddush, no singing or word games with friends over dessert in the sukkah.  The convivial conversations that turn mere eating into the pleasures of dining, the “words of torah over the table” (m.Avot 3:3) that make Jewish meals Jewish meals would be impossible.  In this fall season, surrounded by the beauty of the changing leaves, the bounty of the harvest on our tables, and the words to describe them and share with good company, I feel such gratitude.  “Blessed are you God, ruler of the world, oseh ma’aseh bereshit -who crafts the work of creation.”

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4 Responses to ““The Ear Tests Words as The Palate Tastes Food””

  1. Julie Steinberg Says:

    What a thoughtful post – thanks for this. I really enjoyed it.

  2. Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus Says:

    You’re welcome. I’ve been enjoying your posts as well.

  3. “The Ear Tests Words as The Palate Tastes Food” | JewPI Says:

    [...] food” (12:11), could he have been alluding to the remarkable evolutionary development of the Read More » Share and Enjoy: Categories: Blogs, jNet Leave a Reply Click here to cancel reply. Name (required) [...]

  4. Hearing and eating at the same time | Smells and Bells Says:

    [...] “The Ear Tests Words as The Palate Tastes Food” by Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus · October 13th, 2009 Blessings, Dinner Parties, Jewish Culture, Judaism, NYTimes, Spirituality, Sukkot [...]

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