Cleft lip in the Talmud

M. Westreich*, S. Segal, F. Rosner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The authors address the problem of why the cleft lip anomalad is not mentioned even once in the Talmud, which contains detailed reports of numerous other forms of pathology and congenital anomalies. It also attempts to define the Sandal deformity, one of the most common congenital anomalies mentioned in the Talmud. It is assumed that cleft lip, the most common major facial defect, existed at the time of the Talmud. It is proposed that the Sandal deformity was actually made up of a number of entities grouped together because of a theorized common etiology, and that the cleft lip entity is included in the Sandal anomalad. This deformity, in its various forms, included, besides cleft lip, aborted tissue and products of gestation. They are all related to the common etiology of a twin gestation during which one fetus presses against the other causing the deformity. The Sandal was noted to look like the Sandal fish or sole, for which it is named. When photos of the Sandal fish and the cleft lip deformity are compared, a similarity is seen. In addition, this deformity apparently was thought to be fatal, and none of these babies survived. It is theorized that cleft lip babies were allowed to die because they were considered nonviable in the eyes of Jewish law. Supporting evidence for the ideas presented by the authors is derived from the talmudic texts and commentaries. If the Sandal does indeed include the cleft lip entity, the citation in the Mishnah (70-200 AD) makes it the earliest historical reference to the cleft lip deformity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-239
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Plastic Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000


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