"As might be expected, the serpent figures largely in the animal folk-lore of Palestine. According to Jewish notions, “the spinal cord of a man who does not bend his knees at the repetition of the benediction, which commences with the word ‘Modim,’ after seven years becomes a serpent;” while the fellahìn believe that a serpent, when it has attained the age of one thousand years, finds its way to the sea, and becomes a whale. According to the Talmud, “Seventy years must elapse before a viper can reproduce its own species, and a similar period is required for the carub-tree, while the wicked serpent requires seven years."
- Folk-Lore of the Holy Land: Jewish, Christian, and Moslem (J.E. Hanauer, 1907) http://www.sacred-texts.com/asia/flhl/flhl35.htm (via purplefigtree)
"Sneezing during a prayer is viewed in the Talmud as a sign that God has heard the prayer and will answer it. A legend about the prophet Elisha holds that when he revived a child (using today’s equivalent of mouth-to-mouth resuscitation), the first sign of life was seven sneezes. The sneezing of babies at birth was considered a good omen by Oliver Wendell Holmes, the 19th-century American physician."
- GESUNDHEIT! SNEEZING GETS A BIG REACTION, New York Times (1983)