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Theoretically the names and the very memories of evil people (rasha'im) should be obliterated. Is this aim seriously pursued?

For example, saying ימח שמו after a name doesn't really help obliterate that name. Using nicknames (such as ישו) does help obliterate the name but not the memory of the rasha (to obliterate the memory, one wouldn't talk about him at all).

Also, in the modern world, information spreads so quickly that it doesn't seem feasible to obliterate someone's name.

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Isn't ישו his name? –  msh210 Aug 25 '11 at 19:31
    
No, the name is ישוע. The name ישו is an abbreviation of ימח שמו וזכרו, i.e., may his name and memory be erased. Though I think that nobody really knows what his name sounded like in Hebrew / Aramaic, since the New Testament was written in Greek, and the first Jewish sources about him were written hundreds of years later. –  Lev Aug 25 '11 at 19:39
    
This question is a good one, and especially applicable to a situation like Amalek, where we would not even know of their existence if it was not for the commandment to erase their memory. –  avi Aug 26 '11 at 7:04
    
Related question, but not a duplicate: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/73/naming-after-bad-people –  Ellie Kesselman Oct 16 '11 at 3:40

2 Answers 2

We do not name children after evil people. The names of the evil people throughout history are actually the ones people remember and thus we say "Yemach Shemo V'Zichro" which is translated as "May his name be erased".

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What about nicknames given to evil people to avoid using their names? –  Lev Aug 25 '11 at 19:43
    
I am not sure what you are talking about? Hitler Yemach Shemo is still called Hitler. Stalin Yemach Shemo is still called Stalin. Haman Yemach Shemo is still called Haman. So what nicknames are you talking about? –  Gershon Gold Aug 25 '11 at 19:49
    
I remember reading that the names of evil people shouldn't be mentioned. I thought that was the reason for ישו. –  Lev Aug 25 '11 at 20:00
    
יש"ו is an acronym for Yemach Shemo V'Zichro. –  Gershon Gold Aug 25 '11 at 20:08

There are a couple of things I can point out using Amalek, the prototype of evil names Jews should obliterate:

1) Some people have a tradition nowadays to test a pen by writing the name Amalek on a piece of paper and then scribbling the name out, effectively fulfilling the dictum of 'erasing Amalek'

2) Having said that, as I once read somewhere, it's currently impossible to completely fulfill this obligation, as the name Amalek is part of the torah itself. I guess only in the days of Moshiach will this actually be possible, when the name can be changed by G-d into something else.

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In the days of Moshiach the Torah will change?? –  Lev Nov 29 '11 at 15:30
    
@Lev: not change, but we'll understand it on a completely different level. Just as the halachah is that we are permitted to mention the names of idols given in the Torah (because, as the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l explains based on Sefer Yereim, that very mention empties them of any unholy content), similarly the name "Amalek" will be understood in Moshiach's times as referring to something positive rather than to a terrestrial wicked nation. –  Alex Nov 29 '11 at 18:39

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