Bereishis 41:51

כי נשני אלהים את כל עמלי ואת כל בית אבי

God has caused me to forget all my toil and all my father's house

Devarim 25:19

תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים לא תשכח

Erase the memory of Amalek... do not forget

There seem to be two words that mean "forget" - is there a difference in nuance between the two? What does each mean?

  • 3
    Whose translation is this?
    – Double AA
    Mar 31, 2014 at 4:47
  • have u seen the malbim and other commentaries on bereishis 41:51?
    – ray
    Mar 31, 2014 at 6:42
  • @DoubleAA Rabbi YEZ. But a similar one can be found in Artscroll and on Chabad.com. R' Hirsch points out that it is a valid translation, but rejects it for contextual reasons. (I'm assuming you were asking about translating נשני, and were trying to say "who explains נשני that way?") Mar 31, 2014 at 12:47
  • I have heard from Rabbi Uziel Milevsky zt'l that there are no exact synonyms in hebrew. so according to that, yes there must be some difference in meaning
    – ray
    Mar 31, 2014 at 13:06
  • @ray There is no Malbim on Bereishis 41:51. R' Hirsch does not explain the verse with נשני meaning forgetting. Didn't notice anyone in the Mikraos Gedolos, but I didn't flip through the whole thing. Mar 31, 2014 at 17:38

1 Answer 1


It seems to me that the first (נשני) is an active forgetfulness, and the second (שכחה) is passive.

This we see from the gemora in Sanhedrin 102b which expounds that the name Menashe (ben Chizkiyohu) signifies that he caused Yisrael to forget Hashem. And even according to the Maharsha who disagrees with Rashi that נשני is an expression of forgetfulness and suggests that it is related to the expression גיד הנשה and is an expression of removal, it still indicates an active process.

In contrast we see from the mitzvah of שכחה - leaving forgotten sheaves in the field for the poor - that this type of forgetting is passive. Thus we are commanded to actively remember to erase the memory of Amalek - to erase Amalek to the extant that they will no longer be remembered - because otherwise we will in the course of time passively forget that we are commanded to do this.

  • +1, great idea. Is this your own explanation? ....I seem to remember hearing it before, but that might just be faulty memory.
    – MTL
    Sep 2, 2014 at 11:56
  • +1 - perhaps לא תשכח by Amalek is saying not only should you not actively forget what Amalek did to you, but don't allow yourself to passively forget. (Similar to your own suggestion) Sep 2, 2014 at 18:54

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