In the end of Parshas Vayeishev, the Pasuk says the Sar HaMashkim 'Lo zachar es yosef' and 'Vayishkacheihu'. Rashi explains that the dual terminology indicates that he forgot him on that day (the day he was freed) and after that as well.

Ibn Ezra says that 'Lo zachar' means that he didn't mention him, and 'vayishkacheihu' means he forgot him b'lev too.

The Avi Ezri (who explains the Ibn Ezra in many editions of mikra'os gedolos) explains that Ibn Ezra's issue is that the word 'es' can't be used with an intransitive verb. So he instead explains the word zachar as 'verbalize'.

So it seems that IE holds that 'remember' is intransitive, while 'mention' is transitive, and that 'es' indicates an object. I can hear why 'remember' is intransitive--after all, nothing is being done to Yosef. Rather, 'Yosef' is merely a description of the rememberance.

So I have 3 primary questions:

1-What would Rashi say in response?

2-I noticed in the shir shel yom of shabbos we say 'Uch'sil lo yavin es zos'--isn't this comparable to zachar (both are not really 'acting on' the supposed object)--yet it says 'es'?

3-If my understanding of why 'zachar' is intransitive, is 'mention' also intransitive?

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    Welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks for the interesting question!
    – Scimonster
    Dec 14, 2014 at 21:35
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    An excellent question; this passage in the Avi Ezer is really difficult to justify. I cannot answer it, but I need to note that your understanding of transitivity appears to be misguided. It has nothing to do with whether or not the verb denotes a physical effect upon the object, but only upon whether or not the object requires a preposition. In your fourth paragraph, both "mention" and "remember" are transitive verbs. An example of an intransitive verb (and perhaps how the Avi Ezer thinks that Ibn Ezra understands זכר) is "reminisce". The cupbearer cannot "reminisce Joseph", for example.
    – Shimon bM
    Dec 15, 2014 at 7:34
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    In other words, Ibn Ezra (acc. to the Avi Ezer) is taking זכר in this instance as synonymous with the hiphil, הזכיר, but this is problematic for other reasons. Chiefly is the fact that זכר turns up with a direct object over a hundred times in Tanakh, and everybody understands it to mean "remember" in all but a handful of instances. So I cannot explain this passage at all (if the Avi Ezer is correct, it is very, very strange), but I would suppose that Rashi's response would have simply been to say that זכר is a transitive verb, and that it means "remember". No big chiddush there.
    – Shimon bM
    Dec 15, 2014 at 7:36
  • @ShimonbM-Thanks for clarifying that transitivity relates to prepositions--I didn't realize that!
    – Jo.P
    Dec 15, 2014 at 22:37
  • Actually, @Jo.P, it relates more specifically to whether or not the verb can take a direct object - but the chief sign of an intransitive verb is its needing to take an indirect object instead (hence, with a preposition). Both transitive and intransitive verbs can also eschew the object altogether (eg: "he remembered", which is a transitive verb; "he jumped", which is intransitive). One can only differentiate between them when an object is involved: "he remembered the log"; "he jumped on the log". Hope my comment's less confusing now :)
    – Shimon bM
    Dec 15, 2014 at 22:51

1 Answer 1


Many verbs in Hebrew and English (and, I assume just about every language) have "combo" verbs that can be transitive or intransitive, depending on the sentence context. זכר means "remembered".

Within the context of the verse you are talking about, assume that we substituted the phrase לא זכר שר המשקים "The chief "bartender" (OK, it's an exaggeration of translating שר המשקים :-) didn't remember, with just והוא לא זכר leaving out the rest of the verse. This would translate to "And he didn't remember". Perfectly good grammatical sentence in Hebrew (and English). So, here, זכר is intransitive.

Now looking at the verse, the end word is וישכחהו. Yes, the word שכח can be both transitive and intransitive as well, depending on context. But, here, they are using a "compound form" in a single word, stating וישכחהו - "He forgot him", so here, שכח is transitive.

Since the last word means "He forgot him", it would be strange normally on its own because we would wonder "who forgot whom?" So, at the beginning the verse puts an object ... את יוסף so, the Torah is using the transitive version of זכר, and the word את is an objective marker, in this case, being יוסף .

I too am puzzled by Ibn Ezra's analysis, as he is using the wrong from of the verb זכר, per @Shimon bM's comment.

In answer to your 3 questions:

1 - I don't think Rashi has to answer "in response", as I think Ibn Ezra's analysis is faulty in terms of verb use.

2 - "Yavin" has a dual transitive and intransitive use, but in the verse you're using, the transitive usage occurs.

3 - See my answer to #1, which would make the answer, here, irrelevant, probably. However, "mention" which should be translated in Hebrew as הזכיר is transitive.

  • Very interesting--thank you. Never thought of the 'covering up the rest of the sentence' idea...
    – Jo.P
    Dec 15, 2014 at 22:36

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