When is the phrase 'ימח שמו וזכרו' ('may his name and memory be erased') appended to the name of an evil person? Is it a stylistic and subjective matter of choice or are there specific criteria to render the phrase acceptable to be used?

More specifically, since many tragedies have befallen the Jewish people 'in the name of' Jesus and Mohammed would they fall under this category? Is this similar to other evil people in history that did not commit physical acts of murder but rather instructed others to commit genocide (e.g. Hitler)?

  • Technically, Haman did not attempt to attack anyone himself, he got Achashveiros to give the orders. Antiochus gave the orders to his minions to enforce his decrees. There are people who say that the name Yshu (Jesu in the English King James version) is actually the Roshei Teivos of the phrase. Dec 31, 2014 at 21:29
  • related en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yimakh_shemo
    – bondonk
    Dec 31, 2014 at 21:45

1 Answer 1


Q1: A Wikipedia article cited by @bondonk reports when ימח שמו וזכרו is used and says “it can be applied to any abhorrent enemy of the people”. It can also be used “even in cases of personal slight.” So it seems to be a subjective matter of choice.

Extract of the article:

Haman and others[edit] The phrase originates with Purim[13] and Haman,[14][15] but can be applied to any abhorrent enemy of the people[16] such as Shabsai Tzvi[17][18] Spain,[19] Joseph Stalin[20] Russians,[21] Poles[22] Adolf Hitler,[23][24] Adolf Eichmann,[25] Mengele,[26] or any other Nazi[27][28] Or even in cases of personal slight, such as of a bullying father,[29] or conversely as the father of Israel Zangwill of his playwright son.[30] Yisrael Meir Kagan used the epithet of the man who tried to persuade him to abandon his studies.[31]

(See the article itself for the references.)

The article mentions its use with Jesus of Nazareth but not Mohammed. In Chabad Talk there are several references to the idea of not saying "yimach shemo" about another Jew (including Jesus of Nazareth).

In Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler, Parshas Re'ei it is clear that Reb Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld commented that using the epithet Yimach Shmo was not the way to speak about a fellow-Jew even a secular leader. This despite the fact that R. Yosef Chayim fought the secular establishment tooth and nail without respite. He did everything in his power to negate their authority. He commented that

it makes more sense to pray for them to do Teshuvah than to curse them (as B'ruryah taught her husband [Rebbi Meir] in B'rachos 10a)!

The article continues:

We dare not curse the Resha'im. What we have to do is to pray fervently that G-d showers them with a spirit of purity and puts into their hearts the will to do Teshuvah. It is only with regard to Amalek, he concluded, that the Torah writes "Blot out the memory of Amalek" (and this incorporates all enemies of Yisrael and their oppressors, who stem from the root of Amalek), and it is they whom we hope and pray may be blotted out from the Book of life.

Thus here we have Rabbinic authority for limiting the use of the phrase to Amalek and those like him. The Chofetz Chaim referred to above (Yisrael Meir Kagan) may have differed or regarded someone who did not want him to study as equivalent to Amalek.

Q2: Evil people in history that did not commit physical acts of murder but rather instructed others.

The quoted Wikipedia article as you see above refers to evil people who did not murder.

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