The beginning of the seventh chapter of Bavli Shabas (and its commentaries) speaks of instances in which someone forgets that the day is Shabas, forgets that there is such a thing as Shabas altogether, or forgets that a particular action is forbidden on Shabas; he therefore does a forbidden action on Shabas. One Hebrew word that keeps getting used there is "העלם". Briefly, an action is said to be in a העלם if the actor forgot something significant (one of the aforementioned facts), and the העלם isn't over until the actor realizes his error. Thus, the g'mara discusses whether things occur "in one העלם or in two", etc.

In reading and attempting to translate the g'mara, I find myself stymied by this word. I keep translating it as "a forgetting", which is not really a word. (I mean, it's in the dictionary. But not as meaning "a time period of forgetting, until realization". Or, at least, no one uses it that way.) However, everything else I can think of is too long to be usable with any frequency: brevity is important to me. I would appreciate suggestions.

As with all "please suggest your best…" questions on this site, please list not only what you like but why you think it fits the bill.

  • 2
    I can't think of an English equivalent. But you may want to ask over on English Language & Usage SE.
    – Seth J
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 14:46
  • 1
    period of forgetfulness works. But I strongly agree with @SethJ
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 16:18
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is at best a question about the Hebrew language, and at worst a question about the English language.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 16:20
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    Perhaps "prolonged incident of forgetfulness with multiple inadvertent violations of Shabbath during that period"?
    – Seth J
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 16:20
  • 3
    Jews make up words all the time. I would have no qualms about using "a forgetting".
    – Scimonster
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 20:16

4 Answers 4


Try Fugue? Fugue:

a state or period of loss of awareness of one's identity, often coupled with flight from one's usual environment, associated with certain forms of hysteria and epilepsy.

Wikipedia Article

  • Heh, I think fugue is (as you've indicated) loss of awareness of one's own identity, not of (e.g.) the laws of Shabas. I don't think I'll be using this translation. But +1 for creativity.
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 20:18
  • For a jew forgetting Shabbos is like forgetting one's own identity, no?
    – הראל
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 21:28

I suggest oblivion.

Wiktionary's first definition is:

The state of forgetfulness or distraction; fig. confused

It seems to me that the distracted kind of forgetfulness is the phenomenon discussed in the laws of Sabbath.

Wiktionary notes:

(usually uncountable, plural oblivions)

Although this word is usually not treated as discrete instance, it is sometimes used that way, so I think it would be reasonable to use it in that sense. If you pluralize it at least once in your discussion, that's one way to make it clear that you're talking about discrete instances. You can also make that explicit when you introduce the term.

As a bonus, oblivion also has a sense of

The state of being completely forgotten.

which sounds very much like the "disappearance" sense of העלם pointed out by ray and by Loewian.


The Hebrew word itself only means "disappearance" (as in, from his conscious mind/memory) which means it needs to be interpreted contextually even in the original. If you are looking for a translation that incorporates the contextual explanation, perhaps try: "dismissal from mind" or "act of forgetting/disremembering" (or "disrememberance" if you're not ardently opposed to neologism).


the word means concealed or hidden as in bamidbar 5:13

"and a man lie with her carnally, but it was hidden (neelam) from her husband's eyes, but she was secluded [with the suspected adulterer] and there was no witness against her, and she was not seized."

  • 2
    This does not answer the question, which is seeking a translation that is useful in the context of its meaning in Shabbath.
    – Seth J
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 21:02

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