There is this really thoughtful project, called Stolpersteine of Gunter Demnig, a German artist, to place a cobblestone with an inscribed brass plate in front of houses, where victims of the Holocaust were living. He often quotes the Talmud as a motivation:

Demnig cites the Talmud, which states that "a person is not forgotten until his or her name is forgotten." - Deutsche Welle

I have heard this saying many times, but to be honest, I couldn't find it in the Talmud. Indeed, Chazal were keen on mentioning the name of their masters, when quoting them, but I can't recall an exact source for this practice. Do you remember anything similar? Might it be a misquote?

  • "משנשתקע שם הבעלים"
    – Double AA
    Jan 15, 2018 at 12:20
  • 1
    @DoubleAA You mean: רבי חייה בשם ר' יוחנן אם היה שם הבעלים חקוק עליהן כמו שלא נשתכח שם הבעלים mechon-mamre.org/b/r/r2a03.htm Jan 15, 2018 at 12:38
  • Kazi, no but that's also a good source.
    – Double AA
    Jan 15, 2018 at 18:31

3 Answers 3


It's not an elegant thing to post an answer to my own question, but based on Double AA's comment I could eventually find something interesting – even though I'm quite convinced that the artist was not aware of this. In Yerushalmi there's a discussion at Megillah 3:2, whether one should sell the property of the community to a private person. In the Gemarah it is said:

העושה נר ומנורה לבה"כ

He who makes a candelabrum or a lamp for a synagogue:

עד שלא נשתכח שם הבעלים מהן אין את רשאי לשנותן למקום אחר

Before the name of the owner [who has donated it] is forgotten from these objects, one is not permitted to use them for some other purpose.

שנשתכח שם הבעלים מהן את רשאי לשנותן למקום אחר

Once the name of the owner [who donated them] is forgotten from them, one is permitted to make use of them for some other purpose.

רבי חייה בשם ר' יוחנן אם היה שם הבעלים חקוק עליהן כמו שלא נשתכח שם הבעלים מהן

R. Chiyya in the name of R. Yochanan: “If the name of the owner was incised on the object, it is as if the name of the owner [who has donated it] will never be forgotten from the object.”

Translation from The Talmud of the Land of Israel – A Preliminary Translation and Explanation, Volume 19 – Megillah p. 124. by Jacob Neusner.

See also Tosefta Megillah 2:9 discussing the same issue.

I suppose this is the closest match, since according to Yerushalmi one is not forgotten (and her/his donation can't be used for something else) as long as the person's name is present on an object.


Although I am not aware of this quote, "something similar" might be Deuteronomy (25:6) which states that in the event that a man dies childless, his brother is to marry his widow, "and the firstborn son she gives birth to will stand in his brother's name, and his name shall not be wiped out from Israel" (my rough translation). Some pashtanim interpret this as instructing the living brother to name the son he has with his deceased brother's widow after his deceased brother (Ibn Caspi and Ralbag there, implication of Abravanel to Deut. 25 as noted by HaKtav V'HaKabbalah to 25:6, and note Ibn Ezra). This has to do with perpetuating the deceased brothers' legacy (Ralbag to 25:5-6). According to this explanation, perpetuating the name of the deceased is considered like perpetuating him.

Interestingly, the destruction of Amalek includes destroying זכר עמלק (Deut. 25:19); meaning the memory or mention of Amalek (that the same word can be used for both is itself significant). Some interpret this as an instruction to destroy their property so that their name will no longer me mentioned in connection with their former property (Rashi there).

Interestingly, Proverbs (10:7) which speaks of the name of the wicked rotting, is interpreting by the Talmud (Yoma 38b) as instructing people to not name people after the wicked.

These are admittedly loose connections.

Significantly, after this question, the first google result for related terms, is project stolpersteine, and after some searching I cannot find such a quote in the Talmud. Also notable is that such sentiments are found in other recent sources (listed here). For example, David Eagleman writes:

There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

  • 1
    Perhaps the reporter of the artist jumped to conclusions that a Jewish saying would come from the Talmud.
    – ezra
    Jan 15, 2018 at 18:18
  • I suppose you've made really important points with yibum and Amalek, but I don't consider them as a simple Talmud quote (despite the whole tractate, Yevamot) Jan 16, 2018 at 9:35

This might not exactly answer the question, but the Talmud in Berachos 32b discusses how someone can be forsaken yet still not be forgotten.

ותאמר ציון עזבני ה׳ וה׳ שכחני היינו עזובה היינו שכוחה אמר ריש לקיש אמרה כנסת ישראל לפני הקדוש ברוך הוא רבונו של עולם אדם נושא אשה על אשתו ראשונה זוכר מעשה הראשונה אתה עזבתני ושכחתני אמר לה הקדוש ברוך הוא בתי שנים עשר מזלות בראתי ברקיע ועל כל מזל ומזל בראתי לו שלשים חיל ועל כל חיל וחיל בראתי לו שלשים לגיון ועל כל לגיון ולגיון בראתי לו שלשים רהטון ועל כל רהטון ורהטון בראתי לו שלשים קרטון ועל כל קרטון וקרטון בראתי לו שלשים גסטרא ועל כל גסטרא וגסטרא תליתי בו שלש מאות וששים וחמשה אלפי רבוא כוכבים כנגד ימות החמה וכולן לא בראתי אלא בשבילך ואת אמרת עזבתני ושכחתני התשכח אשה עולה אמר הקדוש ברוך הוא כלום אשכח עולות אילים ופטרי רחמים שהקרבת לפני במדבר אמרה לפניו רבונו של עולם הואיל ואין שכחה לפני כסא כבודך שמא לא תשכח לי מעשה העגל אמר לה גם אלה תשכחנה אמרה לפניו רבונו של עולם הואיל ויש שכחה לפני כסא כבודך שמא תשכח לי מעשה סיני אמר לה ואנכי לא אשכחך והיינו דאמר רבי אלעזר אמר רב אושעיא מאי דכתיב גם אלה תשכחנה זה מעשה העגל ואנכי לא אשכחך זה מעשה סיני

But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me, and the Lord hath forgotten me. Is not ‘forsaken’ the same as ‘forgotten’? Resh Lakish said: The community of Israel said before the Holy One, blessed be He: Sovereign of the Universe, when a man takes a second wife after his first, he still remembers the deeds of the first. Thou hast both forsaken me and forgotten me! The Holy One, blessed be He, answered her: My daughter, twelve constellations have I created in the firmament, and for each constellation I have created thirty hosts, and for each host I have created thirty legions, and for each legion I have created thirty cohorts, and for each cohort I have created thirty maniples, and for each maniple I have created thirty camps, and to each camp I have attached three hundred and sixty-five thousands of myriads of stars, corresponding to the days of the solar year, and all of them I have created only for thy sake, and thou sayest, Thou hast forgotten me and forsaken me! Can a woman forsake her sucking child [‘ullah]? Said the Holy One, blessed be He: Can I possibly forget the burn-offerings [‘olah] of rams and the firstborn of animals that thou didst offer to Me in the wilderness? She thereupon said: Sovereign of the Universe, since there is no forgetfulness before the Throne of Thy glory, perhaps Thou wilt not forget the sin of the Calf? He replied: ‘Yea, "these " will be forgotten’. She said before Him: Sovereign of the Universe, seeing that there is forgetfulness before the Throne of Thy glory, perhaps Thou wilt forget my conduct at Sinai? He replied to her: ‘Yet "the I" will not forget thee’. This agrees with what R. Eleazar said in the name of R. Oshaia: What is referred to by the text, ‘yea, "these" will be forgotten’? This refers to the sin of the Calf. ‘And yet "the I" will not forget thee’: this refers to their conduct at Sinai. (Soncino translation.)

  • This is a recurring theme in midrashim, but IMHO it rather refers to the relationship of Hashem and Benei Yisrael instead of the memory of a single person. Jan 16, 2018 at 10:37
  • @Kazibácsi The particular passage is indeed referring to the relationship between God and Israel, but the underlying idea of distinguishing forgetting from forsaking can be applied to individuals as well.
    – Alex
    Jan 19, 2018 at 15:37

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