Mach nisht ah tsimmis means “don’t make tsimmis.” I asked my vibel (wife) Shirley about the ingredients of this delicacy. She responded that tsimmis consists of carrots, sweet potatoes, prunes, lemon juice, and honey. Translated literally, therefore, mach nisht ah tsimmis makes no sense. Why should you not make a tsimmis? The first lesson, therefore, is that, when encountering a Yiddish expression (or an American one, for that matter), we shouldn’t take it literally. Rather, the enfehr (answer) is that mach nisht ah tsimmis means that we should not make a big deal about every annoyance. (Of course, there are annoyances that do require attention.) A common English equivalent is “don’t make a mountain out of a molehill” or the folksy “stop making such a fuss.”
Here are a few examples of how to use the expression “mach nisht ah tsimmis.” Any similarity to a person living or dead is purely coincidental!
Tale of a Snake
Reb Shmeryl Melamed taught 30 students at the Lebedik Talmud Torah. Unfortunately, his class appeared to be against giving parents school naches, and there were a few students that were referred to as vildeh chiyess (wild animals). The leading troublemaker was a kid named Irving Zaperstein. Irving initiated various strategies to drive his teacher into an early grave or early retirement, whichever came first. (The class kept count, and the record for retiring teachers was seven per school semester!)
Irving had an array of pets in his basement, including a two-foot-long snake. When the class reviewed the episode of Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) facing Pharoah, the king of Egypt, Irving’s yetzer harah (evil inclination) began hammering a message to his brain: “Sidneleh,” said the yetzer, “do a mitzva. Make the study of Torah interesting.”
“Vee azoy (how)?” thought Irving.
“Enrich the topic by showing the class what actually occurred when Moshe turned his staff into a snake.”
With this fahrtumult (confusion) thinking, Irving rushed home, opened the reptile cage, and placed his pet snake Oliver into a bag He secured the bag and carried it to school, where Mr. Melamed was discussing what occurred when Moshe was in Pharoah’s court. He described how Moshe threw his staff on the ground and it became a snake – perfect timing for what was about to occur.
After untying the bag and grasping Oliver, Irving shouted “Shazam!” and tossed the confused serpent to the front of the room. Was there a gerosh (bedlam)? you may ask. Freg nisht (don’t ask)! Reactions included screaming, pushing, and jumping in all directions of the room as everyone except Irving fled the area.
As for Oliver, the snake, he looked up, thought that earthlings are really tsudrait (crazy). He spotted a hole near the floor and crawled into it. Things finally quieted down, but the students and their teacher refused to enter the classroom, and someone placed a large sign on the door reading “wandering reptile.” Exterminators were notified but they could not locate Oliver, who had them teef in bawd (jumping in a lake) as he kept crawling to another location. He was never seen again, and rumor has it that he is still wandering around inside the walls and feeding on his favorite food, mice.
The class resumed their studies in the library, and Dr. Rabbi Josh Witsky, school principal, summoned Irving’s father to appear at the school and advised him that his kid was a permanent persona non grata, doss hayst, that Irving was now as welcome in the school as a Yiddle in Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Zaperstein would not accept the suspension of his tyer (precious) son, and he began kvetching (complaining) that tossing his son out of the school was unfair. Furthermore he, Mendel Zaperstein, contributed big bucks to the school. His closing remark was, “Mr. Principal, mach nisht ah tsimmis regarding this incident, and remember that boys will be boys! My Irving has a few problems, but basically he is a good boy!”
Nu, guess what occurred following the discussion? Correct! One week after the classroom miseh, Irving was “back in the saddle” again. As for poor Mr. Melamed: He was nebech the eighth teacher that year to “bite the dust.” And the memory of what occurred lasted for ages.
The Missing Table Miseh
Bella and Benny Flechter were invited to attend the wedding of their friends, Shaindle and Freddy Brecher. They enjoyed the elaborate wedding and the beautifully decorated hall. There were fabulous flower arrangements and exquisite table settings. The musicians were playing beautiful tunes (if you didn’t mind the temporary or permanent deafness they could create in the proximity of the booming speakers). The ladies wore beautiful gowns and the men wore the latest stylish tuxedos.
Inhaling the fragrant aroma of the food, Bella and Benny began searching for their designated table, number 120. They searched ah hin and ah hair (back and forth), but their assigned table was nowhere to be found. Totally exhausted, Benny became berogez (angry) and summoned Steve Pancho, the manager of the hall. Steve searched for the missing table but had as much luck as a Yid in Yemen.
Soon Freddy Fresserman, the host of the wedding arrived but he too could not locate the table. Lacking any more patience, Benny lost his cool and began shouting nasty words that he had learned in the military. Freddy then offered to place an extra table in an adjoining room. At this point, Benny went double bananas. In desperation, Freddy gave a geshrey (yell): “It ain’t so terrible, mach nisht ah tsimmis!” Benny remembered these words from his childhood days. He calmed down and soon joined in the festivities.
A Miseh with a Chair
Several years ago, Fivel Smith (nee Smilovitz) decided that his restaurant business was teef in drerd (a loosing proposition). He therefore decided to sell it and placed the following ad in the local Yiddish newspaper: Tsu Fahrkoifehn (For Sale): Ah guhteh gesheft (a good business)! Get rich! Milchig and fleishig utensils. Recently redecorated. Fresh air. Nice bathroom. Outstanding bargain!
A week later, Jerry Nimmis, a real estate macher (tycoon), arrived at the restaurant. He examined and reexamined the premises. Following the inspection, Fivel asked Jerry to sit down to discuss purchasing the place. Telling Jerry to sit down was a mistake, because the vintage chair could not contain a 200-pound person. There was a loud thud as Jerry tumbled towards the floor. After struggling to get up, he began kvetching (complaining) that his arm was broken.
“Mach nisht ah tsimis!” shouted Fivel, “I’ll sell it to you cheap!” The deal was finally concluded, and there were interesting thoughts about the meaning of the word bashert (predestined), such as whether Jerry was bashert to sit on the chair.
Tsimmis Trivia: Making a Tzimmis Doesn’t Pay
Beryl Pimpkin receives a letter stating that taxes for his house will increase. Instead of filing a request for a hearing, he makes a tzimmis and goes bananas. He begins damaging his house, hoping that it now will be worth less!
Itsy Pitsikoff receives a letter from the city stating that the water bill has tripled. Instead of requesting a review of his water meter, he turns off the main water valve and a pipe bursts. Making a major tsimmis out of a minor tsimmis was costly.
Velvel Fleperstein has a hard time getting to work because his car toig in drerd (is in bad shape). Instead of purchasing another car, he makes a daily tsimmis at work. He is soon fired and now he doesn’t need a new car.
Rita Meesponim receives a notice that she must retire by next year. Instead of looking for another position, she makes a tsimmis and spends her time complaining and turning into a farbisiner (bitter) person.
Timothy Grippo receives a phone call from his neighbor Pinky Pinney regarding Pinky’s fall on his sidewalk. Instead of examining the sidewalk, Timothy makes a tsimmis and calls Pinky a hustler. One week later he receives a notice to appear in court.
Amanda and Yossel Finsterleben receive a new neighbor, Hussein Nosaneah, a Syrian immigrant. Ah glik howt zey getrofen – what luck! Instead of attempting to have a peaceful transition, however, they make a tsimmis about the Nosaneahs, resulting in a continued finster leben (dark life).
Seymour Disgoy, a tinnitus sufferer, listens to his son Zippo practicing the violin. Zippo’s violin practice has the sound of battling cats. A few minutes later, Disgoy makes a tsimmis regarding the fahrzetsteh (messed up) sounds. He shouts that he cannot bear the ear torture any longer and leaves the house. Zippo is highly insulted, loses his self-control, and tosses the violin out the window. Perhaps if his father would not have made such a tsimmis, he may have become an accomplished musician. Vehr vais (who knows)?
Ah klal (to sum it up) if we learn to avoid making a tsimmis over every annoyance, not only will our lives be more fulfilling and joyful, so will the lives of those around us!