May 17, 2024
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May 17, 2024
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There are many wonderful Yiddish expressions but few are more fun to say than “nisht geferlach,” which means “not terrible.” Yiddish speakers use “nisht geferlach” to make a negative situation seem a little less negative. In this way, the phrase “nisht geferlach” (“not terrible”) is akin to spin, the Yiddish equivalent of making lemonade out of lemons, gefilte out of carp or etrog jelly out of etrogim.

So when is the right time to use the term “nisht geferlach”? It all depends on the moment but here are a few examples when uttering “nisht geferlach” usually makes sense.

The weather forecast for your beach vacation calls for cloudy skies but no rain. Nisht geferlach!

Your favorite pizza parlor has run out of your beloved grandma slices but regular slices are still available. Nisht geferlach!

You are attending a wedding and wearing a brand new dress and someone else at the wedding is wearing the same dress, but the consensus is that you wore it better. Nisht geferlach!

Of course, the “nisht geferlach” utterance also may be used under more extreme circumstances in which the silver lining is less obvious and thus more difficult to appreciate. In this way, “nisht geferlach” represents the glass-half-full mentality of classic cockeyed optimists. In such instances, “nisht geferlach” is declared even when things actually appear… geferlach. The following hypotheticals demonstrate when a well-timed and sincere “nisht geferlach” declaration may come in handy:

Your unmarried adult daughter who still lives at home has finally met someone special and although this new significant other is unsuccessful and unlikeable, he is Jewish. Nisht geferlach!

Your sadly undriven and indolent child brings home a report card which, instead of being filled with usual grades of D’s and F’s, is mostly marked as “incomplete.” Nisht geferlach!

Your son’s frustrated and defeated bar mitzvah teacher candidly declares that your son is either incapable or unwilling to learn any of his Torah portion or even the Haf-Torah, but the teacher believes that your son is perfectly able to withstand an intense barrage of congregational candy-throwing. Nisht geferlach!

Your blind date is unattractive, undignified and unkind, but comes from an extremely wealthy family known for excessively over-spending on everything including divorce settlements. Nisht geferlach!

On shabbos, your super loquacious rabbi, who enjoys nothing more than hearing the sound of his own voice, delivers a seemingly never-ending 3-hour D’Var Torah, but the ensuing kiddush is sponsored, prepared and presented by The Wandering Que. Nisht geferlach!

Your often clueless and/or thoughtless spouse completely forgets about your birthday and wedding anniversary but, coincidentally, on those particular days is far less annoying than normal. Nisht geferlach!

Your fully paid-for and totally non-refundable Pesach program in Italy has been relocated to Idaho and, according to the contract’s fine print, the relocation is permitted without warning or price-adjustment, but your unbearably controlling and insanely judgmental in-laws refuse to join you in Idaho. Nisht geferlach!

Your dependable but highly sensitive butcher, who has the best meat in town and always saves the choice cuts for you, catches you purchasing steaks from a competitor and issues you a one-year ban from his butcher shop, but all of this occurs right after your tremendously successful Lag B’Omer barbecue extravaganza. Nisht geferlach!

Your ridiculously demanding and guilt-tripping parents rake you over the coals for not visiting them for over a week and they unreasonably insist that your failure to stop by (even though you called them every single day) means that you do not love or care about them at all, but they still tell you that you are their favorite child. Nisht geferlach!

Your alarmingly spoiled and unappreciative children refuse to clean their rooms or perform any household chores unless they are obscenely compensated, but the more you pay them, the less you have to do around the house. Nisht geferlach!

Your neighbors do not invite you to a birthday party at their home but that means you do not need to send them a gift. Nisht geferlach!

Your boss denies your request for a promotion which you richly deserved but also thwarts an attempt to terminate you. Nisht geferlach!

Your hairstylist gives you an unusual hairdo but at least you’re not bald. Nisht geferlach!

Your camp counselor, at summer’s end, gives you an award for being the camper least likely to make an impression, positive or negative. Nisht geferlach!

Final thought: This article may have been lame and unamusing but it has now come to an end. Nisht geferlach!

By Jon Kranz


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