Geshmak (pronounced gish-MOCK) is a Yiddish word that means “delicious,” “pleasurable,” or “fun.” Geshmak functions as both a noun and a verb. So if, for example, your nephew has a geshmak in cooking, you can confidently tell him that the food he made was simply geshmak. In American Yinglish (English sprinkled liberally with Yiddish), a person whose company is enjoyable may also be referred to as geshmak.

Learning With a Geshmak

Our sages teach that a person should always learn Torah in a place that his heart desires.1 This means that not only should the subject be dear to your heart, but you should also pick a venue where you will be able to enjoy your studies. Follow their adage, and you’re guaranteed to be learning with a geshmak.

A Geshmak in Doing Favors

Rabbi Shalom Dovber of Lubavitch taught:

It is a magnificent gift of G‑d to merit an innate sense (a “feel”) and a geshmak for doing kindness to another. This can develop to the point that one cherishes the other more than oneself. He may find many explanations as to why he deserves his own tribulations, G‑d forbid, but to do so with regard to another's suffering is inconceivable.2

The Path Less Geshmak

A father once took his young son to dip in the river, as per the custom of the pious to immerse in the cleansing waters of a mikvah before praying each morning.

It was a bitterly cold day, and the river was almost frozen over. The duo quickly undressed and slipped into the water. “Oy, Tatteh!” cried the son. “It’s freezing!”

As soon as the pair emerged, they wrapped themselves in warm towels, headed for home and warmed themselves near the crackling fire. “Ah,” signed the son with pleasure, “this is geshmak!”

“My dear son,” said the father, “let this dip in the cold river be a lesson for you. In life you will face many choices, and it will not always be clear to you what is right and what is wrong. One path may appear more geshmak than the other; how will you know which is correct?

“You must always look a few steps ahead,” he continued with wisdom gleaned with age. “If the oy is followed by an ah—first difficult but then geshmak—know that you are on the correct path. But if it is first an ah and then an oy—starting out geshmak but going downhill from there—know that you must change direction.”3

It’s Geshmak to Be a Jew

There is an oft-told anecdote of a rabbi4 who observed how some Jewish families managed to maintain their fealty to Judaism in early 20th century America, while others fell to the wayside:

Many Torah scholars who were devoted to Judaism with every fiber of their being, never compromising even an iota, found that their children didn’t follow in their footsteps.

Then there were others who did not appear to be any more learned or devout, yet their children took the torch of Judaism and made it their own.

What was the difference?

It’s the end of a long workweek, and two men are laid off for refusing to work on Shabbat. Both come home with empty pockets and no idea where their next penny will come from.

One of them sighs deeply and says, “Oy, s’iz shver5 tzu zein a Yid (“Oh, it’s tough to be a Jew”).

The other greets his family with a smile and tells them with joy, “Oy, s’iz geshmak tzu zein a Yid (“Oh, it’s a pleasure to be a Jew”).

It’s not difficult to imagine which children chose to follow their father’s example . . .