Can Someone Help with a Russian or Yiddish Rhyme with the Word “Meesala” or “Misala” In It?

Sharon wrote:


I am hoping that someone out there remembers an old game that mothers, grandmothers, aunts and friends used to play with little ones. I think the rhyme is either Russian or Yiddish.

The baby’s hand is held palm up and the mother points her finger into the middle of the child’s hand and says, Meesala, Misala, or something like that, while making circles in the child’s palm. As the poem is repeated, the fingers march up the child’s arm and then tickle the back of the neck.

I remember the action and the feeling, but not the poem.

Help! I want to play this with my grandchildren, and my Grandmother played this with me almost 70 years ago.

Any help would be appreciated.



If anyone knows about this rhyme, please comment below or email me.


-Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2007 at 6:03 pm and is filed under Children's Songs, Countries & Cultures, Finger Plays, Israel, Languages, Nursery Rhymes, Questions, Readers Questions, Russia, Russian, Russian Children's Songs, USA, Yiddish, Yiddish Children's Songs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

99 Responses to “Can Someone Help with a Russian or Yiddish Rhyme with the Word “Meesala” or “Misala” In It?”

  1. Kristen Says:

    My grandmother had one in German, which I do not speak, but I am writing it phonetically from what I can remember. It roughly translates to:

    There was a mouse making some soup (or someone making mouse soup? the palm is circled while this is said), and she gave some to this one, and this one, and this one, and this one (each finger is touched), and she cut this one’s head off (thumb is touched), and it ran and it ran and it ran (fingers are run up the arm) and it hid up here (neck is tickled).

    It sounds like Kleinen mousel bopplekopf canine mousen rhindal, dane haht skaben, dane haht skaben, dane haht skaben, dane haht skaben, und slaufen, und slaufen, und slaufen, und ? (can’t remember that part, as my neck was always being tickled and I was laughing).

  2. Harry Says:

    My grandmother (Ukrainian) who passed away just the other day used to tell us one that went:

    Kra, kra, Vorona.
    (Something about mama giving Kasha to her babies
    Some for you, some for you… But none for you!
    So she twists off its head and throws it out of the nest!

    I’d love to get the words in Ukrainian.

  3. Malka Says:

    Thank you for bringing back such sweet memories. Does anyone know the Yiddish words for this one: Patshe, Patshe Kikhelekh? I remember my grandma singing it with me. The English is something like “Clap, clap your little cakes. Father buys you little shoes. Mommy is making little bags. Health in your little cheeks!” I saw a grandma singing it on You Tube,, but I couldn’t write down the words fast enough.
    Thanks in advance for your help.

  4. Lisa Says:

    Malka, I just posted the Patshe, Patshe Kikhelekh rhyme for you here! Enjoy! -Mama Lisa

  5. Karen Says:

    My grandmother would say a similar poem with me when I was a child. Her background was Polish and German and she grew up in Wisconsin. The translation of the poem is:
    mousy mousy made some porridge (light tickling on the palm of the hand)
    she gave this one some (wiggle smallest finger)
    she gave this one some
    (Wiggle next finger)
    she gave this one some
    (Wiggle middle finger)
    this one she didn’t give any
    (Wiggle pointer finger)
    And this one she ripped off it’s head
    (Wiggle thumb)
    Then she went walking walking walking
    (walk fingers up arm)
    and his right up in her(tickle under the armpit)
    She said it was in polish, but the few words I recall, I have no idea how to spell so verifying is difficult.

  6. Naomi Alper Says:

    My grandfather used to say a nursery rhyme game with us about a naughty boy putting something in his pocket and (I think) a hole in the pocket. Any ideas?

  7. Rita Says:

    Anyone remember a hand game called “cru cru”? Also ended with
    Running fingers up the child’s arm and tickling him/her

  8. Sharon Bruce Says:

    The Yiddish version of patty cake my grandmother used to play with us. It sounded like
    “pache, pache kuchen, mamle mach a r—-en. Or was it the other way around? I’ve got the “cake” and “make” part of the rhyme.

  9. mel Says:

    So I have a back round that my great grand parents smuggled over during WWII. I remember hear kashka Baba and calling my grandma not gma but something else. They say were from bohemian but are ashamed of claiming it because apparently no one believed it existed lmk asap

  10. Tina Says:

    My grandmother was from Poland and she used to do something similar but with no tickling. She said it was about a mother bird feeding her babies and then they all fly away at the end. She would hold our hands and draw circles in the palm as she sang the beginning part. Then, as she said the “temadala” part, she would touch each finger from thumb to pinky as if to feed each baby bird and then, after touching the pinky, she would throw her hands in the air and say in English as way of explanation, “They all fly away!”
    I do not know Polish and I mostly remember this from my mom doing it to her grandchildren … But now she has alzheimers. So … This is the best I can do and I am writing it phonetically.
    Cha cha
    Pahli dollah jollikuh
    Gech tem (or tum) mistahluh
    Gech tem divahluh (divahluh might mean to divide)
    Gech tem mistahluh
    (“They all fly away!”)

  11. nancy Says:

    My grandmother was Romanian . She played this with me in the 1960’s ..
    She would blow on and then wipe the palm, then make a circle and end with tickling us up the back of the neck…
    A Key-zeh-la
    kitchy kithcy kitchy koo .
    it must be be yiddish , german or romanian

  12. nancy Says:

    actually it ended kutschy kutschy kutschy koo and i think “mazel-ah” was a little mouse

  13. Richard Says:

    I was looking for the translation for the game my grandfather played with me when I was a kid, and also, thankfully, with my daughter before he died, and I came across this site. He was from Lithuania, but spoke Russian, Yiddish, English, Spanish, French, Italian and a little German. He died in 1995, and the last time I saw him do this with my daughter a little before that I wrote it down;

    Hold the child’s palm open and up to mouth, and say “poo, poo, poo,poo, poo, poo” into the opened palm. Then make circular motions in the child’s palm with an index finger while holding the palm open with the other hand. While doing the circular motion say, “saroka varona kashka varila”. Then move the index finger quickly up the child’s arm to the child’s ribs and tickle the child. While moving up the arm and tickling say, “tamu dals, tamu dala, tamu neetz, neetz zastala”. My grandfather told me the rough interpretation is: “saroka varona kashka varila” means “The bird mixes up the food”; tamu dala, tamu dala, tamu neetz, neetz zastala” means “give some to this one, give some to that one, give until there is nothing left”.

    Can anyone tell me what language this is, correct the words if necessary, and confirm or correct the translation? I would love to take this to the next level with my grandkids (If my kids ever decidde to get marry and have some!)

  14. Lisa Says:

    Hi, I believe that’s a version of the Russian rhyme called Сорока-воровка (Thieving Magpie). You can find the Russian words with the pronunciation and an English translation on Mama Lisa’ s World Russian pages. Just click the link to get there! Different versions of this rhyme exist. -Mama Lisa

  15. Steve Weiss Says:

    It’s Kizele Mazele (pronounced keezellah mazzellah), and it’s a Yiddish tickle rhyme about a mouse and a louse. My Hungarian grandmother used to say it. My father knew it well but died a year ago, so I’ll have to research it more and get back to you!

  16. Lisa Says:

    I found here that “kizele mazele” it means “lucky tickly” or “tickle-luck”.

  17. Harry Says:

    Here’s what I was able to piece together with your help here, and Google Translate:

    Kra, kra, vorona

    крa, крa, ворона
    мама дає кашці ворона
    цьому дала
    цьому дала
    цьому не далo
    голови викрутила і кинула

    Kra, Kra, vorona
    mama daye kasha vorona
    Ts’omu dala
    Ts’omu dala
    Ts’omu ne dalo
    holova vykrutila i kynula

    Caw, caw, crow
    Mama makes porridge for her crows
    Some for this one,
    Some for this one,
    No more for this one.
    The head was twisted off and tossed out!

  18. Rhiannon Stanger Says:

    As I remember it (only the ending) and I believe it was Yiddish,

    It sounded like:

    akuzzellah mizzellah keezellah mazzellah, gee gee gee or kee kee kee!

    My mother did it around my belly button up to my neck or my grandmother would do it on the inside of your arm up to your neck.
    I want to know the name of the song and meaning deeply as my mother passed away last year and I hoped to teach my 1 year old. if anyone knows it, my background is Jewish, Hungarian and Yugoslavian.

  19. Bob Nulman Says:

    My Ukrainian Bubbe’s rhyme was something like:

    Oy bisti meis, (tickling the palm)
    Medina mit da fleiss,
    Yenter deroita, Yenter deroita
    Yenter deroita, roi! (Big body tickle)

    Does anyone remember something similar?

  20. Jenny Wollock Says:

    This is a fascinating thread.

    There are a couple of Yiddish childrens’ hand games that I learned from the late poet, songwriter, and artist Beyle Shechter-Gottesman (and played with my children to their great pleasure). Beyle was from Chernovitz (Romanian Cernăuți/Ukrainian Chernivtsi). It looks as though several of the versions mentioned in the thread are related to these.

    1) (To be said while tickling the child’s palm in a circle) “Keyzele-mayzele boyt a hayzele”
    and then scamper with your fingers up the child’s arm and tickle him or her under the chin while
    saying “Kits-kits-kits-kits-kits-kits-kits.” Approximate translation: “Cheesy little mouse builds a little house.” “Kits-kits…” means “tickle, tickle, tickle.” This is the “Keezelah mazellah” referred to above. Or in some versions, “meezelah mazelah.” The pronunciation “meezhelah mayzhelah” is northern (Lithuanian) Yiddish. I’m not sure that “meezelah” means anything, it may be just a play-word to go with “mayzele” (little mouse).

    It may be a play on “mies” (pronounced like “meeus” — compare in the thread above, “Oy biste mies”, “Oh, how ugly you are.”). Because of the belief in the evil eye (ayin hora), Jewish mothers and grandmothers would not say to their child “how beautiful you are,” but rather — “how ugly” (mies or miesele, dear little ugly one) — or just say “keyn ayin hora” (no evil eye); or, as my husband’s grandmother used to say, “a beyz eyg zol dir nit shatn” (an evil eye should not harm you). Yet (and this may seem contradictory) they would also address a child affectionately as “sheyn kind,” (beautiful child”), “tate-sheynts”, “mame-sheynts” (Daddy’s beautiful one, Mommy’s beautiful one), etc.

    I would add that I am very intrigued by that rhyme, “Oy biste mies.” Unfortunately, I can’t make any sense out of it, except for the first line. I wish I could.

    Somebody in the thread thought “mazele” means “lucky”, but no — the word “mazel” means luck (but not “lucky,” which is “mazeldik”), but is totally unrelated to “mazele” (southern Yiddish pronunciation of “mayzele,” little mouse).

    2) Alternatively or as a follow-up you run your forefinger in a circle on the back of the child’s hand and say “Sorenyu vorenyu kasha mit milekh”; then gently run your fingers up the child’s arm (with a slight pinching motion like the beak of a bird) while saying “Kra-kra-kra-kra-kra-kra-kra.” Approximate translation: “Dear little Sarah, dear little crow, porridge with milk! Caw-caw-caw…” This is evidently a Yiddish variant of the “Soroka-Vorona/ Kashu varila” and “kra kra vorona” mentioned above, and yes — in Yiddish, the crow is still cooking the porridge.

  21. Ellie Says:

    Ok so the one I know (I don’t know spelling it’s word of mouth and I don’t know Yiddish that well. Or Russian or whatever it is but I know the song) anyway so you start at the thumb and stroke each finger on the word. Then at meesala mosila you swirl in the kid’s palm. And then you make a silly noise (my grandmother always did Doo) as you tickle up the kid’s arm to their stomach.

    Meesala mosila
    Meesala mosila
    Doo Doo Doo Doo (tickling up the arm from the palm)

    I went looking for the meaning of this rhyme and that’s how I found this. Hope it helps!

  22. Lisa Says:

    Dana wrote: “Hi!! I just saw your post from 2007, lol! My name is Dana. My grandma used to play this with me when I was little. I’m not sure what it’s called, but I remember a little more of the words. I don’t really know Yiddish too well. So, I guess I’ll just say it phonetically, lol!

    Suguluh vuguluh gitchatasha vuguluh tummadalah tummadalah a meisel and maisal and then a tickle, lol!

    And she would make circles in the middle of my palm, count on my fingers, and then tickle me :). I’m so glad I found your post. I thought my Grandma made it up 🤣.”

  23. Sage Says:

    Hey! My grandma just passed the other day and she told me a saying that she didn’t remember the meaning of or even what language it was in. We think it is Russian, Czech, or Ukrainian but not for sure. It would really mean a lot if I could find the meaning of this saying:). It went like this; (it is spelled out phonetically)

    zhejoka zhejoka pusneavukti nalosua shdedy agoucti
    timudowa, timudowa, timuwepicuvowa
    to shein
    to quarter
    to zhimney vwater

    I know this is very different from all the other posts in this feed but I’m hoping someone will recognize it! This would be said with the action of a finger tracing my palm and then she would tap my fingers. This is then followed by the tapping of my wrist and elbow with a flat hand. She would then sweep up past my shoulder in one motion.

  24. Charisse Says:

    Thank you so much!
    My grandpa Ike died yesterday and he was of Lithuanian Jewish descent.
    He did this for me and my children and any child really.
    He never knew what it meant.
    Richard’s “saroka varona kashka varila” is what I remember. Then it was “tamu dal” for every finger except the little finger sounded like “malinkistan” and then I recall something like “tutpen” as the fingers walk up the arm till they tickle you under the armpit.
    Anyone have any insight?
    I know I recorded him doing it on my son a decade ago. Must just unearth it.

  25. Lisa Dryman-Rice Says:

    This thread is a gift that keeps on giving! Thank you ALL for the posts. They are delicious!

  26. Shalom Bronstein Says:

    I remember the words as – Keezalah, Meezala, Meizeleh, kootchi, kootchi, koo – with the hand going in circles on the child’s hand, and then going up the arm to tickle the child.
    Rabbi Shalom Bronstein, Jerusalem

  27. Lisa Says:

    Lisa D. wrote:

    I am 13 years late in responding but the rhyme as my cousin and I remember it is as follows:

    Keezeleh mazeleh
    Du bist a khazaleh
    Du bist geladen
    A shtickeleh fleish

    Komt a ketzeleh
    Hoptik aveg
    Komt a ketzeleh
    Coooosh! Coooosh! Coooosh!!

  28. Lisa Dryman-Rice Says:

    And yes, it is Yiddish❤️

  29. anita metz Says:

    just what i was searching for….my ukranian jewish mother used to do soroka on my hand ..i was searching for the rest and found it..i am 83 and want to do this on my grands

  30. Jackie Starr Says:

    Yes! Thank you all! Especially to Noreen for adding the rice part!
    I can hear my Bobies voice singing this song in my head as i read these, and it warms my heart.

  31. Nancy Says:

    This thread is great — all I can say is my grandfather’s version of this was a mashup of so many of the versions remembered here. It’s so impressive that there are versions of these poems covering a wide area of land in Eastern Europe and also so many languages. Thanks everyone!

  32. Shana Says:

    My grandma used to sing this to me when i was a kid. I’ve been trying to figure out the hand game part.

    I knew this recording of her singing it one say would come in handy:

  33. Francine Says:

    My Dad (age 98) and I were wondering about this child’s game he played with me. We have no idea but kind of assumed it was yiddish:

    Eentsa Meentsa Toot Sala
    Fala balinki, linki la

    I can’t find reference to it anywhere. Sound familiar?

  34. Al Lenny Says:

    The original question posed by Sharon brought back fond memories from about 80 years ago. My mother (whose parents were Eastern European Jews), use to play a game with us when we were very small where she would gently move her finger in a circular pattern on our wrist saying , “Meesalah, mahsalah” and then quickly run it up the length of our bare arm to our shoulder as she said, “Chick, chick, chick, chick.” This would always make us giggle and squirm and asking for more.

  35. Lisa Says:

    Melody Amsel-Arieli wrote:

    “Draw a circle on your grandchild outstretched palm, saying ‘Kisela misela, kisela misela,’ then tickle them up their arms to their chins. My grandmother, born in Bessarabia in the late 1800s did that to me. And my Bessarabian-rooted husband knows Kisela misela as well.
    Yours, a grandma in Maaleh Adumim, Israel”

  36. Lisa Says:

    You can here a Yiddish version here…

  37. Lisa Says:

    JudiAhavah wrote:

    “I remember this! I remember it is Mizala mazal a kuzala kizala, but with some Yiddish. I don’t know what it means.


  38. Quicksilver17 Says:

    My Hungarian grandmother used to play the same game but they would a say (phonetically) “bijareri, bijareri” while making circles on the child’s arm then “eee -eee-eee-eee” while running the fingers up the arm. Exactly the same game though. Wonderful how the culture is shared between the communities and lovely memories of the best grandma ever.

  39. Valerie Pullman Says:

    My grandmother (Gertrude Atlas Pullman) used to do a tickling game with us as kids, this is the version I do with my grandchildren, makes me so happy to pass it on (my version)
    1. in palm of childs hand, say “pupupupu” (not spitting) with voice.
    2. take pointer finger and circle on palm of hand saying
    “Sharoka varona, kashkaverilla, pepepepushka pashkarilla”
    Touch tip of each finger starting with thumb and say “Timadella, Timadella, TImadella, TImadella, Timadella”, fingers go up arm and tickle under arm.
    My grandkids can do this a long time, asking me to do to them, then they do to me.
    Very special…. memory of my sweet grandmother from Lithuania. OMG!!! I am so glad I found this conversation. THank you so much!!!

  40. Lisa Says:

    Sandra Lewis Kniep wrote:

    “I hope you receive this, I see you asked years ago. My grandpa played this ‘game’ with me as did my mother. G’pa would take my hand and with his forefinger h’ed draw circles while slowly repeating keeezala mazala over and over again then finally he’d pretend spit in my hand. My grandpa was from Romania.”

  41. Gwenn Says:

    Just discovered this wonderful site. I am 75 and have a 15mo old granddaughter. I knew part of this rhyme and the hand movements but thanks to this site, I can put together the rhyme that I remember my father and great-grandmother saying. Will try to do the full version on g daughter today!

  42. Tracey Says:

    I just spoke with my dad about this. He is in his 90’s but still very sharp. Here is how he remembers doing it to us…
    Oz koz varana naprapishka cedelawh
    Easale measale masela naprika
    and then after the mazela I surprised us with a tickle

  43. Carly Seibald Says:

    My husband’s great aunt In Curaçao used to sing
    “Keezela mazala
    Buona hazala
    Buona shtibela
    Kleina yingela”

    While tracing circles on the palm.
    She spoke Yiddish

  44. Honey Smith Says:

    The version that my Jewish family (Lithuanian) did was about a cat and mouse, and I think the gist of it was that the cat would either catch the mouse or not, at the end. The child’s hand was stroked with each phrase, and with the last “pshick” the mouse was caught if you didn’t get your hand away from a gentle slap! I can only reproduce the phonetic sounds as I remember them, no idea what the correct words were in Yiddish!

    Katzeleh, maseleh (pronounced my-zella),
    Skaning Kamerel (???)
    Naschen putter (??)

    I would absolutely love to know the right Yiddish words and the full translation if anyone can help! And whereabouts in Lithuania it comes from – we know pitifully little about where my grandparents emigrated from (probably Vilnius, around 1904).

    Thanks so much for this wonderful thread, so interesting, and touching!

  45. Beth Holly Says:

    So happy I found this thread. I’ll add my own great-grandmother’s version (phonetically) which aligns with all but matches none.

    Meezeleh, mazelah (circles in the palm)
    Meezeleh, mazelah
    Tumadala (touching a finger with each word)
    Weeeeeee…(as the tickle went up the arm)

    I did it to my children and look forward to doing it for grandchildren some day.

  46. Jill Says:

    (Can’t spell it to save my life )
    Sir- rookie , meany Mish-ka, tv-tish-ka, a measla, a misala, a wee. (Hand tickle game my grandma used to do)

  47. Theda Says:

    My brother and I have been trying to Google translate a similar very short nursery rhyme told by our Romanian grandfather and Polish grandmother. They would walk up our arms with two figures on up to the neck or ear lobe area and tickle. Hoping this rings a bell with someone. Thank you!

    Phonetically sounds like:
    Me da bola,
    Pa Pa Letta,
    (to neck) Cuchi Gona Deo Leta! (tickle)

  48. Janice Slivko Says:

    Im the youngest of 9 grandchildren and i vividly remember my grandma playing this with us in the 1960. I remember
    squealing with delight each time she tickled. Have been searching for the “correct” words for years. I very much remember the pupupu part at the beginning and the te’mudala in the middle but nothing in between or the end.

    This thread is delicious, thanks for reinforcing wonderful memories.

  49. Sarah G Says:

    Yes I have fond memories of the hand tickling rhyme my great grandmother, Miriam, (Romanian descent) used to say something like:

    Key sala mi sala
    Bo te chi sala
    Kreech ta mi sala
    ::Tickle tickle tickle!::

    Would love to have a translation!

    Thanks – this has been fascinating!

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