Gershon Hepner

Gemora is Better than Chess, said Samuel Reshevsky

Although chessmaster Sam Reshevsky stated,

“Chess is great, but I prefer gemora,”

the only thing that makes me as elated

as both of them is speaking loshen hora.

It is a pleasure for which there’s no cost,

except what it’s quite possible you’ve

already by your misbehavior lost,

by deeds of which the rabbis disapprove:

I mean your world to come, your oilom haba,

but life’s a bridge that very hard to cross,

and a game of bridge in which the rubber,

thanks to  loshen hora, is a  loss,

so that the older that you get the less

you are inclined to give it up. Such talk

once you are confident you have  made a mess

of oilom habba is more fun than pork.

I asked my cousin Arie Hepner, who was calling me to congratulate me on my 74th  birthday, whether he was still playing bridge. He reminded me that he had started playing it in order to wean himself from chess when it was absorbing too much of his time. He told me that he had once met Samuel Reshevsky, the chess grandmaster who was born in  Ozorków near Łódź in 1911 and died in 1992, and invited him to address the Hendon chess club. Reshevsky, a shomer shabbos chessmaster, refused to come to the club, which could not afford his fee, but told Arie: “Chess is great, but gemora is better.”

I added the last three quatrains inspired by a conversation Linda and I had about her Aunt Lily, who seemed to enjoy loshen hora as much as Lady Bracknell.gemora is better than chess

About the Author
Gershon Hepner is a poet who has written over 25,000 poems on subjects ranging from music to literature, politics to Torah. He grew up in England and moved to Los Angeles in 1976. Using his varied interests and experiences, he has authored dozens of papers in medical and academic journals, and authored "Legal Friction: Law, Narrative, and Identity Politics in Biblical Israel." He can be reached at