What I Asked the Bible Contest Winner

What I Asked the Bible Contest Winner

Sometimes Israel feels like a really small country, like this past Independence Day when I realized that the winner of this year’s International Bible Contest, 18-year-old Yonatan Weisman, is the older brother of a boy from the nursery school of my son (whose name, coincidentally, is Yonatan Weisberg).

And since then, I’ve been wondering how exactly Yonatan Weisman managed to memorize the Bible so amazingly that he was able to answer questions such as “From which cities did King David take large amounts of copper?” and “Who was the king of Kush in the time of Hezekiah?”*

Over the course of my post-Bible-Contest mind-wanderings, I hypothesized that the winner must be a freaky genius with a photographic memory who is the son of a rabbi/Torah scholar who has been drilling him on Bible verses since he was old enough to talk.

But I didn’t realize how soon I would have an opportunity to ask the champ my question, in person…Yesterday, I did a double take when I noticed Yonatan Weisman himself picking up his younger brothers from gan.

So I waited outside the gan, and then, as he walked out, a little brother on each hand, I pounced…
“Shalom, you were the winner of the Bible Quiz, right?”

He looked down with the bashful smile of a guy who is more used to having his face inside a Bible or a Gemara than on a newspaper’s front page and nodded.

“I was wondering, how did you do it? How is it possible to learn so much, to win the Bible Quiz?”

And then, slowly, with emphasis on each syllable, he answered, “Lom-dim.” You study.
His little brothers supplemented their older brother’s one-word answer with a few enthusiastic “You study a lot!” “A lot, a lot!”
“How many years were you studying for the Bible Contest?” I asked him.
“Two-and-a-half years,” and his brothers, added a chorus of “For hours! For years!”

And then I thanked him and he walked his way and I walked mine.
And for some reason, his answer made me feel really happy. Lighter, somehow. His simple answer reminded me that the stuff I struggle with, in me and in my children… No matter how far I feel from where I dream to end up. If I keep at it and keep at it, then I just might succeed. Like he did.

*Just in case you don’t know the answers, the cities were Tibchath and Kun and the King of Kush was Tirhaka.


  1. Once again you amaze me with your ability to find a deep lesson in everyday happenings.

  2. Such a beautiful simple lesson.

  3. and this post made me feel happy really happy too 🙂

  4. I have been watching the Chidon Tanach for quite a few years on Yom Ha’atzmaut. I am always so amazed at the amount of knowledge all the participants have! May we all be able to learn Torah at our own levels,and grow from it.

  5. Rishe Deitsch

    The simplest answers are the best! Lomdim! We learn!

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