When it comes to knowledge of the Tanach, the Hebrew Bible, Chaim Nosson “Nossi” Shields is hard to beat. The 16 year old from Olney, won the U.S. Bible contest last year. And on April 29, he took third place in the in the International Bible Quiz for Youth, known as Chidon Ha’Tanach.
The annual contest, held in Jerusalem to celebrate Israel’s Independence Day, this year was conducted over Zoom and broadcast in Israel. Sixteen teenagers competed in the final round.
Nossi is an 8th-grade alum from Berman Hebrew Academy and a current student at the Yeshiva of Greater Washington.
Each of the contestants was asked questions drawn from a verse in either the Torah, the book of Prophets or the Writings, the three sections of the Tanach. When it was Nossi’s turn, the host, in Jerusalem, said in Hebrew:
“After a historic moment, B’nai Yisrael were commanded to make a monument to preserve its memory for the future generations. And the verse says, ‘Joshua summoned the 12 men whom he had designated among the Israelites, one from each tribe.’”
What was the historic event? “Crossing the Jordan River,” Nossi answered correctly.
What was the name of the place? “Gilgal.”
The quote was from Joshua 4:5.
Nossi’s father, Rabbi Moshe Shields, said he is amazed by his son’s study habits. He said that to prepare for the contest, Nossi studied up to 15 chapters of Tanach a day. In the weeks before the contest, he was reviewing 90 to 100 chapters a day.
Ruth Cohen, an Israeli 11th grader, won the quiz. She was the first female winner in a decade. Israeli Moshe Glidai came in second place.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was among the dignitaries to address the contestants.
“The Book of books is the source of our eternal values, which sustains us as a people: love of one’s fellow man, love of the land, the ingathering of the exiles, heroism, righteousness and morality,” he said.
Pessie Novick, Nossi’s tutor through the sixth grade, said that kids who enter the Bible contest are highly motivated.
“They don’t have to be there. They are bright kids willing to apply themselves,” she said.
She said Nossi is an example of the proverb that a triple rope with three strands will never tear. Nossi’s strands are school, parents and hard work, she said.
“He was always one of the most enthusiastic and hardworking students,” she said, adding that his success was due to “practice, practice, practice.”
Carolyn Conte is a reporter for Baltimore Jewish Times, an affiliated publication of Washington Jewish Week.