TORONTO — Leonard Warner – a Thornhill nephrologist and first-place winner in Israel’s 1974 international Chidon Hatanach (Bible Contest) when he was 14 years old – has placed third in the adult Bible Contest held in Jerusalem Dec. 12.
This year’s contest, an initiative of Israel’s Ministry of Education, was the first adult contest in 32 years. Objectives included to encourage interest, study and reading of the Bible by the Jewish public, according to the ministry’s website.
Warner learned of the contest online in late August, and was among almost 1,000 Diaspora entrants (and more in Israel) who wrote a preliminary test at the end of October.
He was flown to Israel with other finalists, and won NIS 20,000 (about $5,323). His wife, Lia, accompanied him on his weeklong trip.
“The contest is a fun thing,” Warner told The CJN. “The questions are interesting. You meet people from all over the world who have a similar interest.”
As well, he said, he enjoys reading the Bible because of the history and language in it, as well as the “thinking” aspect.
Warner, an alumnus of Associated Hebrew Schools and the Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto (now the Anne and Max Tanenbaum Community Hebrew Academy of Toronto), chose to answer questions in Hebrew, but the contest was offered in “whatever language you want,” he said.
He prepared for the preliminary test by studying at night when he could, as well as on Shabbat.
The questions were “very hard,” Warner said. “There was a lot of material… I was very happy and fortunate to finish third.”
The finals were televised nationally in Israel on the Arutz Sheva network, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu posed the questions in the last round.
Warner’s ongoing interest in the Bible was sparked again when his now 22-year-old son, A.J., took part in the 2007 junior world championships of the contest. He finished 10th. “It kept me fresh,” his dad said.
In fact, helping his son train ensured that Warner knew the answer to at least one question, regarding a quote about the eternity of Jerusalem. “When my son was in the contest,” he said, “we were celebrating 40 years of the reunification of Jerusalem, so I knew [the quote] so well. It was beaten into my head, and it showed up on [a preliminary] written test in Israel.”
Warner believes the contest can be a stimulus for adults to learn Bible. “You can always start as an adult,” he said.
Although he enjoys Bible study, he hasn’t found time to take classes in the subject. “I do it on my own,” he said. “There’s enough stuff out there that’s been written and published.”