Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A hero of Biblical proportions

The other day, Jameel blogged about a Bedouin teacher who hopes to compete in the upcoming Chidon HaTanach (National Bible Contest) for adults.

As it so happened, I was recently privileged to hear yet another would-be Chidon HaTanach competitor speak.

R’ Moshe Abu Aziz is the religious seventh-grade teacher and father of eight from Or Akiva who famously won one million shekels on a TV trivia game show and was, by all accounts, mekadesh Shem Shamayim in the process.

During the course of his talk, he shared some of his winning strategies. For example:

  • He uses various mnemonics and acronyms in order to learn all sorts of things by heart.
  • In addition, he prepares “crib sheets” of whatever it is that he’s studying. He believes that written summaries are a great way to memorize large amounts of information.
  • Whenever he has to look something up – whether it’s in an encyclopedia or the Rambam or whatever – he makes a point of also reading the preceding and succeeding entries.
  • He stressed that winning these types of contests has nothing to do with luck. Rather, it takes hard work and a strong desire to keep on learning, studying and asking.
  • In advance of the Chidon HaTanach, he now spends up to 15 hours a day learning Tanach and takes a Tanach with him everywhere he goes. Even in the car, when he’s driving, he listens to recordings of the Tanach.

Interestingly, he didn’t speak a word of Hebrew when he made aliyah at age 12 from Morocco, and yet now he’s considered to be an expert at word games and verbal challenges.

For instance, he said that many people – including his wife! – had wondered at the confidence he had displayed during the TV show. (At several points during the game, he could’ve taken the money and left. But instead, he risked everything and kept at it until he reached the final bonus round.) How could he have been so sure of himself?

R’ Abu Aziz explained that he realized he would be successful as soon as he heard that it was the TV show’s 103rd episode. After all, he noted, “Abu Aziz” (i.e. his last name) equals 103 in Gematria  - as does the word “mazon” (sustenance). As R’ Abu Aziz told the enchanted audience, Hashem always provides for those in need.

During the Q&A session at the end, an audience member asked if a “baal chidonim” (literally, a “man of contests”) is a profession.

In response, R’ Abu Aziz quipped:

“No, but a baal teshuvot (literally, a “man of answers”; also, a play on “baal teshuvah” – a penitent) is…”


בהצלחה to him in all his future endeavors!


  1. Great story and nice tips too from this guy!

  2. Thanks, Ilana-Davita. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


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