(JTA) — The Tunisia-born principal of a rabbinical school in Paris won the championship in a European competition on halacha, or religious Jewish law.
Rabbi Yehoshua Barda of the island of Djerba, who runs the Michkan Avraham school, collected a cash prize of about $7,000 in defeating six other rabbis for the title last week at an event hall in the French capital, Kol Hazman Radio reported. Thousands came to watch the competition, billed as the first of its kind across Europe, the report said.
Rabbi David Cohen, an aspiring dentist also from Paris, finished second.
The championship, titled Halacha World Cup-Europe, was organized by Rabi Yitzhak Saban of the Stender organization, which encourages learning of Jewish sources. Barda, a middle-aged man who said his students pressured him to compete, breezed through the first three stages of the tournament.
He showed “exceptional brilliance,” a Kol Hazman Radio reporter said, throughout the four-hour event, which included three rounds of an oral test and a final one featuring a written answer.
Cohen collected $4,000 after demonstrating “astonishing knowledge,” Kol Hazman said. At one point he told the crowd that he took a break from studying to be a dentist, which he had done full-time until several months ago. But he put it on hold when he heard about the upcoming championship, which was co-organized by the Hevrat Pinto educational institution, and decided to “immerse” himself in studying halacha.
The tournament was advertised at kollels and rabbinical schools, and in the haredi Orthodox media.
The event featured a performance by the Orthodox Jewish singer Avraham Fried.