Semi-Finals (Fri. 11/18)
The training ended at about ten o’clock at night, and I didn’t get much sleep (again!). We were almost late for the Presentation; my Primary siblings had to run to catch their group, which was about to go on stage.
Some of the Seniors and Juniors waiting backstage were watching the Presentation live stream on their phones (the walls were so sound-proof you couldn’t hear anything going on inside the auditorium if you weren’t in it).
We all held our breaths when the host started announcing the semi-finalists…I was almost begging inside myself about my siblings–they’ve worked so hard! Please, G-d, let them make it…
Then I heard something. I heard my brother’s name being called–he was in the semi-finals! I was so happy for him. My sister did not make it, but we later found out she came extremely close–in sixteenth place.
The Primaries were done, and now it was time for the Juniors to take the stage. My last name started with a “C”, so I was one of the first contestants whose names were read. I received my medal and stood on the stage waiting excitedly for everyone else to receive their medals.
Soon–a little too soon–all the contestants were on the stage, and the host began to announce the semi-finalists. I was shaking inside; I hoped so badly to be in the semi-finals, an honor which I had not had since my first year in the Bible Bee in 2013 as a Primary contestant. About half of the qualifiers were announced when I heard one of my friends’ names and got excited all over. But I began to shiver again when the thirteenth name was read…then the fourteenth…and then my name. I couldn’t help smiling and thinking, thank You, G-d, thank You SOOO MUCH!!
The Presentation was over, and so was the training all the semi-finalists were required to take. I had my little brother (the Primary semi-finalist) with me, but the rest of my family had disappeared!
I was frantic. The Juniors would compete first, and our competition time would cross noon and past one o’clock. That meant I’d probably have to eat something before competing…
I walked around the area holding on to my brother with my right hand and trying to study my passages in my left…I had become nervous again.
Twenty minutes passed, and it was time for me to report to the NBB Headquarters with the other semi-finalists (we had to be their a half-hour before competing time to get our microphones on), but I hadn’t found my family yet. My brother stayed with me as I went into Headquarters. I told them about my situation, left my brother (with my name tag, program, passages, and another load of stuff) inside, and proceeded with the other contestants backstage.
The first round was over, and I had passed safely. Since I had been the last semi-finalist to be announced at the Presentation, I was also the last one to recite. Forgetting that each round began in reverse order, I took a short trip to the restroom.
When I had come out, everyone seemed to be rushing me. “You have to be up on stage right now!” they said. I rushed up and recited my passage, one of my favorites. I relaxed as I went backstage.
The second round passed, and the third was beginning. So far all the contestants who had been eliminated were on my side of the stage (the fifteen of us had been split into two groups), and they were laughing in whispers and talking in whispers. A camera crew was backstage, and they were filming all of us, even dangling microphones over contestants’ heads to catch what they were saying! The crew actually helped me relax a bit, along with the wonderful directors and division commanders who talked to us backstage!
The finalists had been announced, and I wasn’t one of them. The tiny mistake I made in my recitation was on the second-to-lastword, and I had never before committed that error. Knowing that I was the last one eliminated from the competition because of an error in my passage helped (rerun of what happened in 2013), but I was fighting to control my emotions. All because of one little mistake…
But then I knew it…I knew that it was all G-d’s plan. He had something else in mind for me, though it might not have anything to do with the Bible Bee, and I felt a little better.
My emotions were stilled about an hour later, as I was in the Family Fun Area playing Foosball (the only thing I ever touched the rest of Friday and all of Saturday). Many people had come up to me to say how much they enjoyed my reciting, and I realized this was a gift G-d had given me–which I had never thought before of as a gift but as something “I just can do”. Be thankful for everything and follow G-d’s will, something inside of me seemed to say, even if it means giving up Finals. And I can truly say that the passages I memorized and their meanings to me were worth more than $50,000.
I spent most of the day in the Family Fun Area playing Foosball with a few others I had met earlier in the hotel. The FFA had a large screen showing all the competition live stream, so I was able to find out how the Junior, Primary, and Senior finalists placed (and some of them surprised me!) without having to rush to the auditorium.
That evening was the Celebration Dinner, and there was a reason to celebrate! The fellowship was wonderful, as was the food, and afterwards I had the chance to talk to a few people.
Because Senior Finals had delayed, the Dinner was also delayed about two hours, and ended close to midnight. We planned to head back to California at four the next morning.
As I lay on the sofa, trying to fall asleep, I thought, even if there was no Finals the whole Bible Bee was wonderful, wasn’t it? Friends and fellowship, all those passages, the encouragement…
But the last thing I could say is: Baruch HaShem Adonai–Blessed be the L-rd G-d!
Originally published at https://sittingbytheroadside.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-national-bible-bee-2016.html. Used by permission. Unabridged.