Maimonides School: Middle School Matters
Oct. 30, 2015        Parashat Vayera       17 Cheshvan, 5776    

Maimonides School
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Sixth-Grade STEAM Lesson
Seventh-Grade Field Trip
Middle School Magazine
Parent-Teacher Conferences
Taam China Lunch
Yom Chesed
PTA Hat Show
School Calendar
Absence Notifications
Handbook Online
Online Photo Galleries
Quick Links
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Dear MS Families,    

What a week! From making glass art to exploring Boston, the Middle School students had a great week.

Please read on for a d'var Torah from Rabbi Dov Huff, a thought from the works of Rav Soloveitchik, and notes for the upcoming weeks.
Shabbat Shalom,

Brian Cohen 
Associate Principal, Middle School        

A seventh-grade student enjoys
the beautiful scenery of Boston Common 
D'var Torah
by Rabbi Dov Huff

The akeida is the climactic moment of the Avraham Avinu narrative. It is his ultimate test. It is the moment in which Hashem teaches us that while the surrounding pagan religions sacrifice their children, this one is different.  The neighboring cultures devalue human life, but this new, unique religion, just in its infancy, cherishes it. This is a turning point on two fronts - a defining moment in ethical monotheism, and a climactic moment in the Avraham Avinu story.

After this pivotal moment we would expect to see Avraham Avinu operating on a new level. Amping up his kiruv efforts, fueled by his new status and invigorated by a newly-articulated religion of morality. Instead there is radio silence. The Rav points out that we see no more recorded nevuah to Avraham Avinu. The only thing that happens is the purchase of Maarat Hamachpelah - a burial site for his wife and his family.

So what happened to our great turning point? Perhaps the answer is in what happens before and after the akeida. We read that after leaving Eliezer and Yishmael behind, Avraham and Yitzchak travel together - vayelchu shneyhem yachdav. Then Yitzchak has a realization. Rashi tells us that he knew what was happening as he asks his father, "where is the sheep for the offering?" And yet again the pasuk repeats vayelchu shneyhem yachdav - they treked onward, unified now in purpose and mission.

This is the first time we see Yitzchak speak. Now he takes action. He becomes an active participant in the akeida. He accepts upon himself the decree of Hashem. In this moment Yitzchak adopts the ethos of his father. He bravely and resolutely goes without protest - surrendering himself to the will of his creator.

After the akeida, Hashem blessed Avraham yet again, promising him multitudes of offspring. At the words barech avarechecha, Rashi explains the repetition - one bracha for the son and one for the father. Yitzchak is now a recipient of the brit made with Avraham. He is included because of his active role in the akeida. Yitzchak is no longer a passive character, a mere result of the promise to Avraham. He is now an active driver of the history and destiny of Am Yisrael. The akeida marks the transformation of Yitzchak from the son of Avraham to father of the Jewish people.

Chazal point out that after the akeida, only Avraham returns to Yishmael and Eliezer. Where did Yitzchak go? Chazal say that he went to learn in the yeshiva of Shem v'Ever. Yitzchak is now becoming his own person, developing his own character and spirituality. He is preparing to take the mantle from his father. Thus the akeida marks the transition from Avraham to Yitzchak - the passing of the torch, the transformation of Yitzchak from supporting cast to main character. It is less a turning point for Avraham Avinu than it is a turning point in the development of Judaism. Yitzchak Avinu will serve a different function than Avraham - a function which we will explore more next week, as we contrast Yitzchak Avinu's role with his father's. We will watch as our religion enters the second phase of its development.
Questions for the Shabbos table:
  1. What was your takeaway from the d'var Torah this morning?
  2. In light of this, how can we understand the line we say every morning: "אשר כרת את אברהם ושבועתו ליצחק"? (What שבועהis this referring to?)
  3. What do you think Yitzchak Avinu's role will be as he takes over from Avraham?

Thoughts of the Rav on the Parasha
by Rabbi David Saltzman

In this week's parsha, Avraham is informed by G-d Himself of His plan to destroy Sedom and Amora. Upon hearing this devastating news, Avraham approaches G-d in prayer and supplication on behalf of the two doomed cities. What motivated Avraham to beseech G-d for mercy in an attempt to save these two cities, rooted in evil, from imminent destruction?
The Rav writes that tefilla creates two communities. First, it forms a community between man and G-d, and second, it creates a community between people. This is reflected in the emphasis on praying with the tzibbur, the congregation, and is the reason that many of the blessings in the Amida are formulated in the plural.
In The Lonely Man of Faith, the Rav writes:
"When disaster strikes, one must not be immersed completely in his own passional destiny, thinking exclusively of himself, being concerned only with himself, and petitioning G-d merely for himself. The foundation of efficacious and noble prayer is human solidarity and sympathy or the covenantal awareness of existential togetherness, of sharing and experiencing the travail and suffering of [others]."
Upon hearing of the coming destruction, Avraham, being a member of the larger community, was innately moved to pray when he was told about the future suffering of the people. We should react in the same way when we hear of the anguish and agony of others.
Inspired by Majesty and Humility: The Thought of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik by Reuven Ziegler, p. 216

Sixth-Grade STEAM Lesson
The sixth grade combined science and art on Thursday with a special fused glass/heat transfer workshop with Ms. McDonnell and Mrs. Smith.

In science, they have been learning about the different methods of heat transfer: radiation, conduction, and convection. To make this lesson come alive, Mrs. Smith and Ms. McDonnell wanted to make a real-world connection with this topic through unexpected uses of heat. A kiln fuses glass through radiation and convection. We discussed how the kiln
works in a similar way to an oven: the heat source generates radiant heat and heats the air directly above itself, and the warm air rises. As the heat moves away from the iron coils, the air cools and sinks to be warmed again. In this way, the heat is spread throughout the kiln.   

The students donned their safety goggles and each decorated a glass tile with glass pellets, flakes, and rods. They carefully maneuvered the glass pieces onto their tiles until everything looked perfect, and even more carefully brought the tiles to the kiln, with all of the pieces balanced on top.

We look forward to seeing the results next week, after the kiln has done its work!

Seventh-Grade Field Trip

The seventh grade, meanwhile, got to explore the city in our annual Boston field trip! Fortunately, the rain that had threatened to cloud the trip was just clearing up as they departed for the Brookline Hills T station, and there were blue skies as they arrived at the Massachusetts State House.

The students were able to see the seat of Massachusetts's state government, as well as meet Steve Brown, political correspondent with NPR.

After a relaxing lunch on Boston Common, they got to see the true scope of Boston from the Prudential SkyWalk, as well as explore the city's past and present at the Dreams of Freedom Immigration Museum located at the Prudential.

Many thanks to Tovia Smith Paris for arranging our meeting with Steve Brown. 

Middle School Magazine

It's that time again!

Your Magazine, the Middle School literary magazine that was founded last year, is now accepting submissions for its first issue of the 2015-16 school year. Students can submit their stories, photographs, drawings, divrei Torah, poetry, and more!

Students can submit by email or in person directly to Mrs. Vedol or to one of this term's guest editors, Jonah Delman '22, Naomi Epshteyn '21, and Miryam Farren-Greenwood '20.

Last year's magazine is available

Parent-Teacher Conferences
Don't forget to sign up for Parent-Teacher Conferences!  The registration website will close on Wednesday, November 4, at 10:00 p.m.

Parent-Teacher Conferences will be taking place:
  • Wednesday, November 11: All divisions, 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m. (no classes)
  • Friday, November 20: Middle/Upper Schools only, 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. (no classes)
  • Sunday, November 22: Grades K-12: 12:00 - 7:00 p.m., ECC: 2:00 - 7:00 p.m.
The registration website can be found here

If you did not receive a letter with your student(s) ID and registration information, please contact the Middle School office.

Taam China Lunches!
The popular eighth-grade-run Taam China lunch program will continue on Monday, November 2! The eighth-graders are looking forward to providing lunches to the students who have ordered them. If you or your child do not remember the dates for which he or she ordered a lunch, a confirmation sheet can be provided at the Middle School office.

Thank you to all who registered for Yom Chesed! We look forward to seeing everyone on Sunday. This event - in its third year at Maimo - is a wonderful community-building initiative, with close to 500 registrants this year.

Whether or not you're able to attend, you can still help out by donating items to our Cradles to Crayons and Family Table projects:
Cradles to Crayons, an organization which helps children in homeless and low-income situations, is looking for gently used or new clothing, shoes, and books, as well as new art or school supplies and baby supplies. 
Family Table, the largest kosher food pantry in New England, would like canned salmon and whole wheat crackers. 
There are  collection boxes for both of these organizations outside the Brener and Saval offices. Thanks in advance for your donations to these vital organizations.
PTA Fall Hat Show and Boutique

Calendar PDF Online

The 2015-16 academic calendar is available in PDF form for easy printing. Please click here to access it.


Absences and Tardy Notifications

We wish that none of our students ever felt ill -- we'd love to have 100% attendance every day -- but we know that germs don't always listen to our desires!

However, we do need to know where our students are.
If your child needs to miss a day of school,
or will be tardy or leave early, please be certain to inform Sharona Vedol in the Middle School office
by email:

Please note:
We will not be using the absence hotline this year!
All absence notifications must come in via email. 
We ask that you e-mail the office for safety reasons -- it allows for far more efficient accounting of student absences.

Parent and Student Handbooks Online
This year's Parent-Student Handbooks are all linked to the Maimo website and are password-protected.  

Username: maimoparents 
Password: horim

You can find the handbooks online in two places:

(1) All handbooks are linked to the "Getting Ready for School page.

(2) The handbooks are also linked to each division's section under the "For Parents and Students" menu: 

On behalf of the entire Middle School:
We'll see you next week!
Shabbat Shalom!

Brian Cohen

MS logo, medium size