Maimonides School: Middle School Matters
Nov. 6, 2015        Parashat Chayei Sara      24 Cheshvan, 5776    

Maimonides School
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Sixth-Grade Talmud
Seventh-Grade Science
Eighth-Grade History
Facing History
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,    

Please read on for a d'var Torah from Rabbi Dov Huff, a thought from the works of Rav Soloveitchik, and an update on this week in Middle School!
Shabbat Shalom,

Brian Cohen 
Associate Principal, Middle School  
D'var Torah
by Rabbi Dov Huff

Last week, we spoke about the akeida serving as a transitional point from phase one of ethical monotheism, as developed by Avraham Avinu, to phase two, as continued by Yitzchak. We can gain some insight into the nature of phase two both by comparing Yitzchak Avinu to his father and by contrasting them. This week we will focus on what they share in common. 
We will begin by examining three pesukim from this week's parsha:
And there was a famine in the land, aside from the first famine that had been in the days of Avraham, and Yitzchak went to Avimelech the king of the Philistines, to Gerar. (26:1)
Dwell in this land, and I will be with you, and I will bless you, for to you and to your seed will I give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Avraham, your father. (26:3)
And Yitzchak again dug the wells of water which they had dug in the days of his father, Avraham, and the Philistines had stopped them up after Avraham's death; and he gave them names like the names that his father had given them.(26:18)
In light of the above direct associations to Avraham, along with the tactic Yitzchak employs (pretending Rivka is his sister) and the building of altars to call on the name of Hashem, we see Yitzchak Avinu is truly following in the footsteps of his father. Not only has the torch been passed, but the emphasis the Torah puts on Yitzchak's life mirroring Avraham's is clear. But why is Yitzchak Avinu's life in so many ways a repeat of Avraham Avinu's? Is it not time to take our new religion to the next level? What was Yitzchak Avinu trying to accomplish?

Avraham was an innovator and a visionary. He started a groundbreaking trend in his lifetime, which went against the beliefs and norms of the culture around him. Yitzchak had the difficult and critical task of carrying on his father's legacy - of protecting the spiritual empire his father had built. Yitzchak Avinu's mission is not to innovate but to reinforce, not to build but to fortify. His life is spent redigging the wells his father dug, concretizing the revolutionary theology of his father.
This component of phase two of ethical monotheism consists of solidifying it, ensuring that it survives beyond the life of the pioneer. We are all faced with this challenge: The attempt to capture inspiring moments and new ideas, to transform them from a breakthrough to a reality, from a revolution to a new status quo. Whether we are trying to sustain the vision of the Rav, or trying to capture a moment of inspiration in a class or on a Shabbaton, we must do the work of Yitzchak Avinu to re-dig the wells, build the mizbachot, and internalize the new inspiration so we can grow from it. 
Questions for the Shabbos table:
  1. What was your take away from the d'var Torah this morning?
  2. What action items do you use to sustain the momentum after a day like Yom Kippur?
  3. What insight might this idea provide into the first pasuk in next week's parsha? (See Rashi also.) 

Thoughts of the Rav on the Parasha
by Rabbi Dov Huff

There are three purchases we made of land in Eretz Yisrael. 
Avraham purchases Maarat Hamachpela in Chevron from Ephron in this week's parsha.
Yaakov Avinu purchases a plot of land in Shechem from the sons of Chamor.
David Hamelech purchases Har Habayit from Aravna HaYevusi.
The Rav points out that these three purchases correspond to the three crowns given to Am Yisrael - Keter Torah, Keter Kehuna, and Keter Malchus - the Crowns of Torah, Priesthood, and Kingship.
The purchase of Maarat Hamachpela in Chevron is connected to Malchus (Kingship), since it is the place where the reign of David Hamelech began.
The purchase of land in Shechem is connected to Torah, because in the time of Moshe Rabbeinu, we carved the words of the Torah into Har G'rizim, reminiscent of Matan Torah.
And finally, the purchase of Har Habayit is connected to the Kehuna (Priesthood), which expressed itself through the service in the Beit Hamikdash, situated on that holy site.

Sixth-Grade Talmud
by Rabbi Yaakov Beker  

The sixth grade Talmud class has been learning about the concept of Torah She'be'al Peh (the Oral Law), and how it has been passed down throughout the generations.  One of the recent highlights was learning the detailed description in tractate Eiruvin (quoted in part by Rashi on Shemot 34:32) about how Moshe taught Torah to the Jewish people. The Talmud relates how Moshe would first teach Aharon, then Aharon's two sons, then the elders, and then the rest of the Jewish people, and goes into many other details about this procedure, some of which have ramifications for how we should study Torah today. 

At the end, the sixth-graders put on a detailed skit of the entire procedure, which was enjoyed by everyone.  Yasher Koach to Orel Taieb and Kayla Schechter, from 6A and 6B respectively, who bravely and skillfully played Moshe Rabbeinu in the skits.

Sixth-Grader Elior Mael demonstrating the results of last week's fused-glass workshop

Seventh-Grade Science
by Mr. Ken Rosenstein

Last week, Science 7 drilled all the way down to the structure of the atom. After building atoms, we put them together to make common molecules: elements and compounds. In these pictures, students are making glucose molecules. There's more sugar hanging from our ceiling than you could possibly imagine...!
Next, we'll explore some of the far more complex molecules that are found in our cells.

Eighth-Grade World History
by Ms. Roberta Wright
The eighth-grade history classes have been on Latin American missions of exploration.  Students are unearthing the origins of chocolate, the reason why December 2012 was a dud, where pink dolphins are in the Amazon, what types of human sacrifices were done by Pre-Colombians, and how Latin American native tribes built temples and cities without metals.  It's amazing to uncover what secrets the Saval Library holds while learning research skills.  Once they have discovered all they can, students will write up their findings and learn presentation skills to introduce all of the interesting topics they have encountered to their peers.  Then, it's off to Asia!

Facing History and Ourselves
On Wednesday, the entire Middle School learned about the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin.  During English classes in 6th and 7th grade, and during x-block for 8th grade,  Mrs. Bar-Or, Mr. Fidler, and Mrs. Samuels taught an original lesson using the Facing History and Ourselves framework. 

The students first learned about Prime Minister Rabin's life and the circumstances that led to his untimely and tragic death at the hands of a Jewish person.  The students then participated in an activity called "the human barometer." Given three different prompts (below), the students had to place themselves along a spectrum from "Strongly Agree" to "Agree" to "Disagree" to "Strongly Disagree."

Each teacher selected elements from the lesson to emphasize with their class. The statements were: 
  • Any means necessary to stop the course of political action is acceptable
  • It is the responsibility of the leaders of the nation to stop activity that promotes violence
  • It is the responsibility of the individual who witnesses the activity that promotes violence to stop it
The students were able to express a variety of opinions, and move themselves along the barometer in the course of the discussion. 


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
Mark your calendars!

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.
Taam China Lunches!
The popular eighth-grade-run Taam China lunch program will continue on Monday, November 9! 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.
Yom Chesed a Great Success!

Yom Chesed 2015 was a great success, with 500 participants helping more than 15 different organizations that serve those in need. Thanks to all who participated and volunteered to help make this day so terrific!

For those who were unable to attend, or who want to relive the day, please check out the Yom Chesed video, as well as the photos on our phanfare website (viewing password: maimoparents).

A Day of Shopping in Support of the Maimonides PTA
The PTA is presenting a Hat Show and Chanukah Boutique on Sunday, November 8th from 11:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. in Saval Auditorium.

The following vendors will be showing their wares: Hedy's Hat of Brooklyn, Cindy's No. 1 Bags & Sterling Silver Jewelry, Normalina Designs (baby and kid accessories), "Write-On" by Shelley Bloom, 
and Hidden Jewel of the South End (artisan jewelry). 

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

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