Maimonides School: Middle School Matters
Nov. 5, 2015        Parashat VaYishlach      13 Kislev, 5776    

Maimonides School
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Sixth-Grade Field Trip
Seventh-Grade Math
Eighth-Grade Activities
Girls' Basketball Clinic
Picture Retake Day
Taam China Lunch
School Calendar
Absence Notifications
Handbook Online
Online Photo Galleries
Quick Links
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Dear MS Families,    

Over these recent difficult days, we have been impressed and awed, over and over, by the strength and kindness demonstrated by our students. Our whole community has been affected by the loss of Ezra Schwartz, z"l, and seeing the students rally around his family and each other has been inspiring for us all.

As we break for Thanksgiving, I would like to express my gratitude to you, the Middle School parents, for sending your children to our Middle School and for encouraging them in their menschlich behavior. I am looking forward to seeing them again on Monday, and to sharing many happy occasions with them.

Please read on for a d'var Torah from Rabbi Dov Huff, reflections from Scott Mattoon, a thought from the works of Rav Soloveitchik, and an update on the recent weeks in Middle School.
Shabbat Shalom, and happy Thanksgiving!

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

In our previous divrei Torah we have been discussing the lessons we learn from our avot and what distinguished them one from another. Avraham Avinu, the pioneer, was the spiritual extrovert, spreading d'var Hashem to the world. Yitzchak Avinu was the introvert, the olah temimah, fortified with great internal gevurah. What does Yakov Avinu bring?
Yakov's life is full of struggle, of challenge, of danger. He flees from his brother to find himself in the house of his deceptive uncle. His escape from there lands him once again in confrontation with his brother Eisav, which he survives only to find his family abused by Shechem. Yakov Avinu's life is captured in the story in this week's parsha. As he prepares to face the threat of his violent brother, alone in the darkness of the night, Yakov Avinu is attacked and must fight for his life. This is his story. As summed up by the Torah, vayevater Yakov levado - "Yakov was left by himself" - alone, in peril.  
But we have another nocturnal encounter in Yakov Avinu's life. Another time in which he found himself alone, in danger, in the middle of the night. That time, he dreamt of a ladder with angels going up and down. In this dream, in the darkness, through the helplessness, Hashem gave him comfort, telling him: "I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" - you are not alone. 
So what does Yakov Avinu give us? Yakov Avinu gives us hope. Hope that in the face of those who would harm us, we are not alone. Hope that in our greatest tragedy and despair, there is comfort. Hope that we will be able to endure and move forward. In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, "Jacob gave (us) the knowledge that precisely when you feel most alone, G-d is still with you, giving you the courage to hope and the strength to dream."
We now find ourselves trying to piece our lives back together in the wake of the tragedy of Ezra's death. To find some nechama, comfort, as a family, a community, and a nation. Yakov, abandoned in the dark, fights with the angel and does not retreat. He shows us true strength. The strength to push forward until the dawn. Until the sun rises and we can rebuild. And Yakov does push forward. He now carries a wound from the ordeal that he will always carry with him, but he limps forward, he perseveres. And in that moment we are named. We become Yisrael - ki sarita im E-lokim v'im anashim vatuchal - because we prevail.
In this time of shiva we all certainly feel that we are not alone. The Schwartzes are not alone. The tremendous response of Am Yisrael is inspiring - the nation named after Yisrael - after our father who taught us that Hashem is with us.
We also see the hope and the strength of Yakov in the naming of Binyamin. As Rachel Imeinu dies in childbirth, she names her son "Ben-Oni" - the son of my affliction. Yakov Avinu, the optimist, changes the child's name to "Binyamin" - son of my strength. In the words of the Ramban, "he (Yakov) wanted to name him (Binyamin) with the name his mother had called him...and he gave it positive language."
Yakov showed us how to transition from anguish to hope, from pain to optimism. He taught us how to wait out the night and look towards the day. How to build on, and grow from, the sadness. That is why he erects a monument in the spot where he buried Rachel. To move forward, but never to move on.
We all appreciate these two lessons of Yakov Avinu - we are not alone, and there is a future of hope and comfort borne from tragedy. We have learned this last lesson from the Schwartzes as well. The strength and chizuk of their family is inspiring to all of us.
May Hashem comfort them among the mourners of Tzion and Yerushalayim.

by Scott Mattoon

"Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom."
-- Marcel Proust
As we enter Thanksgiving, the timing could not be more apt or profound.  In a season of sorrow for many in our school community, how do we move forward?  A student pulled me aside yesterday to express gratitude for being back in school, even though at first she was dreading the return on Monday.  The uplifting difference in her day was being together again -- with friends, classmates, teachers, deans, advisors, social workers, and office managers.
The director of Good Grief Boston, who led a parent session Monday evening on coping with grief and loss, affirmed our sense that grief is very isolating.  Indeed, it is such tempting comfort to recoil into ourselves, even as a natural part of that journey.  Its buttressing effects, however, are ephemeral at best.  Lasting comfort comes when we are forced outside of ourselves in togetherness with others.
Last evening, seeing the Alumni Class of 2015 and the current seniors come together without any agenda other than togetherness, we saw them being their purest selves with each other, getting out of themselves a bit - sharing themselves with each other, smiling and crying with each other... just being with each other.  The power of togetherness in moving forward was patently clear, even if the road is not guaranteed to be easy.
Through all of this, we learned a lot about who we are, about what makes us content as a school community.  And for that we have Ezra's z"l innate sense of joy to thank for shoring up our souls over the past several days, as Proust suggests.  Moreover, we have each other to thank for getting us out of ourselves, and focused on each other.  
Thanksgiving is a special holiday for all of us due to the togetherness that is inherent to it.  And that togetherness is priceless for us as we all move forward.  With that said, we are grateful for all of you!
Thoughts of the Rav on the Parasha
by Rabbi Roy Rosenbaum

Near the beginning of this week's parasha, Yaakov proclaims im Lavan garti ("I sojourned with Lavan"), and Rashi famously comments, v'taryag mitzvot shamarti. That is, "though I stayed with Lavan, I maintained my observance of the 613 commandments."

The Rav points out that the comment is not simply a clever reordering of the letters found in im Lavan garti (the letters in garti can be used to form taryag, or 613). Rather, the insight is far more telling. The Hebrew word garti would usually describe a situation in which someone stayed somewhere only temporarily. Since Yaakov lived in Lavan's home for twenty years, we would have expected the verse to read yashavti - "I dwelled." That would have been the correct verb to describe such a lengthy stay.

Rather, says the Rav, the rabbis emphasized that Yaakov always felt himself to be an outsider, a ger. Despite being exposed to the immoral, unethical culture of Lavan's home, Yaakov was proud to have not "settled" there. He never assimilated into his surroundings. He was always proud to describe his stay as temporary, because he never succumbed to the blandishments of Lavan's lifestyle; rather, he continued in the path taught him by his grandfather and father. That is the real message behind v'taryag mitzvot shamarti.

Sixth-Grade Field Trip
by Mrs. Stephanie Samuels 

On Wednesday last week, the sixth grade went on a walking field trip to Congregation Beth Pinchas, which is also the home of ROFEH International, in Brookline.  Accompanied by Mr. Cohen, Rabbi Beker, Mrs. Samuels, and Mr. Werber, the students made the walk laden with items to donate to ROFEH.  These items were intended for inclusion in gift baskets for families who come to Boston for medical care and benefit from the services of ROFEH. 

The students gathered in the shul's Beit Midrash and heard a fascinating talk from the Rebbe, Rav Naftali Horowitz, about the history of the Bostoner Rebbe's community and its contribution to Jewish life in Boston.  As part of his talk, the Rebbe spoke to the students about the Chanukah candles as a metaphor for changing the physical into the spiritual, and an encouragement for them to use their own talents for the benefit of the Jewish people and create opportunities for mitzvot in their lives. 

The students were then treated to a tour of the facility. They saw the special matzah-baking oven, and even the mikvah

Mr. Mike Hirsch of ROFEH International then spoke to the students and told them about the ROFEH organization, which was founded by the father of the current Bostoner Rebbe. He explained how it came to be and discussed the amazing work that the organization and its volunteers do every day. 

Finally, our own Rabbi Beker led an activity with the students about the eight levels of tzedakah from the Rambam.  The students did their best to rate the levels of giving tzedakah from poor to excellent, and then Rabbi Beker explained the levels according to the Rambam, giving examples from the Mishnah.  He even found a possible source for J.K. Rowling's "chamber of secrets" in the Mishnah (ask your child)! 

The field trip was a meaningful way to connect the sixth-grade students to Jewish Boston, and to focus them on chesed and being good people as we get closer to Chanukah. 
Seventh Grade: Tzeitcha l'Shalom, Gavri

The seventh grade and the entire Middle School wishes a mazal tov and tzeitchem l'shalom to Gavri Schorr and his family upon their return to Israel. It's been wonderful to have Gavri with us! The students prepared a farewell card for Gavri and had an x-block gathering to wish him all the best.  

Eighth-Grade Navi
 by Rabbi Dror Saadia

השנה אנחנו לומדים בכיתה ח' את ספר מלכים
בראשית השנה למדנו על החשיבות של ספר מלכים ועל הסיבות לכתיבתו ע"י ירמיהו הנביא.
עוד למדנו שספר מלכים הוא הרביעי בספרי נביאים ואחרון לנביאים ראשונים. ספר מלכים מתאר את תולדות ישראל מימיו האחרונים של דוד עד חורבן ירושלים. מתקופת הפריחה עד תקופת אובדן העצמאות המדינית וגלות יהודה לבבל.

בפרק א' - למדנו על הפירוד הגדול שאיים לפלג את העם בסוף ימי דוד. תהינו האם אחר מותו יצליח המלך החדש בביצור הממלכה ובחיזוקה, או שיתגברו הסכסוכים בחצר המלוכה וישימו לאל את הישגיו הגדולים של דוד. ואכן נוכחנו לדעת כי שלמה עומד במשימה הראשונה בהצלחה רבה. הוא מונע את הפילוג שאיים על אחדות העם ויושב על כסא המלוכה.
בפרק ב' - למדנו על מעשיו הראשונים של שלמה, שהיו מכוונים לחזק את מלכותו ולסלק את המתנגדים לו. שלמה בחוכמתו הורג את כל אלה שהיו עלולים לגרום זעזועים לממלכה. מכאן ואילך לא נמצאו עוד מערערים על זכותו של שלמה לכסא המלוכה. והממלכה הייתה נכונה ביד שלמה.
אני נהנה מהתלהבותם של התלמידים לגלות בכל פעם מחדש את כמות המידע החבויה בין השורות והמילים.
In eighth grade this year, we are studying Sefer Melachim. This book is about the history of Israel, and starts at the end of King David's rule. It ends with the destruction of the first temple, the imprisonment of Yehoyachin, and finally his release, granted by the king of Babylon.

In Chapter 1 we learned about the great separation that threatened to divide the country at the end of David's reign. We wondered whether the new king would succeed in fortifying and strengthening the kingdom, and whether he would overcome conflicts in court and acknowledge that the achievements of David came from God. We learned that King Shlomo completed the first task successfully. The schism that threatened the unity of the people was avoided, and
Shlomo ascended to the throne.

In Chapter 2, we first learned about Shlomo's actions aimed at strengthening his rule and eliminating rivals. Shlomo in his wisdom had those people who were trying to damage the kingdom killed. Thereafter, there was no further undermining of his right to the throne, and the kingdom was safe in Shlomo's hands.

I enjoy the enthusiasm of the students tremendously, and love watching them discover time after time how much information is hidden between the lines and words.

New Dates for Middle School Basketball Tryouts
The tryout schedules for the Middle School basketball teams are as follows:

Monday, Nov. 30: 5:00-6:00 p.m. 
Tuesday, Dec. 1: 5:00-6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, Dec. 2: 5:00-6:00 p.m.
Thursday, Dec. 3: 5:00-6:00 p.m.

Please note that students trying out for a team
must be present at both relevant tryout dates.

Good luck! 

Picture Retake Day is December 10
Coffee Pond Photography is coming to Maimonides on Thursday, December 10th, for any students who missed their class pictures in October or would like to have a new picture taken. Pictures will be taken from 12:10 - 1:10 p.m.

Parents must call or email the Account Manager, Shannon Dodds, at Coffee Pond Photography to register the student if they want to have pictures taken on this day. 

Phone: 508-907-6633, x120 
Toll free: 800-632-2323, x120
Taam China Lunches!
The popular eighth-grade-run Taam China lunch program will continue on Monday, November 30! 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 in the Middle School office.

Order forms for the December-January round of Chinese lunches became available today! Please make sure the students submit them by Wednesday, December 2.

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!
Happy Thanksgiving
Shabbat Shalom!

Brian Cohen

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