Maimonides School: Middle School Matters
May 27, 2016                      Parashat Behar                     19 Iyyar, 5776    

Maimonides School
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Yom Orchim
Middle School Play
Sixth-Grade History
Seventh-Grade Hebrew
Eighth-Grade English
Taam China Lunch
More Than a School
School Calendar
Absence Notifications
Handbook Online
Online Photo Galleries
Quick Links
Find Maimonides On:
Dear MS Families,    

Yom Orchim is always a highlight of our year! It's a delight for us to meet the students' guests, and equally exciting for the students as they show their guests what they've learned. Today was a wonderful experience for us all.
Please read on for a d'var Torah from Rabbi Dov Huff, a thought from the works of Rav Soloveitchik, and some highlights from the week.

Shabbat Shalom! 

Brian Cohen
Associate Principal, Middle School   
D'var Torah

by Rabbi Dov Huff

The beginning of our parsha deals with the mitzvot of Shmitah and Yovel - mitzvot which facilitate an economic and social reset, where land and wealth is redistributed. Class barriers are broken down as the poor gain access to the wealthy farmers' crops, and the debts of the needy are cancelled. The destitute, who were forced to sell themselves into servitude, complete their service and reintegrate into society. Ancestral land sold out of desperation is returned, and the family heritage restored. In other words, these
mitzvot are the great equalizers - adjusting, rebooting, and refreshing society every 7 and 50 years.
Interestingly, the parsha emphasizes that these mitzvot were delivered to Moshe "at Har Sinai." The Midrash famously asks: What relevance has Shmitah to Har Sinai? The commentators have a range of explanations to answer this. Rashi tells us that the Torah is showing us that just as the most minute details of Shmitah were conveyed at Har Sinai, so too with all mitzvot. Other parshanim take a chronological approach, saying that the Torah is telling us this commandment was actually given at Har Sinai and belongs earlier in the Torah. Its placement here is only a  result of thematic parallels having to do with laws relating to the land. 
The Kli Yakar offers a novel and fascinating explanation. He points out that the link between Har Sinai and Shmitah lies well beneath the surface. Both are the culmination of parallel periods of time.  Matan Torah occurs 7 weeks (49 days) from Yetziyat Mitzrayim, and Shmitah and Yovel mark the end of 7- and 49-year cycles respectively. On the 50th day of Yetziyat Mitzrayim, we blow the shofar and receive the Torah. In the 50th year of Shmitah, during Yovel, we blow the shofar and reenact matan Torah through the mitzvah of Hakhel. At Matan Torah, we refrained from contact with the mountain. In the Shmitah year, we refrain from working the land. These striking parallels point to a more fundamental connection between Har Sinai and Eretz Yisrael.
The Kli Yakar posits that Hashem infused Eretz Yisrael with the kedusha of Har Sinai, and created a remembrance of ma'amad Har Sinai by commanding us with the mitzvot of Shmitah and Yovel. The great equalizer of shviit is like the great equalizer of Torah - the crown which every Jew can wear. The social and economic equality granted us by shviit is like the spiritual equality granted us by the Torah. The freedom from debt and poverty mirrors the physical emancipation from Egypt, as well as the ontological freedom which came with the sense of commitment, mission, meaning, and purpose at Har Sinai. 
To return to our question - what does Har Sinai have to do with Shmitah? The answer is: Everything. Eretz Yisrael is our Har Sinai! Its kedusha is the kedusha of the holiest, most intense encounter we had with G-d. To visit Eretz Yisrael is to visit our past. To learn Torah in Israel is to receive the Torah at Sinai. Our commitment to, and support of, the land is our commitment to, and support of, Torah and its way of life. And conversely, our dedication to Torah learning is a re-affirmation of our devotion to artzeinu haKedosha
Questions for the Shabbat table: 
  1. What was your takeaway from the d'var Torah this morning?
  2. What does it mean to you to think of Eretz Yisrael as a living Har Sinai? 
  3. See the Ohr Hachaim to find another connection between Eretz Yisrael and limud Torah.

Thoughts of the Rav
 by Rabbi Huff
The Rav writes that the mitzvah of counting Sefirat HaOmer nowadays is not a law with biblical status, but a rabbinic one. In the absence of the Mikdash, the Gemara tells us, the sefira is only a zecher leMikdash - a remembrance of the Mikdash.
The Rav says that there are two types of remembrances when it comes to the Mikdash. The first is to reminisce about the glory days of the Mikdash - to celebrate what it was. Examples of mitzvot in this category are the korech sandwich at the seder and the taking of the lulav on the last six days of Sukkot in memory of the grandeur of the Temple.
The other category is mourning the loss of our Mikdash. Halachot in this category include leaving parts of our houses unfinished and limiting the music we listen to. It is in the latter category that the Rav places Sefirat HaOmer nowadays. It is a mitzvah that in its nature has an element of sadness - bemoaning the loss of our korban omer and the unique and holy place where we were privileged to offer it. For this reason, says the Rav, it is an appropriate time to mourn the loss of Rabbi Akiva's students as well. 

Yom Orchim
The students loved having their grandparents and special guests come to visit for the day and participate with them in the classroom. School is a central part of the children's lives, and being able to share it with their family members and friends is very special to them.

We know that their guests enjoyed the visits too!


Middle School Play
The Maimonides Middle School Actor's Guild takes the stage once again this June with two performances of the classic Twelve Angry Men, retitled for this production as Twelve Angry Jurors as we modernize the jury room to allow for mixed genders.

The play is famous as an examination of the idea of "one against the crowd," but also has much to say about the current-day issue of "us" against "them," and racial/ethnic stereotyping.

The cast and crew include Meira Abraham, Jordan Avinoam, Chaya Baker, Chana Bension, Eliana Diamond, Ellie Klibaner-Schiff, Nathaniel Lesser, Esther Levin, Kayla Schechter, Noam Shapiro, Sam Stolarov, Aviel Taube, Devorah Wertheimer, and Ahava Winter.

Performances are Monday, June 6 and Tuesday, June 7 in the Saval Gymnasium at 6:30.

Sixth-Grade History
by Roberta Wright
After the 6th grade's Asian country presentations, we discussed as a class what went well, what didn't, and what they wanted to improve.  The class wanted to be able to use the Internet but weren't sure how to use it well.  Mrs. Zygadlo in the library helped them to learn how to tell a website that is a good source of information from one that is unreliable, and showed them just how easy it could be to be fooled by a misleading site. 

The students in 6B used the CIA factbook website and selected another one that they were able to judge as a good source.  They used sheets I gave them to evaluate the websites and started research for another presentation.

After discussion, we decided that some aspects of the presentations themselves were not as good as they could have been, so we made changes to the requirements for the presentations to reflect these improvements going forward.  Now we are practicing note-taking skills with these presentations.

Seventh-Grade Hebrew

All of the seventh-grade Hebrew classes were invited to the Upper School this week to attend a performance of an original play in Hebrew, written by our own Morah Pesya Altman! The eleventh-grade Hebrew class had been practicing "Kite, Man, and Wind" for weeks, and the seventh graders enjoyed the practical application of their language skills as they heard this fable about how the people and the king of the wind began as enemies but learned to work together.

The seventh graders also practiced their photography skills, and proudly shared the fruits of their labor for this newsletter!

Eighth-Grade English
By Dr. Megan Hamilton

In eighth grade English, students are busy preparing scenes from A Midsummer Night's Dream to perform for their peers at the end of the year. As they strive to memorize their parts, students investigate Shakespeare's language - what does "videlicet" mean? And how on Earth do you say it? - and analyze the motivations underlying the actions of the play's fairies, lovers, and acting company. They are also considering how costumes, props, and staging will help them bring the wit and humor of this classic to life.

Taam China Lunch

The popular eighth-grade Taam China lunch program ends next Tuesday! The eighth-graders are looking forward to serving those students who signed up.

This will be the last Taam China lunch of the 2015-16 school year.

So Much More Than a School!
Maimonides is so much more than a school -- we're a family and a community too! That's why your partnership in our annual campaign is so important.

We hope you will consider supporting Maimonides School with a gift to our 2016 campaign. Our goal is $1.7 million, and every single gift makes a difference. Your participation is essential and allows us to strengthen and improve our programming for all our students.

Please click here to donate now. For questions, please contact Ellen Pulda, Development and PR Officer at x423, or

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:
Shabbat Shalom!

Brian Cohen

MS logo, medium size



Maimonides School | 34 Philbrick Road | Brookline | MA | 02445