Maimonides School: Middle School Matters

Sept. 16, 2016                      Parashat Ki Teitzei                 13 Elul, 5776    

Maimonides School
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Yom Gibush
Sixth-Grade Special Object Activity
Seventh-Grade "Big Picture" Project
S'chach Sale
Yom Chesed
2016-17 Calendars
Handbook Online
Vehicle Policies
Maimo on Instagram
Directory Online
Absence Notifications
Online Photo Galleries

Quick Links
Find Maimonides On:

Dear MS Families,    

It's been a great first full week of school, and the students were bonding with each other and with our staff even before today's planned Yom Gibush, Day of Unification, event. We can already tell that it's going to be a great year!

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
There is a major philosophical debate sparked by a mitzvah in this week's parsha which we are also exploring with the 9th and 10th graders this year in Masechet Chullin. It is the mitzvah of shiluach haken - sending away the mother bird before taking the eggs. The debate is about the permissibility of exploring the taamei hamitzvot - the reason behind each mitzvah. The link to this particular mitzvah is a mishna in Berachot 33b in which the mishna tells us that if a shliach tzibbur in his tefillah says al kan tzippur yagiyu rachamecha - "your mercy should extend to us as it does to the bird in the nest" - he must immediately be removed. One of the reasons presented by the gemara is that it is not for us to classify this mitzvah as one of mercy, because mitzvot "are nothing but decrees" - not for us to evaluate, but simply to observe.

The irony of kan tzippur is that the very mitzvah which sparks the controversy of exploring the taamei hamitzvot has in fact generated much discussion as to its own reason and purpose. The Ramban in this week's parsha lists three possible reasons:
  1. In order that we avoid having a cruel and unmerciful heart
  2. To ensure that we do not wipe out any species of animal
  3. To not cause pain to the mother bird (the Rambam's opinion)
The Ramban is certain, though, that whatever the underlying motivations, the mitzvot are not somehow for Hashem's sake, but rather letsaref bahem et habriyot - to refine us. This stands in sharp contrast to the approach of the mystics. The Zohar contends that the sending away of the mother bird is in fact an act of cruelty, through which the divine attribute of mercy is awakened and focused on Am Yisrael.  This idea could be what lies behind the shocking position found in some Rishonim, that the mother should be sent away even if one does not want the eggs!
The range of opinions on shiluach haken, as well as the abundance of seforim devoted to exploring taamei hamitzvot, seems to ignore the gemara in Berachot's assertion that mitzvot are but decrees for us to follow. Why do we continue to explore the underlying reasons behind mitzvot? One answer is given by the Rambam in the Moreh Nevuchim. The Rambam posits that the opinion in Berachot is one of two offered, and it is in fact the minority opinion. The majority opinion encourages this type of questioning and analysis.
A second answer is based on a unique insight to the mishna offered by the Rav. He says that the specific context being discussed is that of tefilla - a realm in which the rules are different. It is one thing to analyze the nature of mitzvot in the act of Talmud Torah, where  our approach is one of exploration, classification, and testing of theories. It is quite another thing to declare the function of a mitzvah in the realm of tefilla, as conjecture has no place in prayer. Calling to Hashem for mercy cannot depend on our correct classification of the mitzvah of kan tzippur.
For the Rav, the permissibility of assigning reasons to the mitzvot depends on the context in which it is being done. In our never-ending attempt to probe the depths of Torah, we should ask: What is the nature of this mitzvah, and by extension, what does it mean for me that Hashem commanded me to do it? 
Questions for the Shabbos table:
  1. How do the various conceptions of this mitzvah point to different philosophical points of view? 
  2. Which mitzvot, for you, have the impact of being metsaref habriyot - refining your character?
  3. With which mitzvot is it hard for you to see how they refine your character?

Thoughts of the Rav

Devekut, part 2
by Rabbi Dov Huff
Last week, we began discussing the act of cleaving to Hashem. The Rav z"l writes that cleaving is different than uniting since in the process of unification, the different components lose a part of what makes them unique - uniting with the divine would, the mystics believed, come at the cost of our own individuality. Uniting is found in solitude and seclusion, in retreating from worldly pursuits rather than sanctifying them.
Not so with cleaving. The pursuit of devekut is man's attempt to cleave to Hashem "[not by] denying his actual essence, but, on the contrary, by affirming his own essence. The actual muticolored human personality becomes closer to G-d when the individual lives his own variegated, original life, filled with goals, initiative, and activity."
For the Rav, the medium through which man accomplishes this devekut is halacha. We connect not by giving up parts of ourselves, but by focusing our thoughts and practice towards Hashem through our mutual connection to halacha. In essence, we attempt to "know" Hashem by learning and actualizing His revelatory halachic commands.

Yom Gibush

Today the entire Middle School is enjoying the annual Yom Gibush, Day of Unification, with a hike through the Blue Hills Reservation! They will be walking up to the weather observatory, where they'll enjoy lunch and a photo scavenger hunt organized by Benji Hain, director of student life for the Middle School.

Pictures from this event will be available next week! 

Sixth-Grade Special Object Activity

While they've been settling in and getting to know each other, the sixth-grade students have brought in objects that are important to them and that express something about themselves. The students have enjoyed seeing each other's special objects, and have had a wonderful time learning what each object represents to its owner!

Seventh-Grade "Big Picture" Project
by Stephanie Samuels

The seventh-grade students are working on developing a "big picture" view of the events of Bamidbar, which we are learning this year. As part of developing this viewpoint, they worked in groups to list the events of the Torah in order. This will help us develop a sense of where the events of Bamidbar fall within the story of the Jewish people.



S'chach Sale!

Need some new s'chach for your Sukkah? The PTA has you "covered"! Please check out their flyer here and submit your order by Friday, September 30. Pick-up is scheduled for Thursday, October 13, from 7-8 p.m. sukkah
Volunteer for Yom Chesed

Yom Chesed is December 4 -- Would you like to get involved?

Our third Yom Chesed is scheduled for Sunday morning, December 4, 2016Yom Chesed is an all-ages community service initiative for our entire Maimonides community.  Our past Yom Chesed events have each involved over 500 participants helping a broad range of community organizations. 

Registration will begin later in the fall, but in the meantime, we are looking for volunteers to help with this event. Even if you can't attend Yom Chesed, we would love your help prior to the event with planning and coordinating activities, shopping for supplies, or making phone calls. 

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help, please join us on Thursday, September 22 at 8:15 a.m. in the conference room in the Saval building (34 Philbrick Road). 
It is not necessary to attend this meeting to help out with Yom Chesed.  If you are interested in volunteering, please contact one of our parent coordinators -- Risa Gewurz, rzgewurz@gmail.comStef Mishkin,, or Alissa Muzin, -- to learn how to get involved.
Printable and Electronic Calendars Online

The printable school calendar for this year is now online at
The electronic calendar for 2016-17 is also online!  You can visit throughout the year for the most up-to-date information on everything that's happening, both throughout the school and in each individual division.

The online calendar can be customized to show only the divisions and events you wish to see.  See for more detailed information on how to use the calendar.

In addition, you will be able to subscribe so that school events and alerts will appear on your personal calendar.  More information will follow soon.

Handbook Now Online

The Parent/Student Handbook is now on the Maimo website! Read it online here. 

Username is: maimoparents 
Password is: horim

Vehicle Policies and Procedures

Please see this link for current information on the school's parking policies, as well as updated drop-off and pick-up procedures.

Follow Maimo on Instagram


   We're expanding our social media network! 

   Please follow us on Instagram at

. If you're new to our

   community, note that we're also on Facebook

   (Maimonides School, Maimonides Early

   Childhood Center) and Twitter

   (@kolrambam). You'll find all the latest news and activities from school posted on our social media outlets.

Online Access to Directory

We know many of you are eager to connect with each other! The printed Maimonides School 2016-17 Directory is in production, but parents can access the directory information online via MyBackpack.  

In order to locate family or classmate contact information, follow these steps:
  1. Log into My Backpack
  2. To find a single family, search by last name in the Directory box
  3. To generate an entire grade list, click on "Advanced Search Options" and follow these steps:
    • Click on the "Search for Student" tab
    • Select the grade you want and click on "Search"
    • Click on "Detail" to see email address information         
NOTE: In order to return to the entire grade list, do NOT hit the browser back button. Instead, click on the "Back to Search Student/Parent" button, found above the student name (at top left).
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.

On behalf of the entire Middle School:

Shabbat Shalom!

Brian Cohen




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