Maimonides School: Middle School Matters

Sept. 30, 2016                      Parashat Nitzavim                 27 Elul, 5776    

Maimonides School
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Theme of the Year
Back-to-School Night
Eighth-Grade Save the Date
Sixth-Grade Chagim
Seventh-Grade Science
Eighth-Grade Hebrew
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,    

We'd like to take this opportunity to wish all of you a shana tova u'metuka, a year filled with growth and learning for all of us.

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 
הנה יום הדין - behold the day of judgment! This proclamation we make in Unetaneh Tokef is a powerful and chilling part of the Rosh Hashanah service. It details the terror seizing the trembling angels as our deeds are inspected by our Creator. We know that כילאיזכולפניךבדין - we will not be vindicated before Him if we are being judged by the measuring stick of din - of justice. What a terrible reality the moment of justice can be. And yet, perhaps Yonah Hanavi found comfort in it.
Rabbi David Fohrman has a unique insight on Sefer Yonah, which we read on Yom Kippur. He grapples with the question, "from what was Yonah running?" His answer is that it was not din that scared him. After all, Yonah Ben Amitai is the son of "emet," the son of truth. He embraces the idea that the world is fueled by the principles of justice, that there are consequences for actions, actions and reactions. Yonah was not running from din, he was running from rachamim - from mercy.
How could Ninveh - the capital of Assyria, destined to wipe out the Northern Kingdom of the Jews, effectively removing them from the Jewish story - have access to teshuva? How can this evil nation be privy to the middah of rachamim, subject to Divine mercy? Rabbi Forman sees this despair in Yonah's response to Hashem's salvation of Ninveh: רחום וחנון ארך אפים ורב חסד ונחם על הרעה - because I know that You are a G-d Who envokes the attributes of divine mercy. This formula is one we have been saying in selichot this week, but with one major change: Yonah leaves out emet - the divine attribute of truth. Yonah places "forgives evil" in its place.  Because this is not truth, it is not din. Where is the Divine attribute of justice? "This is why I ran," proclaims Yonah! Where has din gone, how has it been replaced by compassion? This is not a world that Yonah wants to live in. The idea terrifies Yonah and makes him run, not necessarily from G-d, but from a world which he felt was no longer just.
And here is where Hashem teaches Yonah the message of compassion. This is the message of the gourd. Hashem provides Yonah with a gourd for shade that he does not need. He does not need it because in the previous pasuk, Yonah has built a hut already, providing him with shade. This miracle gourd represents G-d's compassion. And then a worm of justice comes and destroys it, because that's what the worm does, and because the gourd had no business being there in the first place. The unnatural gourd gets consumed by the worm, who follows natural law. The gesture of compassion is consumed by the harsh reality of truth. This glimpse into a world without compassion upsets Yonah. So Hashem leaves him with the rhetorical question at the end of the sefer - "shall I not then have mercy on Nineveh?" According to Rabbi Fohrman, the message of Sefer Yonah is about the critical role of rachamim operating alongside din.
As we embark on the journey that is the Yamim Noraim, whose destination we pray is repentance, may we be beneficiaries of this middat harachamim. While we try to be worthy of a positive outcome from din alone, we take comfort in the knowledge that Hashem's love and mercy are helping to tip the scale of justice in our favor.
Questions for the Shabbos table:
  1. What was your takeaway from the d'var Torah this morning?
  2. What are other possible reasons that Yonah ran, and what would then be the message of the gourd?
  3. Do you find Rosh Hashanah to be a frightening or a hopeful holiday?
Thoughts of the Rav

by Rabbi David Saltzman

As we approach the Yamim Noraim, we will use the Rav Thoughts columns for the next three weeks to discuss the difference between kapara and mechila. Rabbi Soloveitchik explains, in Al HaTeshuva, the difference between these two ideas.
One purpose of Yom Kippur is to soften the effects of Hashem's judgment and alleviate the severity of any punishment. The mechanism for this is that on Yom Kippur, G-d's attribute of mercy replaces G-d's attribute of judgment, which in turn lightens the decree.
This is hinted at in the keriah for Rosh HaShanah, where we read that during Akadat Yitzchak:
וַיָּבֹאוּ אֶל הַמָּקוֹם אֲשֶׁר אָמַר לוֹ הָאֱלֹקים וַיִּבֶן שָׁם אַבְרָהָם אֶת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וַיַּעֲרֹךְ אֶת הָעֵצִים וַיַּעֲקֹד אֶת יִצְחָק בְּנוֹ וַיָּשֶׂם אֹתוֹ עַל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ מִמַּעַל לָעֵצִים:
And they came to the place of which God had spoken to him, and Abraham built the altar there and arranged the wood, and he bound Isaac his son and placed him on the altar upon the wood.
The Kabbalists understand this to mean that G-d's attribute of chesed (mercy), represented by Avraham, tied up G-d's attribute of strength (judgment), represented by Yitzchak. This is how mechila occurs on Yom Kippur, and it provides us with a more lenient sentence than we really deserve.
How does this differ from kapara? Tune in next time...
Theme of the Year Lifts Off

Today was the start of something big here at Maimonides! The entire school participated in spectacular breakout festivities for our first-ever schoolwide Theme of the Year... arvut!
First all students, from the Early Childhood Center through 12th grade, learned and discussed the concept of arvut - the critical rabbinic mandate to actively take responsibility for the well-being of others. They then were introduced by video to our new Maimo hire, the esteemed Professor Fluff, who had a somewhat difficult first day! Everyone then gathered together to watch the conclusion to the drama performed live, celebrated when all of our principals officially kicked off our year of arvut, and danced to our very own arvut song and video, which was sung and edited by our students!

This is the beginning of a year of experiential learning about
arvut, which will be driven by the students themselves. Different grades will serve as ambassadors over four sequential periods (zmanim) throughout the academic year. During each stage the entire school will focus on a sub-theme, each representing a concentric circle of responsibility expanding outward.
Meet our newly-appointed ambassadors!
  • ECC through 2nd Graders: Our responsibility to each other in school - Arvut b'Beit Sefer
  • 3rd through 5th Graders: Our responsibility to our local community - Arvut b'Kehillah
  • 9th through 12th Graders: Our responsibility to the Jewish people worldwide - Kol Yisrael Areyvim Zeh Lazeh
  • 6th through 8th Graders: Our responsibility to the world at large - Arvut L'Olam
This will be a year during which we combine interdisciplinary lesson plans, art, cutting-edge technology, drama, experiential learning, cross-grade learning, student-driven projects, plenty of surprises, and a lot of love in order to bring the idea of
arvut to life in our school and beyond. We can't wait!
Wishing you all a shanah tovah!

Back-to-School Night

by Scott Mattoon

Many thanks for attending our Back-to-School Night last week!  It was wonderful to see so many of you on campus for the new school year.  We hope you all enjoyed the evening. 

In the parent survey results, a clear and consistent 91% of responses were positive across the following areas:
  • feeling welcome and clear on what to do
  • well-structured, manageable, easy-to-follow schedule
  • valuable information and insight from teacher sessions
  • overall enjoyment of teacher presentations and principals' remarks in the shul
  • overall Back-to-School Night experience
We recognize that this is a very important event for parents, so we pay close attention to designing the evening to be as helpful and as easy to navigate as possible.  We greatly valued the thoughtful suggestions that were offered on this year's surveys, as we are always looking to improve what we do.  

Should you have any further thoughts to share regarding Back-to-School Night, please do not hesitate to be in touch with us at .  As always, we take your input and partnership very seriously.


Eighth-Grade Parents Save the Date: Let's Talk

Parlor-Style Meetings After the Chagim

Eighth-grade parents will soon receive an invitation to attend one of two parlor-style meetings for an evening of conversation with the Upper School principals. This will be an opportunity to learn more about the Upper School -- what we offer, of course, but at least as important, how and WHY we do what we do.

Wednesday, November 2

7:30-9:00 p.m.

at the home of

  Norah Mazar and Shmuel Weglein

7 Windsor Road


Sunday, November 6
7:00-8:30 p.m.
at the home of

Deena and Avi Traum

26 Ames Court


We hope to see you there!

Sixth-Grade Study of the Chagim

by Rabbi Yaakov Beker 

In preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the sixth grade has been engaged in a special teshuva project based on Rambam's Laws of Teshuva.  Each student selected one halachah, composed a list of concepts he/she learned from it about teshuva, and wrote a story incorporating these concepts. Each student assembled all of this on a poster, together with related artwork.  The results are both inspiring and beautiful!

During the Aseret Yemei Teshuva, we are looking forward to each student presenting their halacha and poster to the rest of the class, so that everyone will learn about all of these halachot.

Seventh-Grade Science
by Ken Rosenstein

Would you find abiotic factors in Fred's community? What's 
abiotic? What's biotic? What does it mean to be ALIVE?
The seventh grade has completed their Ecosystems unit.
We have developed a solid understanding of important concepts, such as the difference between population size and population density. Concepts like this one will provide a basis for our upcoming studies of concentration, and discussions of diffusion and osmosis in the near future.
What factor is common to ALL BIOTIC THINGS?
Time to take out the microscopes!
Stay tuned...

Eighth-Grade Hebrew

by Dana Bar-Or


Hebrew has had a very busy week! In a unit about names, we watched a Hebrew movie called "Eicha" by the Israeli Theater Maale in Jerusalem. It is available online here. The movie is about the conflicts involved in changing your first name, and in the case of the movie, the main character's parents strongly disagree with the change. And yet the name Eicha, which is also the name of the megila read on Tish'a B'Av, is a very difficult one to bear...

Later in the week, we had a Google hang-out with an Israeli lawyer who has three girls, all of whom have names that are usually given to boys.

We finished the week by calling a taxi company and practicing real-life conversations using what we've learned.


S'chach Sale!

Today is the last day to order s'chach through the PTA! 

If you have ordered s'chach, please pick it up on Thursday, October 13, between 7 and 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 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