Maimonides School: Middle School Matters

Oct. 21, 2016                         Shabbat Sukkot                    19 Tishrei, 5777 

Maimonides School
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Sukkot Celebrations
Simcha Dancing
Eighth-Grade Save the Date
Sixth-Grade English
Eighth-Grade History
Parent-Teacher Conferences
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 have been enjoying celebrating Sukkot with your children this week, with activities including Hallel, "Sukkah-tivities," and all-school festivities in the gym. We wish everyone a wonderful weekend, Shemini Atzeret, and Simchat Torah, and look forward to seeing the children again on Wednesday.

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, and Chag Sameach! 

Brian Cohen
Associate Principal, Middle School  

Sixth-grade students enjoyed their visit to the sukkah  
of Naty Katz, head of school

D'var Torah

by Rabbi Dov Huff


This time of year is a time of conclusions. With Sukkot we complete the agricultural cycle, and with Simchat Torah we complete the cycle of the chumash. As we reach a conclusion, the end of a cycle, we think about where we came from and to where we are about to return - the beginning.

On Simchat Torah we read both the end and the beginning. Is there a greater connection between the two beyond their relative placement in the chumash? Does the end somehow provide closure to the beginning? Do we arrive at a new understanding which changes our perspective on the Torah story?

To answer, let us look back at the start. Hashem places man in Gan Eden, an idyllic existence. A close encounter with the Divine. But man sins by eating from the tree of tov ve'ra, and is banished. We are deprived of that closeness, cast away from that spiritually perfect state. Man is in crisis and abandoned. Perhaps the rest of the Torah is man's attempt to claw his way back - to return home to Gan Eden.

And what is the shape that Gan Eden takes in this world - in the reality which we created through a lack of adherence to the tenets of tov and ra? Our Gan Eden is Eretz Yisrael. In the beginning, we are cast out, cursed that we will only get bread by the sweat of our brow. In the end, we are brought to a "land where you will eat bread without poverty," a land flowing with milk and honey.

The Torah ends with Bnei Yisrael knocking at the door of Gan Eden. We have dreamt of this land promised to our forefathers - the promise of return. Return not only geographically, to the fertile crescent between the Euphrates and the Nile (see Bereishit 2:10-14 and Rashi), but a spiritual return as well - to a place where we can reconnect to our Creator, who placed us in the gan at the beginning of time.  And this time, as we break through the gates of Gan Eden, we are armed with the lessons we learned from the avot, the national character forged in the "iron furnace" of Mitzrayim, the training of the desert, and most importantly, the guide to the understanding of tov ve'ra - the directions to ensure we do not get cast out of Eden again - the Torah.

And the focal point of our Gan Eden is the mikdash. A place whose most precious possession is also guarded by kruvim. A place in which our role echoes that of man in Eden - לעובדה ולשומרה - the kohanim tasked with the avodah, the service, and the leviim tasked with the shemirah, care of the mikdash and its keilim.  The mikdash at the epicenter of our Gan Eden is where we reconnect to the idyllic existence of Adam and Chava in the gan. A level of exceptional purity, innocence, and connection.

Rabbi Leibtag suggests that Sefer Devarim is not only our preparation to enter Eretz Yisrael, but also Moshe Rabbeinu's thesis on how to return to and remain in Gan Eden. He points to several textual parallels between the description of our banishment from Gan Eden as a result of sin, and the warning of banishment from Eretz Yisrael detailed in the tochacha. This is how the Torah ends: Moshe Rabbeinu reminding us of what we once had and all we had to do to get it back. Pleading with us to not repeat the same mistakes. 

With all the conclusions that Shmini Atzeret and Simchat Torah bring, may we renew our appreciation for Eretz Yisrael as the fulfillment of our quest from the time of Adam and Chava - the quest for home. And may we celebrate the Torah, our key to returning to, and remaining in, our modern day Gan Eden.

Questions for the Shabbos table:
  1. What was your takeaway from the d'var Torah this morning?
  2. In what ways is our existence in Eretz Yisrael different than that of Adam and Chava in Gan Eden, and why do you think that is?
  3. Which item of the bigdei kohen reminds us of the Adam and Chava story? (same word)
Thoughts of the Rav

by Rabbi Dov Huff 

The Gemara in Brachot tells us of the rabbinic mitzvah of SHMoT - shnayim mikra v'echad targum. This involves reading each pasuk in the weekly
sedra twice, and then a translation or explanation of that pasuk. This mitzvah 
helps us to deepen our understanding of the parsha, and certainly enhances our joy as we complete the cycle on Simchat Torah.
The Rav says that this mitzvah is ideally performed on Shabbat, as it enhances the Shabbat experience to delve deeply into the parsha of the week. He explains that this is why the Shulchan Aruch codifies the halacha in hilchot Shabbat.
Sukkot Celebrations

As part of our special "Sukkah-tivities" this week, the students formed teams and faced off in Sukkot-themed versions of their favorite activities, designed by Benji Hain, Middle School student life director.

Middle-school artists created clay models of the machane bamidbar - the Jews' encampments in the desert! 

The students used research materials and a big helping of collaboration to create intricate models. 

In a variation on the class game "Broken Telephone," our amazing communicators sent one student to view an artistic sukkah and describe it to another, who would in turn direct a third student to create a matching sukkah.

Middle-school chefs participated in a "Chopped"-style activity, inventing and preparing main courses and salads using required ingredients featuring the seven species - all in just one hour! 

Other activities included basketball and esrog relay races. We were inspired by the students' enthusiasm and impressed by their creations, and they enjoyed showing us what they can do!

Simcha Dancing

The entire school celebrated Sukkot together this morning as we danced and sang in the Saval campus gym.

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 English

by Stephanie Samuels

In English, the sixth graders are busy delving into their "Precept Project."  A precept, according to Mr. Brown in R.J. Palacio's book
Wonder, is "[A]ny saying or ground rule that can motivate you.  Basically, a precept is anything that helps guide us when making decisions about really important things."  The sixth grade students are researching, through the search engine Instagrok, some ideas for their own precepts, and then they are coming up with their own inspirational statements based on their research. 

Some examples of precepts are: "You can submerge the TRUTH under water, but it will not drown. You can bury the TRUTH beneath the ground, but it will arise. You can place the TRUTH in the fire, but it will survive"; "The greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest"; "
Rabbi Shimon said, there are three crowns: the crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship. And the crown of a good name is superior to them all."  Once the students choose or create their own precepts, they will create a series of slides for presentation, each explaining what their precept means in their own words, and why they chose it.  

Last week, the students wrote their SRSD pre-assessment. They read an article and an infographic about composting and waste management, and then they each wrote an essay answering the prompt, "Do you think local governments should require that everyone recycle their food waste?"  The purpose of the pre-assessment is to determine where each individual student needs to improve his or her writing - whether it's in introducing a topic, following up with detailed analysis of the evidence, or using a variety of sentence structures, to name a few areas.  We will continue writing instruction after Simchat Torah! 

On the grammar front, we are busy memorizing our 40 prepositions (the basis for much of the grammar work we will be doing this year).  Please ask your child which strategy he or she is using to remember these prepositions!

Eighth-Grade History

by Roberta Wright

Our eighth-grade students have been incredibly busy in social studies since September! Our first project was to review note-taking skills while learning new tactics to improve. This required the students to make some independent but guided decisions about how they take notes and organize their work. Please ask them about their choices and why they made them.

We then questioned how we view the world by examining the veracity of information we found in maps and pictures. We discussed the importance of understanding multiple perspectives in places like boardrooms, politics, college campuses, and, of course, history classrooms. Studies of the "Nacirema" culture ("American" spelled backwards) offered another interpretation of American culture to help us understand how some might see something as weird, while others view it as perfectly normal. We hope to make some cultural connections as we travel the world within our class.

We are now embarking on our exploration of Latin America! Be sure to ask your children what their research topics are, why they chose them, and what they are learning.

Parent-Teacher Conferences
Get ready to sign up for Parent-Teacher Conferences!  The registration website will open on Monday, October 31 at 9:00 p.m. and close on Monday, November 7 at 10:00 p.m.

Fall Parent-Teacher Conferences will be taking place:
  • Thursday, November 10: Grades K-12 from 10:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., ECC from 1:00 - 7:00 p.m. (no classes)
  • Friday, November 11: Middle/Upper Schools only, from 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. (no MS/US classes)
  • Sunday, November 20: Grades K-12 from 12:00 - 7:00 p.m., ECC from 2:00 - 7:00 p.m.
The registration website can be found here.  Please note that the link will not work until the website opens for conference registration.

Instructions for accessing the website will be sent out after Simchat Torah.  If you do not receive an e-mail with your student(s) ID and registration information, please contact your division office.

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 Online

The Parent/Student Handbook is available 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 being distributed, but parents can also 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