Maimonides School: Middle School Matters

November 11, 2016                Parashat Lech Lecha                 10 Cheshvan, 5777 

Maimonides School
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Shabbat Project
Parent-Teacher Conferences
Sixth-Grade Hebrew
Seventh-Grade Navi
Eighth-Grade Talmud
Eighth-Grade Chumash
Middle School Basketball
Parent-Teacher Conferences
Parent-Teacher Conferences
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 Middle School Families,   

It's been a pleasure to meet so many of you here at Parent-Teacher Conferences. We're looking forward to seeing the rest of you on November 20!

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

This week's parsha ends with Avraham Avinu's brit milah. There is a disagreement among Chazal in the Midrash Rabbah (39:9) as to whether or not Avraham experienced any pain or discomfort. Rabbi Abba Bar Kahana takes the position that Avraham felt significant pain during the milah, which increased his level of s'char - reward.
Rabbi Levi, on the other hand, brings textual evidence that Avraham felt nothing. He points out that the pasuk doesn't say "Avraham circumcised himself" in the active voice. Instead it employs the nifal, the passive form - "nimol" - meaning he was circumcised. Rabbi Levi learns from this that Avraham "found himself circumcised" - he did not even notice as it happened.
The Midrash records that upon hearing this position, Rabbi Abba attacked Rabbi Levi, calling him a liar and reemphasizing that Avraham underwent significant pain. Perhaps we can suggest that Rabbi Abba's visceral response to the idea that Avraham felt nothing results from the unconscionable suggestion that one could enter a brit, a covenant, with G-d, passively - that there is no hard work involved in rising to this lofty challenge, and ascending to the profound ideal and beautiful vision of humanity that G-d has detailed for us in the Torah. Rabbi Abba seems to reject Rabbi Levi's suggestion that we can just wake up one day and find ourselves meeting the demands of the Brit E-lokim.
Being part of the covenant which Avraham Avinu made with Hashem demands hard work. It requires that we take on new challenges and new responsibilities; that we always strive to grow and be better, to bond ourselves to Rabbi Abba's vision of a covenant, whose reward corresponds to the effort invested.
Questions for the Shabbos table:
  1. What might we answer in defense of Rabbi Levi's position? 
  2. Can you think of commitments you have made which are stronger because you had to work at them?
Thoughts of the Rav

by Rabbi David Saltzman  
The Rav zt"l wonders: why did Avraham go to Egypt at the beginning of his journey? He answers that Avraham was in a hurry to spread his message of morality, his new doctrine, and his new belief in monotheism. What better way than to visit a large city and spread the message? The plan in Egypt did not work out as Avraham had hoped.
According to the Rav, Hashem was tasking Avraham with the following: There is no need to spread My name, morality, or norms. I have one job for you - raise a family. Whatever you had in mind to teach Pharaoh and his nation, teach to your child. Build a Beit Avraham and I will be satisfied, and your mission will be complete. This message was passed on to Yitzchak, then to Yaakov, and so on.
The Jewish home is the mission with which Avraham was charged. It is the mission with which every Jew is charged. Every Jew is a little Sarah or Avraham, and will pass on the Torah, to be perpetuated forever.

Send pictures for the Maimonides Shabbat Project
This Shabbat, the entire Maimonides School community will display our arvut and unity with our brothers and sisters throughout the world by participating in The Shabbat Project. The concept of The Shabbat Project is simple: Once a year, Jews from all walks of life - religious, secular and traditional, young and old, from all corners of the world - unite to experience one full Shabbat together, in full accordance with Jewish law.

For this important project, we at Maimonides will express our solidarity with Am Yisrael, and our love for Shabbat, in a unique way. We will provide everyone with a glimpse into how each of our families honors Shabbat by lovingly preparing for, and creating, the holy atmosphere of Shabbat in our homes.

To make this a reality, please take a picture at home on Friday before Shabbat, or on Motzaei Shabbat during havdalah. It can be a picture of any and all family members setting the table, shopping, preparing the Shabbat meal, baking challot, setting the candlesticks, posing together in Shabbat clothing, or any other image that you would like. The pictures that you submit will then be combined to form a beautiful testament to our community's unbreakable connection to Shabbat and to the Jewish people.  This will be assembled as a slideshow and posted online.

Please send your pictures to by noon on Sunday.

May this Shabbat, kept by so many Jews worldwide, be a harbinger of peace and unity throughout the world.

Parent-Teacher Conferences
Thank you to everyone who has signed up for Parent-Teacher Conferences! Over 350 parents schoolwide signed up for over 2500 conferences with their children's teachers, which are happening over the course of three days this month.  Meetings ran from 10:00 - 7:00 p.m. yesterday, and were in full swing today with conferences from 8:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.

The last day of Parent-Teacher Conferences will be a week from Sunday, November 20, with meetings from 12:00 - 7:00 p.m.

The registration website is now closed. Please contact the Middle School office if you have not yet registered for conferences.

Sixth-Grade History

by Roberta Wright 
Ms. Wright's sixth-grade history students are working on researching U.S. state information.  To help us in this task, we're reviewing ways to research in books and are expanding to doing independent Internet research.  In order to be sure that our students are able to use the Internet safely and efficiently, they're learning how to evaluate websites for source materials.  We have looked at criteria for evaluation and practiced with websites that look acceptable and others that aren't good sources. 

Thanks to our librarian, Elizabeth Zygadlo, for her assistance in creating this curriculum! 

Seventh-Grade Navi
by Rabbi Yaakov Beker

7B and 7C Navi have recently completed Sefer Shmuel Aleph!  The last two main topics we covered were:

The fascinating episode of King Shaul conjuring up Shmuel HaNavi from the dead through Ov magic in order to ask his advice regarding the impending war against the Pelishtim


The suicide of King Shaul toward the end of the war, to avoid being captured alive and tortured. Based on the commentaries, he may have had a number of other considerations.  This led to some interesting discussions about the Torah viewpoint on the sanctity of human life, which is at odds with the beliefs of the "Death with Dignity" and "Right to Die" movements of modern society.

Eighth-Grade Talmud

by Rabbi Dror Saadia 
This year the eighth-grade Talmud classes are studying Masechet Bava Metzia. Bava Metzia - The Middle Gate - is the second Masechet in the fourth order of the Mishna, known as Nezikin - torts or damages. It is also the second part of a threefold sub-group of tractates within this order, also called Nezikin, which comprises Bava Kamma, Bava Metzia, and Bava Basra (the first, middle, and last parts of Nezikin).
This year we will be focusing on the third chapter of Bava Metzia. This chapter discusses the responsibilities, obligations, and liabilities of a shomer. A shomer is one who assumes responsibility for the safekeeping of another person's property, which is placed in his care. This property is called a pikadon, or a deposit.
Since the beginning of the year the students have been exposed to the introduction of the chapter and have learned basic vocabulary and terms that will help them understand the overall concept of the subjects we discuss in class, such as שבועות השומרים,אומדנא, קנין, כפל, שמות ארבעת השומרים, etc.
We also learned how the court gets the authority to אומדנא (assume) what the owners' intentions are, and to actually make decisions for them for the purpose of doing real justice.
I am happy to see that the students seem very interested in the talmudic material that we are learning. They are doing a great job asking questions that we need to discuss in depth, and finding ways in which the Talmud is relevant to their own daily lives. I hope that this positive approach will continue to accompany the students throughout the year.

Eighth-Grade Chumash
by Rabbi Eliezer Bercuson

This year in eighth-grade Chumash class is devoted to learning Sefer Shemot.  With the chagim now behind us, we have entered one of the most important times of the year!

We are now in the thick of studying the Aseret ha-Dibrot, the Ten Commandments.  In Parashat Yitro, we encounter the Aseret ha-Dibrot for the first time.  With the maturity of near-Upper Schoolers, we are approaching this central text from a few different angles.  We compare this first appearance of the Aseret ha-Dibrot with its second appearance in Parashat Va'etchanan; analyze the interpretations of a handful of parashanim (commentators); apply these verses to our everyday lives; and touch on the finer points of the Hebrew language. 

Our students have all heard of the Ten Commandments before, and now we have the pleasure of learning what they mean for us today!

Middle School Basketball
Middle School basketball tryouts are coming up soon!


Girls' Middle School Basketball Tryouts 
First Tryout - Sun. 11/20, 9:30 am-11:30 am

Second Tryout-  Mon. 11/21, 5:00-6:30 pm

Third Tryout - Tue. 11/22, 5:00-6:30 pm

Boys' Middle School Basketball Tryouts

First Tryout - Sun. 11/20,12:00 pm- 2:00 pm

Second TryoutMon. 11/21, 6:30-8:00 pm

Third Tryout - Tue. 11/22, 6:30-8:00 pm 

We encourage all interested students in grades 6-8 to try out, with the understanding that there are a limited number of roster spots on each team. All prospective student-athletes should plan on attending each tryout. If a student cannot make a tryout date but wants to be considered for a team, that student must email Mr. Borkow directly explaining the circumstance.

Please note: The MIAA (Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association) requires that for a student-athlete to be eligible for participation on a sports team, he or she must have had a physical exam within 13 months of that student's participation in that sport. Compliance with this rule is mandatory; if you know your child wants to play basketball, please be sure to have their physical exam updated as needed.

All student-athletes who make either team will be charged the
per student fee of $150. If anyone with a child on a team has any concerns regarding payment, please contact Arline Tannenbaum (617-232-4452 X 425). Your conversation will be confidential. No student-athlete will be denied the chance to participate for financial reasons.

Tryouts for our Upper SchoolJV and varsity basketball teams will begin after Thanksgiving and will be publicized soon. Please contact Mr. Borkow with any questions.

One more week left for Yom Chesed registration!

Registration is filling up for Yom Chesed, our all-ages community service initiative, which will take place on Sunday, December 4 from 9:00 a.m.- noon. This schoolwide community service initiative, which supports our year-long theme of arvut (mutual responsibility), is in its fourth year and is fun for everyone, including students, parents, faculty, grandparents, alumni and parents of alumni.
Our Yom Chesed web page has a complete list of projects, as well as all the information on how to sign up. The registration deadline is next Friday, November 18. Projects are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so please don't wait to sign up.

Together we WILL make a difference!

Vital collections for those in need! Can you help?
In conjunction with Yom Chesed, we are collecting items for two local organizations that provide essential items for local families.

Full size toothpaste and deodorant are needed for Hope and Cure, a Newton-based organization that provides hygiene products for adults and children in need.

Family Table, the area's only kosher food pantry, is an organization that Maimonides supports throughout the year with donations of whole wheat crackers and canned salmon.

Collection boxes are located in the Brener (outside the Elementary School office) and Saval (outside the Upper School office) buildings. Your donations will be greatly appreciated!

Invitational Basketball Tournament
The excitement is building for the annual Maimonides Invitational Basketball Tournament and Shabbaton, which is now less than five weeks away. The tournament is scheduled for Thursday-Sunday, December 15-18.

Participating boys' and girls' teams will be from Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Kansas, Melvin Berman Hebrew Academy in Maryland, and Rambam Mesivta and Yeshiva of Flatbush in New York. Games will take place in Fox Gymnasium and around the corner at Brookline High School's Schluntz Gym.

Organizers are recruiting volunteers for a variety of roles and responsibilities. Anyone interested in volunteering may contact Ahron Solomont at (914) 548-0365 or

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 has been 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