Maimonides School: Middle School Matters

December 2, 2016                       Parashat Toldot                         2 Kislev, 5777 

Maimonides School
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Power of Words Day
Sixth-Grade Navi
Eighth-Grade Computer Science/ Design and Human Factors
Yom Chesed
Collecting for Those in Need
Basketball Tournament
ROFEH Toy Drive
2016-17 Calendars
Handbook Online
Vehicle Policies
Maimo on Instagram
Directory Online
Online Photo Galleries

Quick Links
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Dear Middle School Families,   

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

Many questions emerge from the story of Yaakov and Esav and their battle for the bracha. Didn't Yitzchak and Rivka already know Yaakov would get the bracha, from the prophecy of "ve'rav yaavod tzair" - the elder would serve the younger? Did only Rivka know? Why would she not say anything? Why did Yitzchak prefer Esav? Did he not realize what he was? Did Yitzchak Avinu really think that Am Yisrael was supposed to come from the ish sadeh rather than the
ish tam yoshev ohalim - the Talmid Chacham? And does this mean that we have our status, our great responsibility as the descendants of Yaakov, because of a trick? Did we receive the Torah and become the am hanivchar based on a deception?
It is interesting to look at the Mefarshim and see how they address these questions along the course of the narrative. Their varying positions point to different understandings of what really happened. So much so that it seems that if our Rebbe in grade school had been the Ramban, for example, the story we would have walked away with would have been quite different than the one we would have learned from the Ibn Ezra or Rashi. Let us follow the thread through the eyes of the Radak and fill in some blanks to understand what seems to be happening from his perspective. 
According to the Radak, despite the simple meaning of the text, Yitzchak knew what Esav was and what Yaakov was meant to be. The Torah is not saying that Yitzchak loved Esav more, but that he loved him also (Radak 25:28). It was not Yitzchak who was mistaken, but Rivka, because Yitzchak knew that there were actually two brachot to be given - one which would be contested and one which would not. The latter is the bracha of the brit of Avraham - the responsibility of carrying the torch of Avraham, fathering the nation of Am Yisrael, receiving the Torah, inheriting Eretz Yisrael, and being the am hanivchar. To borrow the terminology of Rabbi Leibtag, this was the bracha of bechira - always intended for Yaakov Avinu, the ish tam
The contested bracha, the one he wished to give Esav, was a bracha fitting for the ish sadeh - a different bracha altogether. It is a bracha of wealth and economic success, of power and prominence. This is not the bracha of bechira but of bechora - the double portion granted to the eldest son. And if we look at the bracha intended for Esav, this is precisely what it is about: "Hashem will give you the dew of the heavens and fat of the land. Nations will serve and bow to you." 
According to the Radak, Rivka was the one mistaken, not realizing that Yaakov would receive all he needed with his bracha of bechira, so she set up the deception (Radak 27:4). 
In light of this, we can suggest that this is, in fact, what Yitzchak means when Esav comes in, the deception is realized, and Yitzchak says "gam baruch yehiye" - he (Yaakov) will also be blessed. Also blessed, but not necessarily with the same blessing. And Yitzchak is still able to give Esav a bracha about financial success, because such a bracha is not limited to one. 
Following this line of thought of the Radak, we can better understand the end of the parsha. Before Yaakov Avinu flees, he is given yet another bracha by his father Yitzchak. Notice how different this bracha is from the previous one: "Hashem will bless you and make you a nation, and He will give you the bracha of Avraham to you and your offspring, with you to inherit the land in which you live, which Hashem gave to Avraham."
In this final goodbye to his son, Yitzchak does what he had intended to do all along: Impart to his yoshev ohalim the responsibility to build a nation of ovdei Hashem who, in the zechut of Avraham Avinu, would inherit the land of Eretz Yisrael and be a beacon of ethical monotheism to all the nations. 
Questions for the Shabbos table:
  1. What was your takeaway from the d'var Torah this morning?
  2. In terms of the questions we raised in the beginning, what advantages does this version of the story have? What disadvantages?
  3. Which bracha, bechira or bechora, did Yaakov purchase from Esav? Are they both for sale?
  4. Trace the story through the lens of another Rishon. How do they see it differently?
Thoughts of the Rav

by Rabbi David Saltzman 

The Rav explains, in Worship of the Heart, that prayer is a dialogical medium by which we can communicate with G-d. It is a conversation between finitude and infinity, with G-d being the listener and man being the speaker. As opposed to some other contemporary conceptions of prayer, Judaism considers this "selfish" petitionary prayer as the central theme of the service.
Looking at the beginning of the parasha this week, we see that Yitzchak prayed to G-d and implored Him to grant him offspring. We incorporate this aspect of tefilla in the middle part of the weekday Amidah, which contains 13 of the 16 berachot which are totally devoted to thoughtful petition. The reason for this centrality lies in our philosophy that prayer is avoda she-be-lev - namely, the feeling of unqualified dependence.
Therefore, the understanding of Jewish prayer must give a place of prominence to the idea and to the experience of petition.
Sigd Celebration
Our students learned about the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd from our shlichot. It's observed on the 29th of Cheshvan, and in 2008 became an official holiday in Israel. The tradition in Jerusalem is to celebrate on a mountain with a view of the city, and pray for the rebuilding of the Beit Ha'mikdash.

Sixth-Grade Navi

by Stephanie Samuels 

The sixth-grade Navi students are learning about Shmuel's first revelation as a prophet (in perek gimmel of Sefer Shmuel I).  They worked on sketches of the "setting" of the story, and now they are acting out the scene where Hashem first calls to Shmuel.  Ask your child what part they played: Eli, Shmuel, Hashem, Narrator 1 or 2, or Director!


Computer Science / Design and Human Factors

by Lev Novikov  

In Computer Science, we've been working on making simple video games using ProcessingJS on Khan Academy. Most games have some simple animation, and we're starting to add interactive elements like clicking and using the keyboard. 

Top Row: Tank Game by Eitan W., Pong by Yoni S., Racing by Ben I.; 
Bottom Row: Simon by Avishai J., Moving Ball by Mikey N.,

Soccer Shootout by Zevi L.

In Design & Human Factors, we are designing physical spaces and objects for people. Students are currently busy making phone calls and interviewing people who would be affected by their designs. Current location projects include a mall (Devorah W.), a gym (Ellie K.), a clothing store (Noa B. & Ayelet B.), a park (Aitan M.), and airport security (Noam K.). For physical objects we have a sling (Talya A.), a durable shoe (Shimon T.), a de-frizzing hat (Eliana N.), a 3D-printed pencil (Zoe R.), and a rocket to replace Amazon drones (Sam H.).

We hope to showcase the products of both classes later in the year.
Yom Chesed is THIS Sunday!

We are all ready for Sunday's Yom Chesed event, and looking forward to seeing many members of the Maimonides community there!

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. 

Help those in need with these vital donations!
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 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

ROFEH Toy Drive


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