Upper School Weekly Update

January 27th, 2017  -  Va'era
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Mock Trial Victory
Yachad Club Guest
Student Perception Surveys
Music is Medicine
Division Newsletters
Next Week
Sunday, January 29 

7:00 p.m. Music is Medicine concert 

Girls' Basketball vs. Pope John (JV 1:00, Var 2:30) 
Monday, January 30 

Boys' Basketball vs. Gann (JV only 4:00) 
Tuesday, January 31 
No changes 
Wednesday, February 1 
Wrestling @ South Shore Tech (TBD) 
Thursday, February 2  Varsity Basketball @ Notre Dame (Girls 5:30, Boys 7:00) 

JV Boys' Basketball @ Cats Academy (5:30) 
Friday, February 3 
11th grade Shabbaton
In Two Weeks 

Having a


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D'var Torah 

by Rabbi Dov Huff

I was privileged to hear Rabbi Goldman speak to his Talmud class about striving to be like Moshe Rabbeinu. He told them how the Torah intentionally introduces Moshe's parents as "a man from the house of Levi" and "a daughter of Levi" to show us that anyone can produce a Moshe Rabbeinu. Rabbi Goldman challenged our students to believe in themselves and in their potential.
This sentiment is echoed in a piece by Rav Hirsch on a striking tangent in this week's parsha. After Moshe and Aharon's first encounter with Pharoah, as we prepare to watch them perform the spectacular miracles of Hashem, the Torah suddenly interrupts the narrative with a recounting of their geneology. Rav Hirsch explains that it is human nature to attribute superhuman qualities to those whom we see performing spectacular feats. The Torah therefore wants to emphasize that Moshe and Aharon "were subject to all failings and weaknesses, to all the limits and requirements of human beings..." They had parents, cousins, uncles, and aunts. They were not born into these prominent roles, but into a family, and they reached their tremendous heights through great effort and determination.
This lesson from Moshe Rabbeinu, as framed by Rav Hirsch and by Rabbi Goldman to his students, is one that we also find in current educational theory. The keys to achievement are effort and effective strategies. You are not born a Moshe Rabbeinu; you have  to become one.
Rav Moshe Lichtenstein in his "Tsir VaTzon" points out that the geneology starts with the children of Reuven, then continues with the children of Shimon, and ends with Moshe and Aharon, the children of Levi. Rav Moshe sees this as Hashem's search for a leader. Hashem wanted someone to step up. No one was born for the part of extracting the Jews from Mitzrayim - someone had to take initiative and make it happen. And as He went down the list, nobody came forward, until it came to the children of Levi. This interpretation, while different than Rav Hirsch's, delivers the same message - it is not what you are born with, but what you choose to do, that makes you a leader.  
This message is also liberating, in a way. We all have the potential, through hard work, to develop ourselves and reach our goals. At the same time, those goals which we do not achieve are not due to an inherent flaw. I am not a failure if I do not start on the basketball team, or if I do not get a 100 on my test. I will not label myself as inadequate. Instead, I will think about spending more time working on my shot or adjusting my study habits. I can choose where to focus my efforts and where not to.
Tom Brady, the GOAT (greatest of all time), was not good in high school and no team wanted him in the draft because he was too slow. The Patriots took him 199th because he was the best of bad options. He could have given up, labeling himself as a failure and an inherently poor football player, or he could commit his life to being the best. We have to help our students to believe in themselves - to not judge their self-worth by the grades they get or the teams they make. Instead they must see in themselves the ability to be the next Moshe Rabbeinu, Aharon Hakohen, or Miriam Hanevia - the ones who stepped up.
Questions for the Shabbos table:
1. What was your takeaway from the d'var Torah this morning?
2. What do you want to achieve?
3. How will you get there?
Thoughts of the Rav 

by Rabbi Dov Huff      
In the next two parshiyot we read about the hardening (vayachbed) and strengthening (vayechezak) of Pharoah's heart. The Rav explains that these verbs are describing degrees of sensitivity. When the Torah says "kaved lev Pharoah" it means that Pharoah had no conscience or sense of morality. The Rav supports this with a pasuk from Yechezkel - "and I will remove the heart of stone from you and I will give you a heart of flesh" - a hardened heart is an inhuman one. 
On the other hand, when the Torah says "vaYechezak lev Pharoah" it means that Pharoah's heart was strong. It had the capacity for sensitivity. In these moments he was fully aware of what he was doing, but was resisting "the onslaught of the moral challenge." The slavery was a calculated economic decision, at the cost of doing the right thing, and Pharoah knew it. 
For this reason, the Rav says, we see Pharoah oscillating between sentiments like "you (the Jews) are being lazy" - an entirely ethically vacant heart - and "Hashem is righteous and I and my nation are the wicked ones" - a morally aware heart which he is choosing to resist. And it is in this resistance that Pharoah has his bechira, his free will, but he fails to make the right and ethical choice.
Mock Trial Victory
The Maimonides Mock Trial team started its season with a win on Thursday, the fourteenth season in a row that the team has started with a victory.

Maimonides represented the prosecution in the trial, held against opponent team Match Charter School. The trial was held in a rarely accessed venue, the John Joseph Moakley Federal Court House. 
The next trial will be this coming Monday, January 30, against Cathedral High School,  in which Maimonides will once again be prosecution.

In the third preliminary trial of the season, Maimonides will switch to the defense side of the case in their match with Boston Latin Academy.

This year's trial involves the killing of a man at a fireworks show by his old high school rival, a recently returned veteran. The legal questions pit first-degree murder against the insanity defense of PTSD.

Yachad Club Guest
Our Upper School students were treated to some lunchtime comedy from Pamela Schuller on Monday, thanks to New England Yachad and our student Yachad Club. Pamela was in town to present her show "Pamela Schuller LIVE! What Makes Me Tic: Comedy, Disability & Inclusion," and our students were fortunate to have the opportunity to meet Pam and hear about her experiences living with Tourette's Syndrome.

Student Perception Surveys
by Scott Mattoon

Starting this week we were pleased to launch the first wave of a new online Student Perception Survey to grades 6-12.  After creating the instrument in collaboration with department chairs and teachers, we administered this survey as a way to learn more about what students are experiencing in some of their classes.  The surveys pose questions that span all disciplines, and also some that are specific to each discipline.

Before the first surveys began, we met with students to discuss the survey's intention and the importance of the process  -  most notably that we respect their perspective, and so they should respect the survey by offering their most thoughtful and sincere responses.  Their teachers are, to be sure, the academic and pedagogical experts in their learning process; but only the students have firsthand experience in that learning process that is an essential complement to the learning relationship between teacher and student.  Knowing what they perceive about their experiences is vital to our broader efforts to connect our lessons to them in effective ways.  Our teachers, as a natural part of their ongoing professional practice, will engage in thoughtful reflection on the survey results as they consider their approach to their classes in the remainder of the year.

We value the excellence among our faculty; it takes trained and nimble intellects, instinctive and compassionate hearts, and open minds for our faculty to be successful at Maimonides.  Through this survey, and our iterative reflection process, we also value understanding the student experience as a key to leveraging all that our faculty have to offer. 

Music is Medicine Concert

Our Music is Medicine student club performs regularly at area hospitals to lift patients' spirits. The group will be presenting a concert to benefit children with cancer on Sunday, January 29 at 7:00 pm in Brener Auditorium.  All are welcome!

See What's Happening in the Other Divisions

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