Upper School Weekly Update

February 3rd, 2017  -  Bo
In This Issue
D'var Torah and Thoughts of the Rav
Mock Trial Victory
Talmud Experiment
Alumni Newsletter
Division Newsletters
Next Week
Sunday, February 5  
Boys' Basketball Var @ Cristo Rey (TBD), JV vs. Cats Academy (1:00) 
Girls' Basketball @ Ursuline (JV 1:00, Var 2:30)
Wrestling @ Sharon JV (noon)

Monday, February 6   
Mock Trial Competition
Tuesday, February 7 
3:00 Dismissal 

Boys' Basketball @ South Shore Christian (Var & JV both 4:00)

Girls' Basketball Var @ South Shore Christian (4:00), JV vs. Gann (5:00)

Wrestling @ Chapel Hill-Chauncy Hall (4:15)

Wednesday, February 8 

No changes

Thursday, February 9 

Boys' Basketball vs. Fenway (Var only 5:30)

Friday, February 10   

No changes
In Two Weeks 

Having a


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D'var Torah and Thoughts of the Rav  

by Rabbi Eliezer Bercuson

Being a rebbe at Maimonides School, I am regularly reminded of my own school days. As a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed hockey aficionado, I was involved in every aspect of the game. In high school, I was even a hockey referee. At the tender age of 14 or so, I had to learn and enforce the rules: Be firm and confident; penalize when necessary; never show bias; and stand up to impetuous, shouting coaches. (Canadians take their hockey very seriously -too seriously at times.) I learned manifold lessons from these years of experience. It was not easy.
We tend not to see a referee as human. With regard to Parshat Bo, who has ever seen Pharaoh as a human being? It seems that Chazal (our Sages) are inclined to view non-Jewish leaders as human beings. This is not to suggest that Chazal see Pharaoh as anything less than a rasha, an evil man, of course. He was an enemy of the Jewish people. As the Torah Temimah notes (on Shemot 15:6), inherent in G-d's uniqueness is the ability to simultaneously demonstrate middat ha-din (the attribute of judgment) and middat ha-rachamim (the attribute of mercy). All the while that G-d emphasizes Pharaoh's humanity in the Torah, G-d will mete out judgment against him. Pharaoh is pictured from at least two different angles.
Chazal have a general esteem for gentile leaders. We see this, in fact, in halachah (practice), and not just in theory. The Gemara in Masekhet Brakhot 58a introduces us to a brachah (blessing) that we are supposed to say upon seeing a gentile king in person. This brachah follows the typical formula, finally praising G-d "who has given of His glory to flesh and blood." (This follows the texts of the Rambam, Rif, Rosh, and Shulchan Arukh. Other editions of the Gemara refer to "His creations," rather than "flesh and blood.") Though the gentile king himself may not recognize G-d's ultimate sovereignty over the universe, we Jews do recognize the foreign king's role in the unfolding of Divine Providence. Powerful individuals, even non-Jewish ones, have outsized authority in the affairs of all nations. We praise these kings when appropriate; we challenge them when need be.
On the other hand, even Pharaoh cannot be seen as merely a government official - an iron-fisted one, at that. As recorded by Rabbi Ari Kahn, Rabbi Joseph B. Solovetichik, zt"l, suggested that Moshe would approach Pharaoh each time in one of two ways. In Parshat Va'era, G-d sent Moshe to confront Pharaoh prior to the first plague, which was blood. G-d's command there was "lech," "go" (Shemot 7:15). This was an aggressive order, the kind of action that is necessary against a dangerous despot.
Parshat Bo, however, opens with G-d's command of "bo," "come to Pharaoh" (Shemot 10:1). Rashi identifies this as a warning that G-d is asking Moshe to pass on to the Egyptian king. As Rabbi Soloveitchik explains, Moshe is here appealing to Pharaoh's humanity. Moshe is not protesting or challenging. He is entering Pharaoh's home and informing Pharaoh the man, Pharaoh the father of children, that it is wrong to destroy families and wicked to throw children into the water. "Bo" is a request to come closer.
During the series of plagues, we see Moshe confronting Pharaoh the king, going head-to-head in battle against the Grand Poobah of the Egyptian empire. Subsequently, we see Moshe appealing to Pharaoh the man, attempting to see eye-to-eye with a person of supposed decency. This is not just a recognition of the many "hats" that we all wear -professional, personal, intellectual, and so on. It is also a political strategy. When a gentile king sees no need to compromise with a small, rogue nation, perhaps then it is worthwhile to pull on his heartstrings, to touch him where he is emotionally vulnerable.
With Pharaoh this strategy does not yield fruit. In the end, Moshe finds himself speaking with an obstinate absolute monarch and with a resolutely unsympathetic trifle of a man. The heavy, hardened heart applies to both of these aspects of Pharaoh. Nevertheless, Moshe's approach, gleaned from the Holy King of Kings, was a sound one. What if Moshe had softly addressed Pharaoh-the-man earlier in their lives? Could Pharaoh have become more open to noticing concurrently his own tzelem Elokim (divine image) and that of his subjects? Given the eventual outcome of the Exodus, should this be taken as merely an important hashkafic (philosophical) point, that no human ceases to be human? Or does this remain a valuable negotiating strategy?
And how much easier and more enjoyable would hockey games and other sporting matches be if we were to pause to consider that the referee is just as much flesh and blood as the rest of us?
Another Mock Trial Victory
This week the Maimonides Mock Trial team won its second trial of the season, by a score of 93-81. This time they were matched against Cathedral High School, and once again represented the Commonwealth in the proceedings.


Next week, the team will switch sides and represent the defendant in their match against Boston Latin Academy. In this year's case, a recently-returned veteran is accused of murdering their high school nemesis during the annual July 4th fireworks show, with the defense arguing that the defendant was suffering from a PTSD hallucination and was therefore not criminally responsible.

Team captains are seniors Lauren Koralnik and Hadassah Stanhill.

Talmud Experiment

Rabbi Jaffe's 11th grade Talmud class conducted an experiment in yad soledet bo, a halachic measure of the temperature at which the hand recoils. Our willing volunteers determined that this point is somewhere between 60 and 70 degrees Celsius. 
Alumni Newsletter Online
The monthly alumni newsletter for January is now online, and can be found here.  This issue's articles include:
  • Alumna Strives to Stay on the Cutting Edge of Website Design
  • Graduate Finds a Market in Israel for His Construction Skills
  • Decades Ago, Maimonides Laid the Groundwork for Floor Hockey
  • Biography Replete with Praise
If you would like to receive the alumni newsletter each month, contact Mike Rosenberg at (617) 232-4452 x 405 or mrosenberg@maimonides.org.
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