February 3, 2017                    Parashat Bo                 7 Shevat, 5777 
In This Issue
D'var Torah and Thoughts of the Rav
Seventh-Grade Math
Eighth-Grade Computer Programming
After-School Program
Middle School Lit Mag
Alumni Newsletter
Absence Notifications
Division Newsletters
Online Photo Galleries

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Dear Middle School Families,   

It's been another busy week in the Middle School! Please read on for a d'var Torah with thoughts from the works of Rav Soloveitchik, and some highlights from the week.
Shabbat Shalom!  

Brian Cohen
Associate Principal, Middle School        

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?
Seventh-Grade Math
by Mr. Michael Shockett and Dr. Regina Campbell-Malone

Mr. Schockett's class has just finished a unit on solving linear inequalities, including absolute value inequalities.  Coming up next week is a little bit of set theory!

Sometimes, learning math can feel like learning another language. Just ask Pre-Algebra students in Dr. Campbell-Malone's seventh-grade math classes! They are learning the language and symbols of mathematics, including exponents, negative exponents, and the radical sign (square root). No one can say that Pre-Algebra students are squares, but they sure know how to get numbers SQUARED away! The students can now use the power of exponents to square numbers and variables, and have mastered how to take things to a "higher power" using the product rule and power law!

The Middle School is proud to announce that seven seventh-grade students will be participating in this year's Mathcounts Chapter Competition! The competition will take place on Wednesday at North Andover High School.

Eighth-Grade Computer Programming

by Mr. Lev Novikov

Welcome to the new eighth-grade computer programming period! The students have already had their first classes, at which they set up Khan Academy accounts.

Please complete page 2 of this data collection permission form for your eighth-grader and return it to the Upper School or Middle School office. Note: We do not currently plan to video record this special edition class. We will let you know if that changes.

Maimonides School Activities Program

The after-school MSAP (Maimonides School Activities Program)
Fall into Winter semester ends this coming week (with Tuesday programs already having ended this week).

The brochure for our Winter into Spring semester was sent home in your child's backpack. Registration closes on Thursday, February 9. Many courses have limits on their numbers, so hurry and send in your registration!

Please contact Dr. Deborah Mehl, dmehl@maimonides.org, if you have any questions.

Lit Mag Submissions Now Open!
Your Magazine, our Middle School showcase of students' artwork and writing, is now accepting submissions for its annual publication! Please encourage your child to submit his or her favorite creative work to the Middle School office.

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.
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: svedol@maimonides.org

Please remember:

We are not 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.

Division Newsletters

Lots of wonderful things are happening at Maimonides School!

If you'd like to take a peek at the other divisions' newsletters, please click here.

If you would like to contact a specific school office, please use these emails:

On behalf of the entire Middle School:

Shabbat Shalom!


Brian Cohen



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