November 17, 2017               Parashat Toldot           29 Cheshvan, 5778 
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Rav Thoughts
Parent-Teacher Conferences
Pizza and Hot Lunch
Chugim Fair
Torah Archaeology Program
Sixth-Grade Science
Seventh-Grade Math
Eighth-Grade Navi
Mazel Tov!
ROFEH Toy Drive
Special Movie Screening
Boy Scout Trip
Absence Notifications
Social Time!
Division Newsletters
Quick Links
Find Maimonides On:
Dear Middle School Families,    
We'd like to take this opportunity to wish you all a peaceful and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend next week, with plenty of time to catch up with your families and friends.
Please enjoy this d'var Torah, a thought from the works of Rav Soloveitchik, news about upcoming events, and some pictures and stories from the week.
Shabbat shalom!  
D'var Torah
by Rabbi Dov Huff  
A major theme of the beginning of the Torah is tefillah. The Gemara in Brachot traces the origin of our three-times-a-day tefillah to the narratives of our avot: Shacharit by Avraham in Parshat Vayeira, mincha by Yitzchak in Parshat Chayei Sarah, and maariv by Yaakov in Parshat VaYetzei
This week's parsha, situated in the middle of these parshiyot, on the surface accounts for no part of the inception, origin, when, or how of standardized tefillah. But upon looking more closely, we may find that it is Parshat Toldot that teaches us everything about the very essence of tefillah itself.
In the beginning of the parsha we see tefillah come up twice. The first is when Yitzchak Avinu cries out to Hashem so that he and Rivka can have a child - vaye'etar Yitzchak el Hashem. What is the nature of this tefillah? It is not a tefillah motivated by the time of day or by routine. It is a dynamic, organic tefillah, born out of desperation and out of hope. It is an unplanned, unchoreographed cry to man's Creator in a moment of deep personal pain. 
The second is when Rivka Imeinu davens. Vateilech lidrosh et Hashem - Rivka went to seek Hashem, either because she was in distress (Chizkuni); to find out what was going to happen (Rashi); or to answer the question of why her pregnancy was unique (Ibn Ezra). This tefillah is also not prescribed. It was motivated by her individual experience. Whether she was searching for answers or relief, this tefillah was personal. 
The tefillah of Toldot teaches us is that prayer is not relegated only to certain times, ways, and words. It is not limited to what we do in shul three times a day. It is a constant, continuous connection between us and Hashem, which we anchor in and express through our tefillah b'tzibbur every day. 
It is this essence of tefillah which is the hardest to pass on to our children, because this aspect of tefillah comes from each individual's experience. It is deeply personal and intimate, such that it cannot be transplanted from parent to child or teacher to student. Most of the mitzvot engage our bodies. Talmud Torah engages our mind. But tefillah engages the heart. And avodah shebalev - worship of the heart - cannot be externally generated.  
This constant connection and dialogue is seen again in the unique phrasing of Yitzchak's tefillah:
Vayeetar Yitzchak el Hashem... vayeiater lo Hashem.
This is generally translated as: Yitzchak prayed to Hashem... and Hashem answered him. But it is actually the same verb describing the action done by Yitzchak and by G-d. The only difference is the conjugation. One paal and one nifal - one active and one reflexive. What Yitzchak did, Hashem reflected back at him. It is on this phrasing that Rabbi Levi in the Midrash Rabbah gives a mashal:
It is like a son of a king who wants to sneak a measure of gold from his father. And while the son is discretely trying to take the gold, the father is discretely trying to give it to him. While the son pulls on the door, the father is on the other side pushing. 
Rabbi Levi is teaching us that while Yitzchak Avinu is grasping, Hashem is reciprocating. While we reach for our personal connection with our Creator, He is subtly drawing us near. While we call out to Hakadosh Baruch Hu with our deepest hopes and dreams, He is actively receiving our tefillot. Vaye'etar Yitzchak - vayeiater lo Hashem. 
May we be successful in helping our children find their own meaning in tefillah, and may we guide them to engage in a constant dialogue with and connection to Hashem. 
To this end, we are very excited to partner with Rabbi Peretz Chein, who will be speaking to our sixth graders in the coming weeks and to their parents on Motzei Shabbat, December 2. We thank him for his willingness to share his unique framing of tefillah and to help us speak a common language in our attempts to connect our children to the avodah shebalev. 
Questions for the Shabbos table:
  1. What was your takeaway from the d'var Torah this morning?
  2. How can we harness this aspect of tefillah to transform the prescribed tefillah we do in shul?
  3. What is the verb used to describe Yitzchak's tefillah in Parshat Chayei Sarah, and how does it impact our understanding of tefillah?
  4. Are there situations in which you find your tefillot to be most meaningful?
Rav Thoughts
by Rabbi David Saltzman
When Rivka was having pain from her pregnancy, the pasuk states that she went to seek out G-d. The Rav explains that people sometimes have feelings of religious loneliness, which is a positive experience and part of the religious experience. It's the feeling that one has when they feel as if they were thrown into this world, which has neither regard nor understanding for their singularity and unique role. Rivka, at this time in her life, was feeling this religious loneliness. She understood then that she needed to search out G-d to resolve her inner crisis.
According to the Ramban, Rivka went to find Hashem so she could daven to Him. Through tefilla, one can internalize and gain a new understanding about oneself. By initiating a dialogue with G-d through tefilla, she realized that she was not just an insignificant part of the cosmos. Instead, Rivka came to understand her unique and difficult role, and through that new understanding she resolved her crisis.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Fall Parent- Teacher Conferences will continue this Sunday! 
  • Sunday, November 19: Grades K-12 from 12:00 - 7:00 p.m., ECC from 2:00 - 7:00 p.m.
The conference hours can also be viewed at

Pizza on Monday, Hot Lunch on Tuesday
Next Monday, the PTA will be serving Rosh Chodesh pizza to students who ordered it!

As a courtesy, the eighth grade has arranged to serve Taam China lunches on Tuesday, November 21, as per the order form that was sent out.

Lunch from Jerusalem Grill will not be served on Wednesday, November 22, due to the early dismissal.

The eighth-grade students love serving hot lunches to everyone who has ordered!

Chugim Fair!
Middle School students have the opportunity to choose a teacher-led club, or chug, to participate in on Tuesdays during x-block.

In order to introduce all of the possible options, we had a chugim fair this year! The students had a great time trying out samples from different chugim, and were stunned to discover the teachers' hidden talents, from Papercutting Art to Drama to Chinese language and more!

It was also exciting for them to see fellow students Annabelle Garland and Maayan Kahan running a Book Club chug themselves, with help from Ms. Zygadlo, Saval librarian.


Torah Archeaology Program
On Thursday two Middle School classes had the unique opportunity to attend a class with the group Foundation   Stone (also known as Toarch) , an Israeli organization for Torah Archaeology Programs .  Among their different programs, the Toarch teachers bring in archaeological artifacts from Israel and a huge interactive map. Using those artifacts and materials, they bring history and geography to life!

For our classes the Toarch teachers focused on understanding the geography of Eretz Yisrael, as well as the connection between b iblical archaeology and what the students are currently learning in Navi and Chumash

Sixth-Grade Science
In sixth-grade science the students have been learning all about different types of heat transfer. So far they've performed experiments on radiation and conduction. They compared the heating rates of sand and water using a heat lamp, and transferred heat from a cup of boiling water to cold water using an aluminum bar. Next week they will model convection!
S eventh-Grade Math
by Mike Schockett

In seventh-grade algebra we recently finished our work on probability theory, and have just begun our textbook study of algebra itself.

On Wednesday we participated in the challenging AMC8 math competition. Award winners will be announced at a later date!

Eighth-Grade Navi
by Rabbi Avinoam Durani

This week we took our first steps in analyzing commentaries on the Navi! We used whiteboard projection to see the exact language of the commentator Malbim, and then we added our own explanation of his statements in parentheses. We also used different colors to highlight specific words he used in order to clarify the commentator's language.  It was fascinating to compare modern Hebrew usage to the nineteenth-century midrashic style of the Malbim. We were even able to trace connections between Israeli slang and words that appeared in the text! 

This was a fun, interactive way to gain familiarity with the commentator's beautiful language and to appreciate the style, as well as the content, of his work. The fact that we were able to trace different language layers within the Malbim was, as the students put it, "Very cool!"

Mazel Tov!

Mazel tov to Dina and Aaron Saks on the bar mitzvah of their son Josh '22. Mazel tov as well to sister Ella Saks '24.
Mazel tov to Tami and Sam Wald on the bar mitzvah of their son Michael. Mazel tov as well to brothers Ben '20 and Daniel '25.
Send us your simchas!  Please share your simcha announcements with us by sending details to


ROFEH Toy Drive
Please bring a new, unwrapped toy for our ROFEH Toy Drive! Boxes will be placed in front of the Elementary, Middle, and Upper School offices.

Special Movie Screening
There will be a special screening of the movie My Hero Brother on Sunday, December 10 at 6:00 p.m. at West Newton Cinema, co-sponsored by Maimonides School, Young Israel of Sharon, New England Yachad, and Striar Hebrew Academy.
My Hero Brother tells the remarkable story of a group of young people with Down syndrome who embark on a demanding trek through the Indian Himalayas with their siblings. As they deal with physical and emotional challenges, unresolved conflicts come to the surface and heartwarming friendships develop.
Click here to purchase tickets. For more information, contact 
Boy Scout Trip to Israel
Maimonides Boy Scout Troop 54 is organizing a unique trip to Israel in February 2018. This will be a 12-day program during President's week, February 13-25.
The group will explore all over Israel with experts from botany, zoology, ornithology, ecology, and archaeology. 500 million birds begin migrating through Israel! The students will relate this information to the Tanach and Talmud.
Students do not need to be scouts, but they will need to register with the Boy Scouts of America before the trip. Participants may be families, children 12 years and up accompanied by an adult, teens aged 14 and up, and retirees.

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 remember:
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 .

Social Time!
There's so much going on here at Maimo! Be sure to check out our social media to get the inside scoop (with lots of great photos) on happenings at school.
Follow us on Twitter and Instagram

Division Newsletters
Lots of wonderful things are happening at Maimonides School!

If you'd like to take a peek at what's happening in the other divisions, click to visit the Early Childhood Center, Elementary School, or Upper School newsletter pages.

If you would like to contact a specific school office, please use these emails:
On behalf of the entire Middle School:
Shabbat Shalom!

MS logo, medium size