September 8, 2017                       Parashat Ki Tavo                    17 Elul, 5777 
In This Issue
D'var Torah
Rav Thoughts
Welcome Back!
Be Intrinsic!
Yom Gibush
Order S'chach
Yom Chesed
Absence Notifications
Social Time!
Division Newsletters
Calendar
Quick Links
Find Maimonides On:
Dear Middle School Families,   

Welcome to the 2017-18 school year! The hallways have come to life with the return of our seventh- and eighth-grade students and the arrival of the Middle School's latest addition: the brand new sixth graders! Everyone is getting settled in, and classes are well under way. We're looking forward to next Friday's trip to Moose Hill Farms in Sharon - more details to follow!

Please read on for a d'var Torah, a thought from the works of Rav Soloveitchik, and some pictures from our first few days.
 
Shabbat Shalom!  
 
                         
D'var Torah
by Rabbi Dov Huff
 
This week's parsha begins with the mitzvah of bikurim - the bringing of the first fruits to the kohen in Yerushalayim. At its core it is a mitzvah echoing this year's theme of hakarat hatov. It is a demonstration of gratitude to Hashem for giving us a successful crop, reminding us that it is not by our hand alone that we succeed but by the grace of Hashem. And this sentiment is expressed in the formulation of the mitzvah - "vesamachta bechol hatov" - and you will rejoice in all the good that Hashem has given you. What is the nature of this hakarat hatov - this recognition of good? The Torah and Chazal provide us with two models.
 
The first we can see by looking at the proclamation the farmer makes as he arrives in Yerushalayim at the Mikdash:
"An Aramean sought to destroy my forefather and he went down to Egypt... and the Egyptians treated us cruelly and they afflicted us and they imposed hard labor upon us... and Hashem brought us out of Egypt with a strong hand... and He gave us this land flowing with milk and honey"
 
From this perspective, bikkurim is a recognition of the past. It demands that we look back and see how we got here, and also that what we are celebrating and its back story stand in stark contrast to one another. The new crop is expected; it is part of the rhythm of our annual lives. It represents nothing spectacular and everything regular. How different, though, is the string of events through which we arrived at this moment! We recall the tragic and miraculous history of our enslavement and liberation from Egypt, culminating in our arrival in Eretz Yisrael. This model of hakarat hatov is not only about giving thanks for something happening now, but also an effort to tie and root an otherwise uninspired moment to a rich and magnificent past. It pushes us to see each moment through a lens which appreciates all the trials and tribulation, failures and successes, which made it possible. To remember that every moment is bigger than it appears. Bikkurim is the command to never lose sight of what it means to stand in front of the kotel or to learn Torah freely - things which for much of our history seemed impossible. This hakarat hatov is our history screaming at us, "Remember what had to happen for you to enjoy this moment!" It is the understanding that the present is just a blossoming of a seed planted in our past. 
 
The second model is found in the medrash on the first word in the Torah. It asks, "What does bereishit bara E-lokim mean?" It means the world was created for the sake of reishit. And what is reishit?
 
"Rabbi Huna said in the name of Rabbi Matana... it refers to the bikkurim, as it says 'the reishit of the fruits of the land.'"
 
What a shocking statement! The gap between the two things being compared widens. All of creation was just for this moment!? For this piece of fruit!? This mitzvah is not only rooted in Jewish history, but also linked to the creation itself. But this time, the view is not a retrospective but a prospective one. It is a hakarat hatov of potential - of seeing a moment for what it has the future to become. From this perspective the mitzvah teaches us to think about maximizing potential. The cosmic event of creation set in motion a chain of events which would eventually lead to a time in which Bnei Yisrael would live in peace, able to farm the land and live out the promise Hashem made to our forefathers. 
 
Both of these models of hakarat hatov resonate as we begin this year at school. A year in which we both celebrate our past and look to the future. In its 80th year we celebrate the rich past of Maimonides School, built on the vision of a visionary - pioneering a philosophy of educating our children and living an Orthodox life. And the crop we are nurturing and producing was planted not this year, but 80 years ago, when the Rav built a school to change the path of Orthodoxy forever.
 
And at the same time, the beginning of the year is a reishit - a pivotal moment in which the new beginning bursts with yet-to-be-realized potential. We look forward with great anticipation, hoping to maximize every moment, squeezing every ounce of potential out of what promises to be a wonderful year. 
 
May we all enjoy a year of hakarat hatov and all the perspective and potential that it brings with it.
 
Questions for the Shabbos table:
  1. What was your takeaway from the d'var Torah this morning?
  2. What other explanations can we can give for the medrash linking bikurim to creation?
  3. What are things you should have hakarat hatov for that brought you to this moment?
  4. What do you hope this year will become, and how will you maximize that potential?
Rav Thoughts
by Rabbi David Saltzman
 
Rashi comments that when the pasuk states in
Sefer Bereshit that Avraham went to Shechem and Elon Moreh, he went near two mountains, Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, where the Jewish people in future would accept the oaths of the blessings and curses listed in Ki Tavo. At Shechem, Avraham davened for the Jew to emerge victorious in warfare, in physical engagement. Avraham also davened for the Jew to be triumphant in spiritual engagement with life, and be able to fulfill the oath of Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal.
 
This covenant is ongoing, as the verse states in Parashat Nitzavim:
But not only with you am I making this covenant and this oath, but with those standing here with us today before the L-rd, our G-d, and [also] with those who are not here with us this day.
 
The Rav notes that this covenant has been made with every individual throughout Jewish history. No matter how many millennia separate a Jew from the ceremony at Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, every Jew is burdened with the oath to implement that covenant. Avraham prayed for this oath to be implemented, and for the Jews to have the strength, courage, and fortitude to carry it forward.
 
Welcome Back!
Spirits were high on the first day of school as the students caught up with their old friends and made new ones! We spent some time getting to know each other over breakfast and activities before jumping into our new coursework. 2017-18 is shaping up to be a great year!

To see more images from the first day, please check out our video.


It was wonderful to be reunited with old friends.

The students had a fantastic time at the first day's diner-style breakfast, enjoying freshly cooked pancakes and eggs!

      


The new sixth grade got to know each other
at a special grade-wide assembly.

Be Intrinsic!
Opening Day Remarks
by Scott Mattoon
 
You are likely familiar with slogans using the verb "be":
Be the change you want to see in the world
Don't worry, be happy
 
Well, I want to introduce one at Maimo. It may not be as snappy or clever as these others, but it is authentic to who we are, and how we aim to live.
 
Repeat after me: Be intrinsic!
 
For those who may not know, "intrinsic" means belonging to the natural and essential part of something - in this case, the natural and essential part of YOU.
 
To help spread the word - literally, this word "instrinsic" - I want to challenge you to use it when your parents see you after school this week. When they ask - and you know they will ask - "How was school today?," you can look them in the eye and say, "Be instrinsic!" That will be one of the most unique responses they will have heard to that question.  
 
So what does it FEEL like to be instrinsic?
 
Think back to the summer... 
Think back to one thing that you did - an activity, a task, a pursuit, whatever it was... 
It must be something that you LOVED doing...
And it must be something that no one else said you had to do...
Think back to what that was... 
 
Chances are, part of why you loved doing it is that you were good at it - that you felt confident in what you were doing.
 
What did it take to get there?  
 
Likely it started with an initial interest sparked by something outside of you, or even inside of you, like a gift, a skill, a talent that is natural to you.
Then came hard work and a positive attitude, believing you can get better.
Then came mistakes - even failure, which is an important part of this process.
Then came learning.
Then came improving.
Then came growing and maturing.
Then - and this is key - came confidence - authentic confidence...
The kind of confidence that is lasting because of the effort, resilience, mastery, and satisfaction that come with it...
The kind of confidence that is peaceful and enthusiastic at the same time, because you can do something well on your own. 
 
That's what "intrinsic" feels like, and it is undeniably good for us because it authentically defines who we are.
 
But what kinds of things get in the way of being intrinsic, or being who we really are?
 
There are numerous pressures outside of us.
These are not intrinsic forces; they are extrinsic forces.
These forces can make it easy to feel like we need them in order to define who we are.
 
These extrinsic forces aren't necessarily bad - in fact, they can be very good. As one example, competition for extrinsic validation and reward is not a bad thing.  
But too much focus on extrinsic validation and reward is not a healthy thing.
It is not healthy because it shifts the kind of importance we place on ourselves to forces outside of us, to forces over which we don't have much control.
If we pay too much attention to these extrinsic forces, if we derive too much of our own worth from these extrinsic forces, our genuine, intrinsic selves get quashed and squashed.
If these extrinsic forces are the ONLY thing, that's a bad thing.  
 
And this is why:
 
If we feed the idea that the ONLY way in which our worth is defined is through things outside of ourselves, imagine what that means for our inside, intrinsic selves. It means our intrinsic selves are underfed, malnourished, even starving. If we let ourselves be too heavily defined by our extrinsic forces, our intrinsic selves will be left hollow, and it will shrivel and leave us in a dark, deep hole of emptiness, of anxiety, of depression. 
If we go through our entire time at Maimo focusing ONLY on extrinsic validation and reward, thinking that the only things that matter are:
 
  • which course we're in
  • which friends we hang out with
  • which town we live in
  • which kehillah we're in
  • what clothes we wear
  • which college or yeshiva program we gain admission to
 
...then what does that mean for us when we leave Maimo and head to Israel, to college, and beyond?  If we feed only extrinsic forces, will we have enough of a sense of our genuine, intrinsic selves, of who we really are and what our intrinsic worth is? Will we be authentically confident in what we can do on our own to be able to move forward in life, feeling good about where we are and where we are heading, not letting circumstances define us - instead, defining our circumstances as best we can?
 
If we feed our intrinsic selves enough, we will not be anxious about the future because we are confident in what we bring to it.  
 
So, what are some things we can do to keep a healthy balance, to feed our intrinsic selves more often?
Here are some to-do's to keep yourselves from overfeeding extrinsic forces, and to lead you to nourishing your intrinsic selves:
  • Make a list of things you LOVE to do... and find time to do them.
  • Make a list of things you want to learn to do... and work hard for them, allowing your selves to make mistakes along the way so you may grow from them and let these pursuits become a part of who you are.
  • PUT DOWN YOUR SMARTPHONE MORE OFTEN. This device, while wonderful in many ways, also forces you - even gets you addicted in your brain chemistry - to be validated and rewarded only by extrinsic forces.
  • Focus on attaining authentic confidence through the challenge found in striving for mastery in your courses. Don't obsess over the course level you are in, as this over-emphasizes a phantom extrinsic validation of how much you are learning, when really you will learn the most and most effectively at the right "gear" for you. Nothing fosters authentic, peaceful, and enthusiastic confidence like pushing yourself, and allowing yourself to be pushed by your teachers, to know your stuff very well, at whatever level that can happen best.
  • Do something kind or helpful for someone else, but do not tell anyone that you did it. This action of service is channeling an action of gratitude, of hakarat hatov, and the more you do this, the more you fill yourself up with intrinsic well-being.
Here's to a wonderful year ahead - one full of intrinsic value!

Yom Gibush is Next Friday!
Yom Gibush, the annual Middle School nature walk and unifying experience, will take place next Friday, September 15! This year we will be going to Moose Hill Farm in Sharon. While there, the students will participate in activities that will help them learn about each other and themselves, and promote bonding among students and between students and faculty. This event sets a great tone for a great year!

The Middle School will have shacharit at the Young Israel of Sharon at 9:00 a.m. Buses will be leaving from Maimonides at 8:05 a.m. Sharon students can meet us there!

Please see this form for details.
 
It's Time to Order S'chach!
Even if you have a bamboo mat, consider adding some authentic and fresh smelling s'chach to spruce up your sukkah this year! Our PTA s'chach fundraiser makes it easy to order your s'chach while helping the school at the same time.
 
Minimum order is $52 for two bundles, $26 for each additional bundle (it generally takes 4-6 bundles to cover an 8' x 10' sukkah). Orders must be received and pre-paid by Wednesday, September 20. Pick-up is scheduled for Sunday, October 1 from 10 - 11 a.m. at Saval campus.
 
Please click here to place your order!
 
   
 
Yom Chesed is November 5 - please join us for a volunteer meeting!
 
Our fifth Yom Chesed is scheduled for Sunday morning, November 5. Yom Chesed is an all-ages community service initiative for our entire Maimonides community.  Our past Yom Chesed events have each involved over 500 participants (parents, students, faculty and alumni!) helping a broad range of community organizations.  
 
If you are interested in learning more about how you can help, please join us on Thursday, September 14 at 8:15 a.m. in the conference room in the Saval building (34 Philbrick Road) for a planning meeting. Special note to ECC parents: Please feel free to join the meeting after your drop-off (it's an informal meeting and we'd love to see you). 
 
Registration will begin next month, but in the meantime, we are looking for volunteers to help with this event. Even if you can't attend Yom Chesed, we need lots of help prior to the event with planning and coordinating activities, shopping for supplies, and making phone calls.  
 
It is not necessary to attend this meeting to help out with Yom Chesed.  If you are interested in volunteering, please contact one of our parent coordinators - Stef Mishkin, stefmish@msn.com, Alissa Muzin, alissamuzin@gmail.com, or Risa Gewurz,  rzgewurz@gmail.com  - to learn how to get involved.

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:
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 the other divisions' newsletters, please click here for the Elementary and Upper Schools, or click here for the Early Childhood Center.

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

   
 
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