Upper School Weekly Update

February 9, 2018  -  Mishpatim/Shabbat Shekalim

In This Issue
D'var Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Registration Deadline
Torah and Science
Ambassadors for Inclusion
Alumni Newsletter
Kehilla Event
Division Newsletters
Social Media
Next Week 
Sun., Feb. 11
ACT Test
Model UN YUNMUN Conference
Basketball @ Cristo Rey (Girls' V 4:15, Boys' V 5:30, Boys JV 7:00)
Mon., Feb. 12
Wed., Feb. 7
Regular Schedule
Thu., Feb. 15 
Rosh Chodesh Adar
Long davening
10th Grade parent-student breakfast
Orayta visit: interviews for interested boys 
Girls' JV Basketball vs. MS Girls (5:15)
Fri., Feb. 16
Rosh Chodesh Adar
Long davening

In Two Weeks

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D'var Torah
by Rabbi Dov Huff  

Mishpatim seems to comprise a random set of mitzvot. But upon further investigation we find there is a progression of three distinct categories throughout the parsha.

The first category, going from the beginning of the parsha to the middle of the third aliya, contains mitzvot which dictate our level of responsibility in cases of damage, theft and murder. These category one mitzvot can be described as the 
basic civil laws  necessary for the functioning of any ethical society. 
Then in the third  aliya there is a drastic shift to a second category of mitzvot. In this category we find  mitzvot which demand that we treat orphans and widows especially well, that we must look out for the needy, and that our courts must go out of their way to protect the accused. This category can be labelled as mitzvot which hold us to a  high moral standard.  
Finally in category three, in the middle of the fifth  aliya, we find  mitzvot bein adam leMakom -  p urely between us and Hashem, such as  Shabbat and the  chagim. In fact there is a masterful transition between categories two and three where the Torah first describes the  shemitah year, in which we work our fields for six years and leave them ownerless in year seven, with a special emphasis on how this supports the poor. Then the Torah juxtaposes it to  Shabbos, which gives us six days of work and a seventh of rest but, unlike  shemitah, is purely  bein adam leMakom. 
Perhaps in this light we can suggest that this progression of mitzvot is teaching us a crucial message of the entire  yetziat mitrayim narrative.  Bnei Yisrael were learning that the G-d which took them out of Egypt was not only a G-d of justice, a G-d who punishes the wicked oppressors, a universal G-d, but that this G-d was also a G-d with a special relationship with  Bnei Yisrael and a special mission and vision for them, dating back to an ancient covenant made with their great-grandfather Avraham. As the Rav explains, at  Matan TorahBnei Yisrael were expanding their understanding of  Hashem from universal to specific, from cosmic to covenantal. (See Rashi in Yitro on "Anochi Hashem E-lokecha ")  
Thus the progression of the  mitzvot in our  parsha has the same learning objective for us: To first understand  Hashem as a universal G-d, a G-d of judgment and  din, with the civil  mitzvot of category one; then, knowing the G-d with high moral expectations for us in category two; and culminating with our unique relationship with  Hashem, as expressed through the  mitzvot bein adam leMakom in category three. 
We are a nation with a unique relationship with  Hashem, and He has a special vision for us to be a  Mamlechet Kohanim - a kingdom of priests who live by His high moral standards as a message to all of humanity, a mission beyond the code of law itself.  Perhaps this is why our   parsha   culminates in a   brit   - a covenant.  Bnei Yisrael   sign, renew, and accept the brit made with  Avraham Avinu  and commit to upholding it, becoming part of a glorious vision for humanity.   
Thoughts of the Rav 

by Rabbi Eliezer Bercuson 
The lex talionis - the principle of retributive justice - is the touchstone of much of history's anti-Jewish sentiment.  Rav Soloveitchik says these opponents of Jewish tradition claim that the law of "an eye for an eye" (Ex. 21:24) makes halakhah look cruel and vengeful, and, conversely, other religions compassionate and kind.  While the plain meaning of the Torah itself is that when one person blinds another person's eye, the former's eye should be blinded, our sages explain the practical law differently.  Chazal understand that, in such a situation, the damager should pay the damaged person the value of an eye.  Rather than "ayin tachat ayin," the law becomes "mamon tachat ayin."
Rambam considers this to be not a rabbinic interpretation of the law but actually a law intended at Sinai, a halakhah l'Moshe mi'Sinai.  That is, from the moment the Torah was given, G-d intended the law to be "money for an eye," not "an eye for an eye."  The Rav then asked: If the Torah had always meant that a damaged eye should be replaced by money - and not by an actual eye - why was the Torah phrased in such a way?
He answers that if the Torah had said "mamon tachat ayin," it would have degraded the image of the human body.  No monetary value, in fact, can be given to a human limb.  Human beings are creatures designed to serve G-d, and our bodies were made for that purpose.  It would be an insult to G-d's creation to place a monetary value on a human limb.
The divine penalty for blinding a person is, in fact, that the damager should be blinded.  However, the Torah does not give human beings the authority to carry out that punishment.  Human beings are imperfect; we err; we sin.  We cannot consistently or fairly mete out strict punishment.  The halakhah l'Moshe mi'Sinai prevents us from ruling on law in the same way as G-d could.  The Talmud (Makkot 7) looks askance at any Jewish court that uses capital punishment even once every 70 years.  Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon refused to ever use capital punishment.  The best that we can do is to provide the damaged party with some sort of restitution.
The lex talionis thus reflects the divine image of humankind better than any of its detractors ever could have imagined.
K-12 Early Registration Deadline for 2018-19
Next Thursday, February 15 is the deadline for re-enrolling your children for the 2018-19 school year in order to take advantage of the $650 early registration fee. After February 15, the registration fee is $800.  

To re-enroll, go to www.maimonides.org. Click on the "Quick Links" tab, log into My BackPack, and then click on "Enrollment/Re-Enrollment" to sign and submit the re-enrollment forms for your children.

Please contact Arline Tannenbaum in the Business Office should you have any questions (atannenbaum@maimonides.org, 617-232-4452 ext. 425).

Presentation on Torah and Science
Dr. Jeremy England, a physicist at MIT, spoke to our senior class on the topic of the Torah's Understanding of Scientific Models. He addressed several perspectives from which to view different narratives in the Torah, such as the Creation of the World, Yosef's dreams, and the splitting of the Red Sea. Dr. England proposed different ways in which science can be interwoven with an in-depth analysis of the Torah so that one can serve as a commentary for the other, thereby enriching understanding and appreciation of both.

Ambassadors for Inclusion Comes to Maimo
Maimonides School is fortunate to be part of Gateways' Ambassadors for Inclusion program in our Upper School. Earlier this week all Upper School students participated in an interactive presentation called "A Day in the Life." This program featured Urban Improv, a group of local performers who use theater to teach skills for positive change.

Alumni Newsletter Online
The monthly alumni newsletter for January is now online, and can be found here. This issue's articles include:
  • Classmates Reconnect for a Professional and Personal Tour in Israel
  • Alumna Passionate about National Park Experience and Challenges
  • Three Collegiate Alumni Help Build Bridges, Literally and Metaphorically 
If you would like to receive the alumni newsletter each month, contact Mike Rosenberg at (617) 232-4452 x 405 or mrosenberg@maimonides.org.

Maimonides Kehilla Event Open to Maimo Students
The Maimonides Kehilla invites all Maimonides students to participate in its annual Launch event this weekend. Please see the flyer below for details.

See What's Happening in other Divisions
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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 Middle School newsletter pages.

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