Upper School Weekly Update

May 18, 2018  -  Bemidbar

In This Issue
Divrei Torah
Thoughts of the Rav
Upper School Retreat
Curriculum Guide Online
10th Grade Davening
Final Exams
Division Newsletters
Social Media
Next Week 
Monday, May 21
Tuesday, May 22
Wednesday, May 23
Thursday, May 24
AP Exam: US History (morning)
Friday, May 25 
Regular Schedule
In Two Weeks
Sunday, May 27
Monday, May 28
Tuesday, May 29
9th Grade Physics Field Trip
Wednesday, May 30
Thursday, May 31
Friday, June 1 
Last day of classes
for grades 9-11

Having a

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Divrei Torah
by Rachel Missaghi '20
From our earliest childhood, we have all been brought up to believe that all people are created equal, and that no single individual has more rights or privileges than anyone else. We have been taught to aspire to be a society that looks beyond social classes, and to look shamefully at other societies that have rigid social and/or racial class systems. These are among the foundations of the society that we live in.
In this week's parsha, Bamidbar, however, we find a different view altogether. The Torah describes the encampment of the Jewish people in the desert, each tribe occupying a specified position under its own banner. "The people of Israel did everything Hashem had commanded Moses," the Torah concludes. "This is how they encamped and this is how they traveled."
The question is obvious. Why make special mention of the compliance of the Jewish people with the divine instructions for encamping and traveling? What was so commendable about it? If separate sects of society and social divide is something to look down upon, why is this detail a helpful thing to mention?
The midrash explains that Bnei Yisrael was being commended for their compliance with Hashem's word. The Levites occupied the highest position of honor in the center of the camp, near the Mishkan, while the other tribes, many of whom were superior in wisdom and knowledge to the Levites, occupied encampments on the fringes. Nonetheless, to Bnei Yisrael's credit, they did not raise any objections or attempt to push the Levites aside. They submitted willingly to the wisdom of Hashem who had assigned roles to all the tribes according to his will.
But was this a fair system? Was it right that for all generations, no member of another tribe could take on to the duties of the Levites? How can this be reconciled with our previous concept of justice and fairness?
The answer lies in the difference between the Jewish attitude and the instinctive human attitude. In the instinctive view, the purpose of each individual's existence is for personal fulfillment. Therefore, if all people are inherently equal, their purposes are also equal, and no one should be allowed to take precedence over someone else.
In the Jewish view, on the other hand, all people are united in one common purpose; the fulfillment of Hashem's plan for the world. Each person in the world has a role which will allow them to contribute to the more universal effort to fulfill the will of Hashem. Some roles are, of course, more prominent than others. But in the greater scheme of things, everyone turns out to be of equal importance, since everyone's contribution is essential towards achieving the greater good and Hashem's plan.
As we prepare for Shavuot, these thoughts can give us new insight into the statement of the sages that at Har Sinai the Jewish people "encamped together as one man with one heart, ke'ish echad belev echad." The acceptance of the Torah brought forth a special unity among the Jewish people, because all their lives became focused on the single greater goal of fulfilling the will of HaKadosh Baruch Hu.
by Rabbi Yaakov Beker
In the beginning of this week's parsha, Hashem instructs Moshe to take a census of Bnei Yisrael in order to find out the population of each shevet. The census, according to the very first pasuk, took place about a year after they left Mitzrayim, on the first day of the second month of the second year after Yetziyat Mitzrayim. After the census was complete, Hashem gave instructions concerning where each shevet should camp around the Mishkan
Then Hashem said that each shevet should have its own degel with "otot" or signs on it. Rashi says in his first p'shat that these signs were that the degel of each shevet was colored according to the shade of its stone on the choshen.  Other mefarshim say that the signs were various symbols that somehow related to that shevet, for example, Yehuda's degel had a line on it representing kingship. Yissachar's degel had the sun and moon, representing their great Torah knowledge, and Zevulun's degel had a ship, representing its success in business and sea trade. In other words, these degalim represent each shevet's unique strengths and approach in serving Hashem.
Some mefarshim ask the following question: It seems from these psukim that the special formations and positions in which each shevet camped, as well as their unique dagalim, were only used beginning with the first day of the second month of the second year after yetziyat Mitzrayim. This begs the question that if so, how did Bnei Yisrael camp during the entire first year after yetziyat Mitzrayim?
Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky zt"l, in his sefer called Emet L'Yaakov, offers the following beautiful insight. Rav Kaminetsky claims that during this first year Bnei Yisrael had to camp all together in one large group and without their special individualized degalim. Why should this be? He explains that it is essential to have our own individuality and uniqueness, but this is not without danger. It is quite possible for this uniqueness to lead us away from each other since we are so different. It could even lead to jealousy, machloket, or bad feelings. What is the way around this? 
When we all share a similar focus and a common goal, our differences and uniqueness work to our advantage, since we complement each other and help each other reach that common goal. For Bnei Yisrael, the focus and goal is serving Hashem in bringing down his Shechina to dwell among us, as represented by the Mishkan. So when the Mishkan was set up at the end of the first year we had our focus and common goal. The Mishkan became the center of our lives and we all camped around it. Our individuality and different approaches to serving Hashem no longer posed any danger. We were all working together, much like different parts of the same body. Can the eyes be jealous of the ears, or the arms jealous of the legs? 
Perhaps this is why Parshat Bamidbar always falls before Shavuot. As a reminder that our receiving the Torah is what unites us as a nation. We are all individual instruments, playing our own unique melodies, and it is our shared Torah values which create the harmony in the symphony of the Jewish people. 
Thoughts of the Rav
by Rabbi Dov Huff
Chazal tell us that a difference between the first luchot and the second was that the first luchot contained not only Torah shebichtav but also the Torah shebeal peh, while the second set was only the Torah shebichtav.
The Rav explains that the difference in content of the two sets also points to a different job for Moshe Rabbeinu. With the first set, Moshe Rabbeinu was just a shliyach leholacha - a messenger delivering the entire body of Torah to Bnei Yisrael. Upon delivery his job would be complete. With the second set, he was now tasked with teaching all of Torah shebeal peh to Am Yisrael. He become the Rebbe of each individual Jew. 
It is for this reason, says the Rav, that in this week's parsha Moshe had to do a count. He now had to take responsibility for the Torah growth of each member of Am Yisrael.
Upper School Retreat
The cool and damp weather didn't affect the fun factor on our Upper School retreat last weekend! We're pleased to share a video and some additional photos taken during last week's Upper School retreat. As you'll see, we did manage quite a few sunny moments, and the motzei Shabbat bonfire warmed both our bodies and our spirits.

Chalav U'Dvash

Curriculum Guide Online
The faculty, under Science Department Chair Chris Williams' able leadership, has worked hard this year to author a Maimonides Curriculum Guide for grades 6-12. This guide builds on the course descriptions you are accustomed to seeing on our website. The Curriculum Guide gives a fuller picture of the depth and breadth of our outstanding curricular opportunities for students. The guide offers additional information about each course, particularly prerequisites and standards that define eligibility for each course level. This information is important for understanding one part of how departments make placement decisions for each student. These placements are at levels best suited to maximize each student's potential at a given time in their learning curve (e.g., college prep, accelerated, honors, or AP levels).  

Our motivation for authoring this guide is to share a more detailed and comprehensive narrative of the 6th-12th grade Maimonides academic program so that students and parents have more clarity around it, and also around expectations for course standards and placement. We also want to give parents a stronger and more comprehensive sense of the academic trajectory their child will follow from 6th grade through graduation in 12th grade.  

Having recently concluded the Curriculum Guide's drafting process, which began in October, we have now posted the Curriculum Guide for your review. It is listed as the first item under "Academic Resources" on the parent portal of the school website: http://www.maimonides.org/parents. You will need to log in with your MyBackpack account to gain access. 
10th Grade Rosh Chodesh Davening and Breakfast
Tenth grade students and their parents enjoyed davening together and sharing a special breakfast on Tuesday to celebrate Rosh Chodesh Sivan.  Thank you to all the students, parents, and faculty who participated in this lovely event.  
Final Exam/Assessment Period Schedule for Grades 9, 10 and 11
Please note the following schedule for the 2018 Final Exam/Assessment Period for grades 9-11:

Friday, June 1
Last day of US classes; 2:30 dismissal

Monday, June 4
9:00-10:30am (11:15am for extended time) - History
12:00-1:30pm (2:15pm for extended time) - Navi

Wednesday, June 6
9:00-10:30am (11:15am for extended time) - English
12:00-1:30pm (2:15pm for extended time) - Talmud 

Friday, June 8
9:00-10:30am (11:15am for extended time) - Math 
12:00-1:30pm (2:15pm for extended time) - Chumash

Monday, June 11
9:00-10:30am (11:15am for extended time) - Science
12:00-1:30pm (2:15pm for extended time) - Jewish History 

Wednesday, June 13
Projects due by 10:30am - World Languages

Friday, June 15
9:30-11:30am - US Final Exam Hand-Backs 

See What's Happening in other Divisions
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