“Bob the Builder Knows Best” Beyond Twelve Gates

Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Matos — Masei August 6, 2016

“Bob the Builder Knows Best”

How can you move more quickly through a crowded airport? Israeli startup NUA Robotics plans to make your travel experience easier, with its newly developed hands-free carry-on suitcase that follows you around, just like a loyal pet. “By combining central networks and computer vision, the robot inside the luggage recognizes the user,” said Alex Libman, co-founder and CEO of NUA. Simply put, the carry-on has a built-in camera that detects the location of its owner. The case connects to a smartphone app via Bluetooth, so you know where your luggage is at all times. Founded in early 2015, NUA – which means “move” in Hebrew – has raised $125,000 in funding from a venture capital firm, and is currently raising its seed round.

The luggage is able to do more than just follow you around and carry your clothes. It can charge its own battery on the go, as well as charge your phone, computer, or tablet. It can also communicate its weight through the app, and it has a built-in anti-theft alarm. The alarm will react if the distance between you and your luggage becomes larger than about 30 feet. And if you forget your luggage somewhere, it will send a notification to your smartphone. NUA expects to price the suitcase at $599; about six times the price of same-size suitcases, most of which cost about $100. “Any object can be smart and robotic,” Alex Libman, said. “We want to bring robots into everyday life.”

“Smart” luggage follows its owner. How does Judaism judge smart people? Ethics of the Fathers (4:1) teaches, Who is wise? He who learns from all people. Smart people ask questions, learn from others, and take mental notes when observing the actions of both wise and unwise people. Equally important, they take notes of their own actions and continually add to their database of experiences. As they age, they become smarter and smarter.

Parshas Matos — Masei Numbers 30:2 – 36:13

In the first of this week’s two action-packed portions, Moses teaches the rules and restrictions governing oaths and vows. Promises are serious business. When we say that we plan to do something — even something as simple as, ‘I’ll call you later’ — we’re bound by our words. Anticipating entrance into the land of Israel, the tribes of Gad and Reuben petition Moses to remain on the eastern side of the Jordan River because that land is particularly suitable for grazing their cattle. Moses, not wanting to ‘steer’ Gad and Reuben wrong, grants their request on the condition to first help the rest of the nation in conquering the entire land of Israel before returning to settle their inheritance.
Masei (a word meaning ‘journeys’) begins with a listing of the 42 encampments of the Jewish people’s 40 year journey from the Exodus until the crossing of the Jordan River into the Land of Israel. The boundaries of the Land of Israel are defined. Since the Levites would not be receiving a regular portion of the land, 48 cities are set aside for them. Cities of refuge are established; one who unintentionally murders can flee there. So ends the book of Numbers, the fourth of the Books of the Torah. Next week — on to Deuteronomy!

Rabbinic Ruminations

From children’s books like “The Little Engine That Could,” in which the title character says, “I think I can,” to children’s television shows like “Bob the Builder,” with the catchphrase “Can we fix it?,” internal dialogue often influences the way people motivate and shape their own behavior. But was “The Little Engine” using the best motivational tool, or does “Bob the Builder” have the right idea? A recent study, published in 2010 in the journal Psychological Science, compared interrogative with the declarative form of introspective talk, or ‘self-talk.’ Participants were encouraged to either spend a minute wondering whether they would complete a task or telling themselves they would. The participants showed more success when they asked themselves whether they would complete it than when they told themselves they would. Further experimentation had students in a seemingly unrelated task simply write two ostensibly unrelated sentences, either “I Will” or “Will I,” and then work on the same task. Participants did better when they wrote, “Will” followed by “I”.

It seems that “Bob the Builder” knows best — asking yourself a question helps boost motivation more than a simple self-affirmation. Why does this happen? The research team suspected that it was related to an unconscious formation of a question (“Will I”) and its resulting effect on motivation. By asking themselves a question, people were more likely to build their own motivation. “The popular idea is that self-affirmations enhance people’s ability to meet their goals,” researcher Dr. Dolores Albarracin said. “It seems, however, that when it comes to performing a specific behavior, asking questions is a more promising way of achieving your objectives.”

Rabbi Simcha Bunim, famous 18th-century Hasidic leader, had a well-known teaching: “Everyone must have two pockets, with a note in each pocket, so that he or she can reach into the one or the other, depending on the need. When feeling lowly and depressed, discouraged or disconsolate, one should reach into the right pocket, and, there, find the words: ‘For my sake was the world created.’ But when feeling high and mighty one should reach into the left pocket, and find the words: ‘I am but dust and ashes.’” The Hebrew word for speech is ‘dibbur,’ related to the word ‘davar,’ an actual thing. We create reality through our speech.

Quote of the Week

I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light. – Helen Keller

Joke of the Week

Because of an ear infection, Little Yankel had to go to the pediatrician. The doctor directed his comments and questions to Little Yankel in a professional manner. When he asked Little Yankel, “Is there anything you are allergic to?” Little Yankel nodded and whispered in his ear. Smiling, the pediatrician wrote out a prescription and handed it to Little Yankel’s mother. She tucked it into her purse without looking at it.

As the pharmacist filled the order, he remarked on the unusual food- drug interaction Little Yankel must have. Little Yankel’s mother looked puzzled until he showed her the label on the bottle. As per the doctor’s instructions, it read, “Do not take with broccoli.”

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