Some Like it Hot

by Rabbi Ze’ev Smason Passover April 23, 2016

Since early childhood, Ann Makosinski has taken an interest in science and inventing, her first toy being a box of transistors. She’s been tinkering ever since, creating products with a hot-glue gun and household items.  A few years ago, the now-nineteen year-old used her hobby to solve a real-world problem.  A friend in the Philippines mentioned she was failing school; without electricity, she couldn’t do her homework at night.  So Ann devised a flashlight powered by the heat of your hand.  It uses Peltier tiles, which generate electricity when one side is hotter than the other, to draw energy from the heat difference between hand and air.  Ann submitted her invention to the 2013 Google Science Fair and won first place in her age group.

The young inventor has since nabbed prizes from competitions such as the 2014 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, and has twice appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.  Ann is now enrolled at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, but hitting the books hasn’t stopped her from inventing.  Her latest invention is the eDrink, a coffee cup covered in the Peltier tiles. The eDrink uses the heat of a hot beverage to charge your gadgets via a USB port on the bottom of the mug.  On Twitter, Ann succinctly explained her approach to seemingly intractable challenges:  “Anything is possible.”

An act of self-creation is also an act of creation. Judaism teaches that G-d arranges a person’s life to give him the precisely particular circumstances needed in order to attain one’s full potential or completeness, one’s shlemut (from the word shalom, which denotes peaceful completion, or complete peace). If a person responds to his circumstances ethically — that is, according to the laws and values of the Torah — he can have shlemut.  As George Bernard Shaw once said: “Life is not about finding yourself but about creating yourself.”   You, too, can be an inventor:  G-d offers to be your partner in your own creation when you make good choices.

Passover begins on Shabbos — Friday evening, April 22.  On the first day of Passover, Shabbos, the Torah reading is from Exodus 12: 21- 51.  This reading describes the Exodus from Egypt and the Passover offering.  On the second day of Passover, Sunday, the Torah reading is from Leviticus 22:26 — 23:44.  This reading describes journeying to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem on the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavous, Sukkos) and the counting of the Omer.

When we were children most of us had the experience of sinking our hands into the earth to plant seeds.  Over the following weeks we watched with wonder as those seeds grew into green plants, edible vegetables and beautiful flowers.  As adults, we can plant ‘seeds’ in our children that will lead to responsible and enlightened adulthood. Passover is a time of ‘planting Jewish seeds’ within our children. What type of seeds will we plant?

Rabbinic Ruminations
Some like it hot.  But as if the climate-change debate weren’t heated enough, it turns out that as global temperatures rise, so do tempers.  A UC Berkeley researcher has gathered data from social media that links warmer weather and general crankiness.  Environmental economist Patrick Baylis wanted to quantify what the incremental effects of climate change mean for the average person, so he fed a billion geo-located tweets from 2014 and 2015 into a computer model.  It scored each post’s sentiment based on factors such as profanity and word choice (e.g., “furious” meant a greater displeasure than “hate).
Mr. Baylis then mapped sentiments against the average temperature where each tweet originated.  The increase in misery between a 70-degree day and a 90-degree day was equivalent to the drop between the end of a weekend and the start of a work week. And that’s after he compensated for factors such as income, location and humidity.  Mr. Baylis paired his results with climate projections through 2099.  As Earth warms, he predicts unfavorable mood swings — largely in cool states like Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Since people might crank up the air conditioning to counteract rising temps, he hinted at climate change’s broader cost.  “Would I be willing to pay a buck to have it be a 70-degree day?” Baylis wonders.

What are some strategies to keep our cool other than lowering the thermostat?  When things don’t go our way, we say things we don’t mean to say.  That’s why the Talmud tells us not to discipline our kids when angry; we’re not being objective and at that moment any action is not for the sake of the child.  Our sages refer to anger as idolatry.  When you think you’re the Master of the Universe, and things inexplicably don’t bend to your will, remove yourself from the situation.  Write a letter. Give yourself a time out.  Take a long walk.  As King Solomon says, The fool vents all his anger, but the wise bring calm in the end. (Proverbs 29:11)

Quote of the Week
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. –  Albert Einstein

Joke of the Week
On the second day, G-d turned to the Angels and said, “I am going to create a land called Israel, it will be a land of mountains full of snow, sparkly lakes, forests full of all kind of trees, high cliffs overlooking sandy beaches with an abundance of sea life.”
G-d continued, “I shall make the land rich so to make the inhabitants prosper, I shall call these inhabitants Israeli, and they shall be known to the most people on earth.”

“But Lord,” asked the Angels, “don’t you think you are being too generous to these Israelis?”

“Not really,” G-d replied, “just wait and see some of the neighbors I am going to give them.”


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