Pekudei – Exodus 38:21 – 40:38

Facebook_CoverDesign_PekudeiAs we close the Book of Exodus, let us return to the challenge posed to our assumptions about the myth of the return of religion by philosopher Peter Sloterdijk in You Must Change Your Life (2014). Recall that Sloterdijk argues that it is not religion that is returning, but a mode in which humans are practicing, training beings that create and re-create themselves through exercises and routine, ultimately transcending themselves. What is the exercise being described here in the construction of the Tabernacle?

As detailed last week in Vayakhel (Exodus 35:1-38:20), this is an ongoing project that challenges its artisans – Bezalel, Aholiav, and the assistants – in the very way Sloterdijk describes. The artisans complete the Tabernacle as communicated by Moses in the previous reading of Terumah (Exodus 25:1-27:19). There appears to be recurrent repetition in these later parashot of Exodus — but is this merely repetition? Too often in life, we realize that once we regain something we previously relinquished, we appreciate it as though for the first time. In experiencing repetition, you come to learn that everything that exists does so only by divine grace. In this way, repetition is instructive.

The blueprint for the Tabernacle closes Exodus and thus teaches us an important lesson about our relationship to Torah learning. All the gold, silver, and copper of thinking must ultimately be accounted for in how we construct our lives. How does one go about making a sanctuary – one that provides a space or way for the divine to dwell in everything we do?

Following Exodus and Sloterdijk, consider now that everything each of us does is part of an individual practice that is intimately intertwined with our greater community of practice. This is the closing challenge of Exodus, made to every individual in search of religious community.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week’s illustration is inspired by the detailed account of the work carried out by the artisans of the Mishkan. The ancient blacksmith's hammer seen here might be similar to that used by Bezalel and his team as they hammered and shaped the copper of the Mishkan's altar. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

E.M. Weitz Breakfast Club -- June 19

KupiecProfessor Martin Kupiec (Tel Aviv University), who is currently on sabbatical at UC Berkeley, will present to Ernest M. Weitz Breakfast Club attendees on Sunday, June 19, at 9 a.m.

The title of Dr. Kupiec's talk is "Coffee or beer? The choice could effect your genome." Coffee picks you up, and beer winds you down. We know that, but Dr. Kupiec and his team discovered that the beverages may also have opposite effects on your genome. Working with a kind of yeast that shares many important genetic similarities with humans, the researchers found that caffeine shortens and alcohol lengthens telomeres -- the end points of chromosomal DNA, implicated in aging and cancer.

Dr. Kupiec's presentation is as clever and fun as it is fascinating; we hope you'll join us! Special thanks to the American Friends of Tel Aviv University for facilitating this speaker.

Prof. Martin Kupiec was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and immigrated to Israel in 1977. He received a Bachelor of Science in Biology in 1979, and his PhD in Genetics in 1985 from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. Today, Dr. Kupiec leads the Applied Genetics and Microbiology group at Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Life Sciences. A hallmark of his work is his multi-disciplinary approach, which combines genetics, molecular biology, computational and systems biology, as well as cell biology and biochemistry.

The Breakfast Club currently meets four times each year on a Sunday with an informal talk on topics of interest to the Jewish community. Speakers have included many community leaders of the San Francisco Jewish Community, along with members of CBS. Meetings are held at 9:00 a.m. and start with a delicious breakfast.

Cost: $80 per couple or $40 per individual for all four meetings; $15 for single session drop-in. You can pay on the day-of or drop off your payment at the CBS Administrative Office during business hours.