It’s sunny and warming up here in the frozen north. Everywhere I look, the snow is melting and we’re seeing patches of green grass underneath, a glimpse of the world that will be ours in just a week or two if things continue. The world is waking up here after the long winter and birds like the Siberian Swans are returning from their warmer winter homes. It won’t be long before the Aspen trees bud and leaves start bursting forth.
Springtime in Alaska is like a Sabbath afternoon, it passes by in an instant and it’s good to pause and enjoy it.
With the longer hours of sunlight, it’s like everything in the natural world around us begins to go in fast-forward. It’s hard for us humans also not to get caught up in it. The warm months here are short, essentially ending by the end of July, so we all try to pack as much as possible into them. There are fish to catch to fill the freezers for winter, veggies to grow while the ground is warm enough, berries to pick, rhubarb to cut, and all those wonderful outdoor activities we enjoy so much. Hiking and camping become a priority. There are mountains waiting to be climbed and glaciers waiting to be explored!
For the small community of Orthodox Jews here, though, long hours of summer sun also mean a VERY long Sabbath each week, as if G-d knows we need the longer pause in the midst of all this hectic activity. We’re forced to slow down and begin the Sabbath sometime before bed Friday night and often we will sleep through the brief break in the sunshine Saturday night, making havdalah before breakfast in the morning.
For our family, this also means we’re looking forward to the Shabbat RV version 2.0. This time, we’re opting to sell a couple of things and put a down payment down on a loan and buy a RV that will be more comfortable and safer than the first one. G-d willing, this is also the RV we will take next summer through the Canadian Rockies, across the plains of Canada and down to the lower 48 to our new, bigger Orthodox community in an epic adventure that might have made Moshe Rabbeinu proud.
For now, though, it’s the Shabbat of Chol Hamoed Pesach, a time to slow down in the midst of the flurry of Passover cooking and rest and reflect. This Passover has been one of the most joyful I can remember for our family…and oddly enough, one of the easiest. Usually I struggle through craving all different kinds of pasta and bread, but this year, even though we’ve been eating non-gebrokts foods…it FEELS easier. I am not consumed with what I can’t eat, but rather enjoying trying new recipes and enjoying simpler tastes.
I hope everyone has a restful and meaningful Shabbat. Here, we will begin the days of Shabbat not starting until after our usual bedtime and also not ending until after and I think this may be the last week we can greet the Shabbos Queen on time rather than early and be awake for her on-time departure rather than wishing her goodbye in the morning.