A Shabbos to Bottle Up Time

The best laid plans can all be upended by a single plaintive cry from someone smaller than myself.  Her eyes had that glazed over look and her cheeks were flushed in that way every mother is familiar with and I knew, in an instant, down to my gut that despite all the carefully packed Shabbos salads…we weren’t going anywhere.

Happily, Mr. Safek can turn on a dime in times like these and quickly the Shabbat RV 2.0 was unpacked and we were able to settle in to Shabbos at home for the first time in quite a while.  It felt strange having lights, running water, and so much quiet compared to the usual noise of the busier streets near shul.  The time seemed even more leisurely and our meal spread out over a table that was the size of an entire room in the RV.

It was an expansive weekend of rest and recuperation and exactly what her little body needed before the week of camp ahead and precisely what our spirits needed.  We studied and read, played games, and went for walks.  The weather was sunny, hot even, at least by Alaskan standards.  Trees were blooming everywhere.

I started to feel a bit sad about leaving Alaska next summer.  I know it needs to happen for us to move forward spiritually, but there is so much about this beautiful place that I’m going to miss once I’m comfortably tucked in to an urban setting.  I wish there was a way to finish conversion here and more of a community to support observance or that there was an affordable, vibrant Orthodox community with mountains.  I’m thankful, though, that we have been able to enjoy Alaska for as long as we have and that there is a place for us to move to.

As I walked through our neighborhood, watching the birds flit around and enjoying the breezes off the Chugach mountains, I also had to work to keep my mind from worrying over the logistics of our move a year from now.  It wasn’t easy moving our little family from Florida to Alaska, but we also had some help from my company.  Now…it’s going to be even more challenging selling our house in time to make the drive down from Alaska.  Everything is going to have to happen at just the right time and then there’s the challenge of buying a house and settling in before school begins.

Not to mention whether or not any of the Orthodox schools will accept our children in their current state.

For now, though, we have the summer, with camping trips planned to enjoy the most of Alaska possible.  I hope to catch another salmon, visit the yak farm, and hopefully also climb a mountain this summer.  I want to keep the woods and mountains inside me for later, wrapped up in my heart with the Torah, a reminder of all that Hashem has made and given to us in this amazing world.

There is a wildflower that is iconic to Alaska called the fireweed.  Fireweed grows everywhere in the summer, tall and eventually covered in lovely purple flowers.  You can even make a sweet syrup from it used to flavor ice cream and it is said to have medicinal properties, too.  Its main function for Alaskan’s though is as a timer.  The fireweed goes to seed and earns its name by looking like the tops have caught on fire and turned to ash.  Rapidly, the purple flowers give way to this ashen look, as if the plant caught fire.  By the time all the flowers are gone, so also is the short Alaskan summer.  Alaskans watch the fireweed in the short summer months much like others watch the calendar or a timer.

For now, the fireweed has not yet begun to bloom.

2 thoughts on “A Shabbos to Bottle Up Time

  1. You said, “I wish there was a way to finish conversion here and more of a community to support observance” and “I started to feel a bit sad about leaving Alaska” I must ask WHY? I mean why leave when you know you are in a land touched by the hand of God? Not being Jewish this may be a stupid suggestion but why not start an orthodox community yourself. I am sure there are some other in Alaska that wish to observe your faith the way you do why not try and bring all of them together in one location? Also remembering I do not understand the practices of the Jewish religion could you not in some way get the word out to other in the lower 48 that if they wanted to live in a land wher just opening your door revels the majesty of our Lord they should give ‘your’ community a try?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Pete!

      There is a small Orthodox community up here in Anchorage, however there is not a big enough Orthodox community. There are a lot of reasons why Orthodox Jews cluster together and in order for someone to convert, they need even more support around them than a born Jew. A Rabbinic court generally won’t convert you unless you have those support systems already in place so that they can give you the best chance of being able to remain observant after conversion.

      As an example of what we go through up here…

      For one, kosher meat and cheese are REALLY tough to find up here and where we can, they’re really expensive. We eat meat about once a week and live mostly vegetarian. For another, there aren’t really Orthodox Jewish day schools up here, which is a requirement for most Rabbinical courts to convert someone who has children or who might have children in the future. Then, there is the issue of services. Orthodox Jewish men are required to pray 3 times a day, ideally with a group of 10 Orthodox men or more. In most cities. there are a variety of services for men to join, but in Alaska, there are no daily services at all. Then…there’s the sun issue.

      All holidays and Sabbaths begin at sundown and there is a certain time in which we must do some things to begin the holiday or Sabbath. Holidays and Sabbaths also end after sundowns. This time of year, that means these times fall in the middle of the night! In winter, they fall in the middle of the day.

      If we want to be fully observant and have all the support we need to raise our children accordingly, we must move to a larger community. Perhaps one day Anchorage will reach that critical mass in the Orthodox Jewish community where it can support private schools and kosher food, but for now, it’s pretty tough and only a few very hardy families are able to make it work. Few Rabbis though, would convert someone up here and it would be really tough to prove to them that we’d be able to hold on to observance long term, particularly without more educational resources for our children.

      That being said, Alaska absolutely is an amazing place! If I could miraculously transport a fully functional Orthodox community up to here, I definitely would!

      Liked by 1 person

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