Sabbath in the Arctic

Musings of an Alaskan family one Sabbath night

Sunset time in Fairbanks at the river around twilight. (Image © Bigstock)

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At one of the four corners of the world (if you’re not a flat-earth adherent) sits Fairbanks, Alaska, the Golden Heart City.

Here in the Alaskan interior, where time rapidly transitions between the solstices, from twenty-two hours of sunlight during the summer to a mere four hours during our frigid winters, Sabbaths can at times be a bit problematic. Fortunately, in a landscape dependent on the use of dogs for transportation, our own pack of canines assist us in navigating through our Arctic Sabbaths.

Word got out about our “frum mongrels” after a Sabbath guest noticed their peculiar pre-Sabbath behavior. As our visitor would later recount, it was as if without discussion amongst them, and led by their leader, Daisy, our Jack Russell terrier, that she, by example, began the trip from our living room to the kitchen. Charlie, without hesitation followed suit. Our other Jack Russell terrier, Lacy, though slow to catch on, eventually forged her own way. Their abrupt, unscripted behavior caught the eye of our guest, who curiously stopped his own yammering to see if the remaining two dogs would also suddenly leave. Without hesitation Bullet, not to be out done, out-paced Lacy, beating her to the kitchen. Finally, our remaining occupant Cider, rocked back and forth, just enough to gain the momentum to become top-side. Once on her feet she sluggishly meandered into the kitchen as well. Our guest, too, curiously trailed behind to investigate the commotion. We rounded out the pack and scurried into the kitchen to find our five eager members spaced evenly at the foot of the table, in Sabbath tradition.

Our table, laden with home-cooked bread, pre-poured wine glasses, and unlit candles awaited us. We called to our two sons, who scampered down the stairway to join us. As the sun was about to set, we lit our candles, broke bread, and said Kiddush. As we devoured the bread, our observant canines zealously sought out all of the crumbs and pieces of bread that had “intentionally fallen” from our children’s hands to the floor. Our dogs, better guardians of the Sabbath than they are of our house, anticipate the Sabbath as much as we do, if not more and like clock-work usher it in as they searched out every last morsel. We humorously drew parallels to the Syrophoenician woman and her undeterred effort and expectations of the Messiah despite her dismissal at his hands: Yeshua said to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, since it is not good to take the bread of children and throw it to the little dogs” (Mark 7:26-27). Unfaltering, she answered, “Yes, Master; but even the dogs feed on the children’s crumbs which fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27).

Anticipating the Messianic Age

As one of the few Gentiles that Yeshua interacted with, she establishes an example of how Gentiles should approach the Messiah and the Jewish community—humbly recognizing her role as a mere dog beneath the table awaiting sustenance. Yet, on account of her audacious statement and the greatness of her faith, her prayers were answered. So too, it is for all Gentiles who faithfully and humbly cleave to the Messiah. The Prophet Isaiah hints at the inclusion of a foreign people and their drawing near to HaShem with the guidance of the Messiah:

“Why do you weigh out money without getting bread and exert your efforts for that which does not satisfy? Listen well to Me and you will eat well, and your soul will delight in rich food. Incline your ear and come to Me; listen, and your soul will be rejuvenated; I will make an eternal covenant with you, the enduring kindness of David. ...Behold, you will summon a nation you had not known, and a nation that had not known you will run to you, for the sake of HaShem, your God, for the Holy One of Israel, Who has glorified you.” (Isaiah 55:2-3, 5)

Isaiah envisions the Messianic age, a time when the nations will come to learn of HaShem’s laws and ways, a time when the Messiah will bear witness to the nations of the earth, when no other king will rule over the world, a time when all will identify with the words of Hashem, as Isaiah says a few verses later “…so shall be My word that emanates from My mouth, it will not return to Me unfulfilled unless it will have accomplished what I desired and brought success where I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

Like our own pack of dogs, in Pavlovian response we also sit under the table begging for and feeding on the children’s crumbs. In that humble recognition we, too, guard the commandments applicable to us, and remain loyal and obedient to our Master. And by learning to heed to his commandments and staying by his side we partake in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.

Challenge

So from the northern-most Messianic Congregation in the world (Not even close Кехилат Йешуа of Moscow, Russia!) we offer up a challenge to the Messianic congregations, Hebrew roots groups, and home studies in the lower 48 and around the world: This year our small group is going to memorize the entire Sermon on the Mount said from the true “Bread from Heaven” from Matthew 5:1-7:28 and have it completed by Simchat Torah (Oct. 26, 2016). It will be a challenge, but we have an entire year to complete it. Some of our members are memorizing it in Hebrew, others in Russian, and someone is even memorizing it in the Eskimo Iñupiaq language. The remainder of us are memorizing it from the Delitzsch Hebrew version as distributed by First Fruits of Zion (five dollars for the endorsement, please!).

We have been in contact with other home fellowships and congregations throughout Alaska to get them harnessed in as well. The question that we have for everyone else is: Are we to do this in Alaskan isolation or are there other rugged extremophiles who have the endurance and drive to join the pack?

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