Earth Etude for Elul 22 — Lessons from Alaska

by Rabbi Suri Levow Krieger


Hut in Alaska surrounded by flowers.

I expected to be awed by the Glaciers. I was not disappointed. 

I anticipated being enLightened by 22 consecutive hours of sunlight. It was outstanding.

What I did not expect, was day after day of 80 degree weather. And the following week… Anchorage registered 90 degrees as a massive ‘heat dome’ hovered over the city. This topped the previous record set at Anchorage International Airport of 85 degrees on June 14, 1969.

It is good news for the Flora and Fauna! Everywhere we traveled in Alaska, from the Kenai Peninsula to Denali National Park, the gardens were breath-taking, like the ones depicted here. And this was not a one-off garden. Cities, towns and private homes boasted of impressive floral glory. And Alaska’s wildlife, from Moose to Caribou, are enjoying the readily available super lush foliage.

However, this is rather ominous news for climate-change watch-dogs! The high temperatures present an enormous fire risk for the State. In one fire alone, 90,000 acres burned during the time we were there… producing an ever-present smoky visage overhead. And 23 other fires burned in the Upper Yukon area, in that same time frame. (Bureau of Land Management – Alaska Fire Service). And of course the exceptionally warm waters, warmest on record, and record-low sea-ice extent, are even more worrisome, as our ocean levels continue to rise, threatening sea-coast dwellers worldwide. Harsh lessons to take in from Alaska, in the wake of awesome Glaciers and spectacular Flowers.

So how is it there are still people who don’t believe in global warming?!

Rabbi Nachman taught us that every blade of grass holds its own tune (Likutei Moharan). In Alaska, every spruce tree has a melody, every one of the 3 million lakes adds harmony, every one of the 100,000 glaciers – a unique swan song, as each slowly recedes. The reality of Alaska’s enormity (about twice the size of Texas) and awesome natural resources, echoes for me of the vast majesty and mystery of Ruach haKodesh – the Holy Breath of Life. But the splendor of this magnificent State will only remain with us for eons to come, if we heed the urgency of immediate eco-consciousness today.

Ordained from the pluralistic Rabbinic Academy AJR, Suri studied with Reb Zalman  Schachter-Shalomi in the early days of Jewish Renewal. Adjunct professor at Sacred Heart University for 8 years, Suri is currently Spiritual leader of B’nai Or:  Jewish Renewal of Greater Boston

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