Most scholars agree that the first Jewish settlement of any significant size in the new world occurred when a small band of refugees, 23 Sephardic Jews (or Jews of Spanish heritage) from Brazil, came to New Amsterdam (New York) in 1654. They came seeking the rights of free men and women in a place where they could worship without restraint and avail themselves of both the opportunities and obligations of a liberal society.
No catchy intro, no fancy hook this week. We are almost at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. We are deep in the month of Elul, the time when we prepare our minds, bodies and souls for the upcoming days of prayer, teshuvah (repentance) and renewal. Now is the moment to ask hard questions, big questions, intense questions and, at times, uncomfortable questions. And we do this work in the shelter of God’s wings, dwelling in God’s holy home; as Psalm 27 reminds us, “Let me dwell in the house of God all the days of my life.” And so, as we read parashat Ki Tavo this week, with its magnanimous breadth of learning, I think that we can see the entirety of the parasha boiling down into a fairly simple, yet profound theme: love conquers fear.