Introducing the Pop Elul Project

The Pop Elul Project is an attempt to find Torah and God in the things that consume us. For many of us, our free hours are consumed by watching television, nights out are to the movie theater to see the newest release, and our computers are playing the latest top hit on Spotify while at work.

Pirkei Avot (The Ethics of our Sages) 3:3 teaches: Rabbi Chananiah Ben Tradyon would teach: two who sit without discussing words of Torah are scorners.

pop apple 2Too often, one interprets this teaching as a lesson that time shouldn’t be wasted. We shouldn’t waste our time with that which is silly and meaningless. All conversations should be about Torah, about faith, about our religious tradition.  We also assume that movies, television, music, and pop culture in general have nothing to do with our faith. However, I don’t believe that watching the hit tv show on Sunday evenings or seeing the new blockbuster in theaters makes us scorners. Rather, it offers entry points and opportunities for us to wrestle with Torah and wrestle with God. By embracing pop culture, we can still embrace our tradition and discuss words of Torah.

The month of Elul is the month leading up to the High Holy Days. This month begins a period known as the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe and Amazement. We are supposed to spend this month reflecting on the themes of the Days of Awe (including repentance, prayer, renewal, justice, and faith) to prepare us for the High Holy Days.

The goal of the Pop Elul Project is to use pop culture (television, movies, music, books, sports, etc.) to embrace the themes of the High Holy Days. With each day of the month of Elul, a new blog post will introduce an aspect of pop culture that is “trendy.” Each post will serve as an entry point to help us relate the themes of teshuvah to our lives. May this project prepare us for a good, sweet, new year full of new opportunities and a clean slate.

The Pop Elul Project will go live with daily blog posts beginning on Rosh Chodesh Elul. You can check it out at I look forward to discussion, debate, and sharing words of Torah through this project.

Shanah Tovah!

– Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky


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