Blog Archives

Calling all Contributors to Join the Pop Elul Project!

As we begin prepare for the Hebrew month of Elul, and the beginning of the Yamim Noraim, the Days of Awe, which will be here before we know it, the Pop Elul Project is trying something new this year. We are calling all contributors to share your thoughts with the Pop Elul Project.


The Pop Elul Project was started by Rabbi Jesse Olitzky in 2013 as a way of connecting pop culture to the themes of the High Holy Days. We invite you to join in this project with your own thoughts and submissions.

If you want to write for the Pop Elul Project:

Click on the tab above to “Contribute” and please fill out the form, including your name, email address, where you are from, what movie, television show, or song you will be writing about, and your submission (no more than 750 words.) You will be contacted if it becomes a part of the Pop Elul Project.

Thanks for adding your voice, your Torah, and your love of pop culture to this exciting project!


Riding Away From Our Demons

Thanks to Netflix, I no longer have to sit through the sometimes unbearable offerings that networks air during primetime over the summer. Summers are spent binge watching shows on Netflix that I never had the chance to sit down and watch when they first premiered on television. So in just a couple of months, I knocked out six full seasons of FX’s Sons of Anarchy, just in time for the beginning of the seventh and final season, which premieres on Tuesday, September 9th at 10:00 PM on FX . 

Truthfully, I never was interested in watching Sons of Anarchy because I never thought it would be a show I’d be interested in. I figured it would be too violent and too profane, focused on the Sons of Anarchy motorcycle club in fictional Charming, California, selling illegal arms from the True Irish Republican Army terrorist organization to gangs and drug dealers throughout the west coast and beyond. Yet, I love the show. I am hooked. Apparently, I am not alone. Sons of Anarchy is FX’s high-rated show ever and it’s season five premiere was the highest-rated telecast in FX history.

SOA PosterThe show centers around protagonist Jax Teller, played by Charlie Hunnam, who serves as Vice President of the MC that was started by his father. Reading his father’s journal, Jax learns to question the club and how it has gone off-course, believing that its actions do not exemplify its original mission. When his high school sweetheart, Dr. Tara Knowles, returns to Charming, their love is rekindled. They live together and raise two children together, yet this pediatric resident at St. Thomas Hospital is not the typical “old lady,” as SOA’s wives are known.

Tara wants Jax to leave SAMCRO (Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club Redwood Original) so that they can start over. She doesn’t want to raise their children in a world of violence and illegal activity. Jax too is determined to leave, but every time he tries, something pulls him back. Whether it was [SPOILER ALERT] the sexual assault of his mother, the kidnapping of his son, or the immorality of his stepfather that leads to Jax wrestling the club’s presidency away from Clay, Jax cannot leave. As hard as he tries, something keeps pulling him back. And the longer he stays, the more entrenched in a dangerous lifestyle he becomes. Even when Jax realizes he cannot leave, he arranges a deal to plead guilty and let his wife and sons leave Charming. [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT] Still, even this attempt at doing the right thing ends with the brutal murder of his wife.

Jackson Teller never wanted to live a life of crime. He was born into such a life. He tried to change and felt like it was a never-ending uphill battle. It was easier to stay the same, despite the demons that surrounded him and the demon within. 

We too acknowledge that which we do not like about ourselves — what we do and who we associate ourselves with — and are committed to change. We spend the month of Elul committed to doing teshuvah, to repenting, to beginning anew and changing our ways. Yet, more often than not, we don’t change at all. Change is hard. Change is challenging. Change forces us to step out of our comfort zone and accept that which we tried to deny for so long. Change sometimes seems impossible. It is easier to think that change is impossible and not try to change at all. 

But teshuvah is a yearly occurrence. Every year in preparation for the High Holy Days we try to change for the better. A year from now, we will do the same thing, knowing that we did not achieve our goals. Still, we keep trying. We remain committed to being the best version of ourselves. Teshuvah is an ongoing experience. Maybe Jax Teller hasn’t failed at teshuvah. He rides on his motorcycle trying to leave his demons behind. He just hasn’t gotten there yet. 

May we all have the strength to keep riding in the distance, courageous enough to leave behind the parts of us we want to change. Even when detours and roadblocks get in our way, may we never stop riding towards teshuvah


Please Note: “Sons of Anarchy” starring Charlie Hunnam, Katey Sagal, Kim Coates, and Tommy Flanagan, can be seen on FX on Tuesday nights at 10:00 PM. The seventh and final season premieres on September 9th. The show is Rated TV-MA for violence, sexual content, sexually violent acts, sexist and racist insults, and profanity. Viewer Discretion Advised.  

– Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky

Chodesh Tov! Happy Elul!

Today begins Rosh Chodesh Elul, as we spend the next Hebrew month preparing for the High Holy Days 5775. Tonight begins the first day of the month of Elul and with that, we again begin a month of daily reflections. Movies, Television, and Music aren’t just about what is trendy and popular. They are about faith and prayer, repentance and renewal, justice and change. I look forward to going on this journey of preparing for the High Holy Days together.

– Rabbi Jesse M. Olitzky