H&M’s ‘If Not Now, When’ T-shirt. (H&M)
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H&M Selling ‘If Not Now, When’ T-Shirts

Hillel the Elder’s 2,000-year-old rabbinic quote is basically the new YOLO

Stephanie Butnick
August 29, 2014
H&M's 'If Not Now, When' T-shirt. (H&M)

Hillel the Elder, the rabbinic sage whose ancient teachings continue to influence modern Jewish thought, can add another important cultural touchpoint to his resume. Clothing conglomerate H&M, a company known more for its inexpensive, runway-inspired wares than its philosophical forays, has plastered Hillel’s famous quote, “If not now, when?” onto a $9.95 tank top.

The best part is that, according to (former Tablet intern) Hannah Dreyfus at the Jewish Week, the shirts are insanely popular, and H&M can’t seem to keep the Babylonian-chic item in stock.

It’s been a big week for Jewish motifs in fashion. On Wednesday, Zara faced collective Internet outrage over a kids’ pajama shirt that looked an awful lot like a concentration camp uniform. (The company removed the item and apologized profusely via Twitter).

The popular H&M shirt, meanwhile, is likely on the backs of tweens across the country, maybe even the world, at this very moment. Hillel’s 2,000-year-old quote is basically the new YOLO.

It’s only a matter of time before kids these days are doing the ‘on one foot‘ dance.

Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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