Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Are you getting your tattoo tomorrow?

Do you plan to get a tattoo?

A few weeks ago, I popped into a nearby quick-shop to buy a bottle of water. As I stood on line waiting to pay, I read the neck of the person in  front of me. 

Yes, his neck. 

In bold, calligraphic letters, this fellow had tattooed the Shema on the nape of his neck. I got the sense that he was stretching and flexing especially for me to see. He was doing a sort of "Hey! Rabbi, do see my Jewish pride?" number. Tattoos aren't kosher, but there is no doubt that his was intended to celebrate, not undermine Judaism. 

I've since shared this story with a few people and have discovered that Hebrew/ Torah tattoos are quite popular. I'm told there are even some celebs who sport Hebrew on their bodies. I'm told that a very proud local Jew has had a Magen David emblazoned over his heart, to show his love for Yiddishkeit. Would I do it? No. But, those graffitied Jews make a you think.

Torah is classically presented as ink on parchment; be it a book or the sacred Torah scroll. Ink and paper/ parchment remain two separate entities (the ink + paper) that combine to create a document. You could chemically remove the ink, which proves that the ink and the paper remain separate. They say you can remove a tattoo using laser, but there's no question that body-art is more permanent than ink on paper. My "friend with the Shema on his neck" has etched its message on his person more indelibly than most Jews I know.

Tomorrow is Shavuot, the day G-d gave us- and gives us again- His Torah. When G-d gives the Torah, it's not the ink-on-paper type; it's the etched into stone version. On this holiday, He empowers to engrave His message onto our souls. All you need to do is get to Shul to hear the Ten Commandments tomorrow. You arrive and G-d brands you with His message.

So, are you going to get yourself a tattoo tomorrow?

1 comment:

Priscilla Huhn said...

Thank you. You put things in an amazing perspective.