My Hebrew Tattoo Idea

By Kevin Leland

For Bangari Judaica Project

I want Naomi Teplow to design an arm band tattoo, in those  beautiful hues of cobalt blue she uses in her Hebrew transcription artwork and her ketubot. Of course I want some of the other vibrant colors Naomi is famous for putting from Pallet to paper. The geometrical shapes, like the star of David, linked together by other symmetrical polygons framing a verse in Hebrew, mixed in with some images of nature…other than birds, fish or animals. I’m imagining an olive branch. All this surrounding the words, written right to left in Hebrew, from one of my favorite books of the Old Testament; The Book of Job

I broke the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth

-Job 29:17

This verse in Hebrew, is also Hebrew poetry. It “rhymes” — not in the way English speaking poets, like Lil’ Wayne understand rhymes. Not like the Cat in the Hat, Dr. Seuss way either. Hebrew poetry, which was used throughout Scripture, sounds redundant when translated into English. However, in a line (stanza?) of Hebrew poetry, it’s necessary to use the subject (or some noun or verb?) twice, but use a synonym the second time. See:

I smashed the fangs of the wicked and snatched the victims from their teeth.

I think this is what it would look like, but I’ll take Petal Mashraki’s advice, in her article, Verify Hebrew Text Before Getting a Tattoo — and have it checked by a Hebrew speaker / reader / writer before putting ink to skin. I wouldn’t mind a few pairs of trusted eyes on that string of ancient symbols before putting ink to skin, lest it really read “ I think girls are ickey and have cooties”

I’m not sure what she will think of this request, because as Petal also justly warns her readers; tattoos are a bit religiously naughty from the Judeo-Christian perspective. Not so much with Catholics, but very much so with Seventh-day Adventists, right Natasha Polak? To give this tattoo an even more ancient Hebrew aura, I don’t want to include any animals. Jewish artists of old were forbidden to make sculptures (graven images) or drawings of fish birds or higher animals. Designs, plants, flowers, and as per my request, an olive branch with leaves should be okay.

Gripe as tattooless theophiles may, tattoos are more popular now than ever before in the last 5000 years, and are definitely here to stay. And now, the inks they use are so advanced, they easily compare to the vibrancy of the media Naomi and other non-skin artists use in their creations. Some tattoo inks glow in the dark and under an ultra violet light. Cool huh? As someone who is pro-tattoo, for men and women, and has had a couple of them for over half my life, I have two warnings:

1) You don’t get a tattoo, you earn one. Men have a lower threshold for pain, I admit, but like many other rights of passage, there is a certain level of pain involved in earning this possession.

2) Choose your tattoo carefully, you will have it as long as you live, longer in fact. I’m not sure if they get erased when we get our glorified bodies back at the Resurrection. However I can attest to the fact that they’re the only possessions I was able to keep through two divorces.

My ex-step-mother-in-law has had hers almost as long as she has been alive, since she is now pushing seventy-five. I’m sure that the three inch vulture, perched on a branch on her left shoulder blade, will be looking over the squirrel humping a rabbit, or is it a rabbit humping a squirrel –? Oh yeah, it’s a squirrel humping a rabbit because the other way around you wouldn’t be able to see the squirrel’s tail, tattooed over her right ankle, to her regret, for years to come.

Would you believe that every word of that paragraph above was true? Just let it be a lesson to you: If you are getting a tattoo, get one that you wouldn’t mind not out-living. Not that my ex-step-mother-in-law has any plans of dying soon to escape this indelible menagerie…No one who knows her can even imagine that scenario, because it would mean that she would have to stop talking.

Choose carefully, and translate properly -you will have this longer than you will live.


6 responses to “My Hebrew Tattoo Idea

  1. Ed Hardy – one of the most famous tattoo artists ever – said tattoos aren’t permanent, at least not like Van Goch, Rembrant and other artists work, as when the person dies the tattoo art is gone forever. I love the idea of this tattoo!

  2. I like the colors Naomi uses, they remind me of the colors Vincent Van Gogh used.

    That’s true, tattoos don’t last as long as other artwork, only a lifetime…But here is a talking point:

    What happens with a person’s tattoos after they are resurrected?

  3. Can you tell me
    “What happens with a person’s tattoos after they are resurrected?”
    I want know

  4. So do I Mark. My guess is, it is the resurrected person’s choice. That guess is based on testimony that friends of Jesus Christ gave, after seeing him resurrected, and “not recognizing Him” -even though they spent an hours-long walk with Him, talking about everything that had happened in the last couple weeks (crucifixion, missing body, angel by the tomb) This shows that we can “transfigure” our resurrected, glorified bodies, as Jesus did, in order to disguise Himself from his friends / students… to give them a “pop quizz.” So if we can appear the way we want, or if we can appear to others they way that they best imagine us, (for instance, our “age appearance” will probably be in the eye of the beholder, e.g.; we look older to our children, but younger to our parents) So, if we have tattoos or not, will be probably be up to the person looking at us as well.

    Where my guess could be wrong, brings two things into question:

    1) Are tattoos actually sinful?

    2) Are they just a worldly scar, injury, or defect?

    When we are resurrected and receive our glorified bodies, they will be in perfect heath and washed clean of sin, inside and out. For example, my nephew, Evan, will be completely healed from his spinal-bifida and will be able to walk, run and even fly. All the scars from his 20+ surgeries, I think, will vanish…Although, Jesus still bore marks from His crucifixion, we are told, because when his disciple Thomas didn’t believe it was true that he rose from the dead, Jesus showed up out of thin air, right in Tom’s face, and said “go ahead, stick your fingers in these holes” — Poor Saint Thomas. He didn’t take Him up on the facetious offer, he just kneeled before Him, and said “my Lord, my God!”

    Next talking points:

    Is it a sin for a Catholic-Christian to get a tattoo? Is it a sin for a Protestant-Christian to get a tattoo? Is it a sin for a Jew to get a tattoo? Is it a sin for a Muslim to get a tattoo?

  5. An awesome book by a hero of mine, Tuviah Friedman, called “The Nazi Hunter” told a gruesome story of lampshades he saw made of tattooed skin. I had heard this when I was a teenager, but chalked it up as “urban legend” later in life, when I found out that it’s against Jewish law and custom to get a tattoo. The movie “Harold and Maude” and later other books and movies about the Holocaust, taught me that Hitler’s military would tattoo numbers on their POW victims.

    I hope I’m not being scandalous by saying this, but I think if I was Jewish, I would see it as honoring G-d, my faith, my ancestors and my people, even if it was “bending the rules” a little, if by MY CHOICE I got a tattoo of a verse of Sacred Scripture that most embodied a personal aspect of my faith, and spoke out against injustice.

  6. Pingback: Review | Bangari Content Gallery

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