This is a guest post by Emily Ozer. Since becoming a MOT Emily strives and struggles to merge academics with real life to end up with authentic observations. Most of her time is spent working towards her Nursing degree, blogging at david-and-emily.com, and being Army Strong. She is blessed to be married to her beshert, who (grudgingly) agreed to naming their rescued Boxer Gracie Lou Freebush. This article was first published on david-and-emily.com on May 1, 2012.
Four summers ago I randomly e-mailed Mom and Sister a picture of a compass. Sister sent back a different design that we all fell in love with. Mom suggested we all get it. After some debate we agreed that we would all go get it. We weren’t planning on getting it right away, Sister was working on plans for a different tattoo and wasn’t convinced I really wanted to get something so . . . permanent. Eventually we all figured out placement and I am proud to say none of us went with the tramp-stamp.
Sister insisted that I get to pick the place since it would be my first, her third, and mom’s second. I did some research, made some calls and decided on a cute parlor in Cambridge. Kaleidoscope. (The artist who did our art is no longer there). All the way there I kept going back and forth about where I was going to put it. I had decided earlier, but I wanted something I could cover, just in case.
While we had directions, we still got off at the wrong t-stop and ended up walking something like 15 -20 blocks during which we became cranky and sweaty. Just how you want to arrive for an appointment where someone’s going to be all up close and personal with you.
Mom and I decided that the pro should go first being that she was the most seasoned among us. She gritted her teeth, chewed on her lip and swore as the needle “tickled” at her ribs, promising us she’d shave our heads in our sleep if we chickened out. Originally, I wanted my tattoo to be the size of a quarter, but the detail couldn’t be brought down to that size. We didn’t chicken out. I almost did when the artist put the outline on me, it seemed huge, but I really didn’t want my head shaved. It only took about 45 minutes and didn’t hurt very much at all.
When I got home that night I researched tattoo removal. It was too big. It was too dark. It throbbed and oozed a little. I thought about the permanence of a tattoo versus the fact that my hair would have grown back.
After a few weeks I adjusted and made my peace with it and actually enjoyed having my tattoo. It was neat to be connected to my mom and sister with ink. Each of our designs has the same base but we chose different locations,sizes, number of outer rings as well as directions.
When I started dating Husband, again I realized how big and dark it is and also, how very un-Jewish.
“You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:28).
I considered removing it before my pool party, but something had me hesitate. Husband was fine with it staying or going, though he did agree that it’s “not exactly subtle”.
There is some debate amount the Rabbis about why, exactly, tattooing is prohibited. Rabbi Simeon ben Judah says it’s only if you include G-ds name that it’s a problem, Maimonides views it as a form of idolatry as apparently there was a “custom among the pagans who marked themselves for idolatry.” The Babylonian Talmud debates weather it’s the inclusion of G-d’s name or the paganistic ritual that makes it a prohibited act, but in the end it agrees that tattoos are a problem. Current Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Rabbis are all in agreement as well: tattoos are verboten.
On the upside at least keeping the tattoo won’t prevent me from being buried in a Jewish cemetery, (should I choose that route). According to eight Rabbis at Yeshiva University, it’s an urban legend, started most likely because a specific cemetery had a policy against tattoos. Other Rabbis point out that denying a Jewish burial to a Jew would be a violation of Kavod Ha-Meit(honoring the dead).
I don’t think removing the tattoo would make me feel less Jewish. I might end up feeling self conscious and a bit hypocritical about it should I begin living a more observant style life with head coverings, skirts, and or becoming shomer shabbat. I’ll cross that bridge when/if we get there.
My mother in law has an excellent point that sums all this up for me nicely: “Everyone has a past”. She’s so great.
If it is forbidden, but you really, really want it, then it is alright.
As any good rabbi will tell you. 😎
I think actually, my Rabbi didn’t notice until I pointed it out. Brilliant Torah/Talmud scholar but ah, not so much with the eyes. (Or maybe he just didn’t look at my ankles too much?) Regardless – I don’t think he really minded. Nor did the Rabbi’s of my Beit Dein. They spoke of a spectrum and finding your own comfort zone… It’s going to take me some time yet to decide about my comfort zone and until then – the tattoo shall stay.
Thanks for commenting!
I thought this tied in nicely.
This is really neat! Thank you for sharing! I think I’m going to end up spending some large quantities of time here. 🙂
Great first piece Emily…I look forward to reading the next one!
Rabbi Avi! Thanks for commenting! I’m grateful (and surprised, but actually, not really) that you had time to read it!