I got to write this personal column by chance, though we all know there is no such thing as chance in G-d’s world. Everything is from G-d.
I surfed Google for information regarding the prohibition against tattooing oneself. I found some sources and some in Wikipedia. But most of it was dry information and when you want to inspire others to prevent them from making mistakes you need to get to their hearts, to find one sentence that can cause a paradigm shift. Then I found one article that touched on personal emotions and found that it talked to my heart. It was an article that talked about the prohibition of tattooing on one hand and talked about the great regret people who tattooed themselves feel, mainly baalei teshuva.
During these past few years I discovered the wisdom of Judaism and Thank G-d I keep Shabbat, laws of modesty and kashrut. My teshuva (repentance) was acquired through much questioning and happily, I found many satisfactory answers and logic behind many prohibitions.
I grew up in Tel Aviv my whole life. Here everything is permitted, life is free, and there are no boundaries or prohibitions. Materialism clouds over what the soul really needs. Life’s motto was “eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we will die”; to live solely for the moment without thinking about the future or any consequence of our actions. What’s prohibited is permitted and as permitted as possible. Every time my heart broke down I went to these shops where the evil inclination lies in wait for you to fall. Once it was Chinese lettering, a different time it was colorful butterflies, another time a fairy with flowers on my foot. I would weave a story in my imagination about the drawing and wait for looks and compliments from people.
Now that I am a more mature woman who attempts to control desires and difficult inclinations, I suddenly understand how much pain my tattoos cause me when standing in front of the mirror. How do you say it? It doesn’t slide smoothly down my throat, my spirit and mainly my soul. I always wish these same shops would sell an eraser that would erase it all.
A tattoo is something that you want to forget. It reminds you of your previous life, the open free life. People still steal a glance at me periodically eventhough I wear long sleeves on a 40 degree (Celsius) day with 80% humidity. The people bothering don’t stop. You are judged, not always favorably and people focus mainly on this sin without knowing how much pain you are going through when traveling and trying to keep Torah and mitzvoth.
But as long as I can reach the soul of one young person who starting out with enthusiasm of the humming (tattoo) needle that not only wounds and permanently scars the body,(unless you undergo an long and painful removal process) it also scars the soul… I will try to prevent him from making my past mistakes.
Every Shabbat eve we sing a sentence that is so apropos to people who want to tattoo; “The last action but first in thought.” Think about what you are doing even for an additional second. Are you prepared to live the rest of your life looking at your body and seeing something you cannot ever reverse?