Commitment Tattoos!

In one single article last week, the New York Times pointed a shotgun at my head and blew my fucking mind.

I grew up with strong conservative Jewish principles rooted in the northeastern Queens mid-1980s traditions of Judaism, and one of our main precepts was: "Thou shalt not get a tattoo, because thou won't be allowed to be buried in a Jewish cemetery."

Guilt trips don't get any worse than, "When you're dead, we won't let you hang out with us." And as such, almost every Jewish kid I know has kept his and her arms pasty white, free of the cool barbed wire that our goy brethren wrap around their biceps. Religious or not, atheist or not, the vast majority of Jews refrain from getting tatted up because of the whole Jewish cemetery thing.

Unfortunately, it turns out it's bullshit. The New York Times:

The eight rabbinical scholars interviewed for this article, from institutions like the Jewish Theological Seminary and Yeshiva University, said it’s an urban legend, most likely started because a specific cemetery had a policy against tattoos. Jewish parents and grandparents picked up on it and over time, their distaste for tattoos was presented as scriptural doctrine.

This is the first and only time you will ever see me write this: OMG!

I haven't stopped thinking about this article since I read it. It's like turning 21 and finding out you can drink every drop of booze in the bar and no one can stop you. A whole new world is open to me...and us.

Clearly, Deborah and I need to take advantage of this. Should we get matching "commitment tattoos"? Should we write something in Hebrew, to be doubly ironic? Should we just brand ourselves with Shabbas candles?

The options are limitless. Suggestions, as always, are welcome.

CREDIT: Justin Dawson/The New York Times


(bride.) said...

Dude. I am SO WITH YOU. My f*ing mind was blown, too, and now I'm finally semi-over the idea of getting a tattoo. CRAP! I always wanted a really intricate tree with my Hebrew name (Ganya = Garden of G-d) hidden in it. Alas, the irony was too great for it to feel like a subversively acceptable act.

I still really want someone to make that design for me, so maybe when I get around to that, I'll crave a tattoo again. But for now, I'll just feel cranky that the NYT busted that shit up.

Miss X said...

Being Catholic, I am oh-so-familiar with the ways of religious guilt. I have secretly thought that it would be funny to have a Catholic mom and a Jewish mom have a showdown to see who can lay down the best guilt trips. After reading this unwritten rule about tatoos, I think the "Catholic Guilt Committee" (CGC) may have been shown up just a tad.

Good luck in your tatoo planning!

Old Man Snap said...

Aw hells yeah.

Not only is it expressive, but pain is temporary and pride is forever.

Or something.

Now buy the shirts!

Guilty Secret said...

Definitely get something in Hebrew. That's classic.

I had actually never heard this particular urban legend but it did make me laugh.

Downeaster Alexa said...

Hebrew tattoos are soooooo 2005. I'm so disappointed you'd aspire to join the ranks of Madonna, Britney, Christina and Posh Spice.

Funny story, though. One of my co-workers wanted to get a hebrew tattoo on her foot that said "You'll Never Walk Alone." I proofread the hebrew she got for it, and it was fine, but it was written out in a single line on the piece of paper.

When she actually had the tattoo done, they split it onto two lines and didn't realize that hebrew goes from right to left, so the words were in the wrong order.

I burst out laughing when she showed it to me, and she thought I was just messing with her.

Marilyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jose Reyes said...

hey! awesome blog! where's second base?

Jimmy Rollins said...

hahhaha great blog! hey can you tell me how to get to Shea on time???

Marathon Jewish Center said...


allie said...

matching tattoos of Shmelvis. wearing a yamacha.

Anonymous said...

please don't get commitment tatoos. just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. tatoos are ugly, tatoos are painful, and commitment tatoos seem to be the kiss of death to relationships. listen to your jewish parentals-- no tatoos!

Heidi@TrulyEngaging said...

So, what have you decided? To tattoo or not?

The Engaged Guy said...

Well, we are still in negotiations. Apparently Howard Stern (jewish) got his ring tattooed to his finger. That's an option -- although we would have to check the return policy on our wedding bands.

Harolde said...

err - as usual the new york times is relying on anonymous sources. in particular, we never get the name of any conservative or orthodox scholars they claim to have interviewed. so who are these 8 "scholars"? "scholar" is certainly not used to specify people with an an actual degree or even just smicha. chances are that we don't get the names because we'd laugh at the idea that they are scholars. i bet jarrod the janitor at Yeshiva U is one of their 'scholars'.

we are left with the name of one reform student who likes tattoes and his advisor who is unsure. so i am astonished that this article 'blew your mind'. who cares what reform rabbis think - reform rabbis have zero authority - their congregants and secular jews in general are more likely to be influenced by NYT columnists.

just get a tattoo if you think they look nice or would contribute to your self-image. jewish tradition is clearly against tattoos, even if reform students think their legal status is iffy. but there are millions of aspects of both jewish tradition and halacha that people like us ignore daily. this particular superstition requires no special attention.

Anonymous said...

My (step)mom is Jewish. I have the numbers "1" and "8" tatooed on the undeside of my middle and ring finger on my right hand, representing "life" because the numbers for the chai character, (hebrew for the word "life") are
"1" and "8". (My mom said every hebrew letter is assigned a number and therefore 18 is "a lucky number". On the underside of my right hand fingers, I have the letters L O V E because my dad had the word "love" tattooed on the top of his knuckles. Those are my "mom and dad" tattoos. So when I wave my hand to say Hi, or whatever, you can see my tattoos.

Point being, I agree with Harolde. But less arrogantly.

Jason Nark said...

do it. I'll go with you.

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