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Hebrew Literacy Through Tattoos

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Why is it that kids don’t want to go to Hebrew School yet celebrities are getting their bodies tattooed with Hebrew phrases and value constructs? It is true that for many, Hebrew literacy is an obstacle to participation in Jewish communal life, especially in the synagogue. Would the ability to interpret celebrity tattoos serve as a motivating reason for some to remain in Hebrew School? Just as people often use popular culture as a vehicle to learn historical fiction (Braveheart led to a surge of interest in Scottish history, for example), perhaps Hebrew tattoos are a place to start. Consider Victoria Beckham, whose back (along the spinal column) is tattooed with ani l’dodi/I am to my beloved (and that is as far as I can see). I presume the rest of the phrase from Song of Songs is also included: v’dodi li/and my beloved is mine.

In any case, just to set the record straight—any permanent alteration of the skin (like tattoos) is forbidden by Jewish law (though it doesn’t keep you out of Jewish cemeteries as popular myth would suggest). Earrings that have pierced the cartilage of the upper ear are also not permitted under Jewish law. Of course, we recognize that lots of people do both and that few feel governed by the parameters of Jewish law. But that means they have to care about the relevancy of Jewish law to guide or govern their lives. To me, perhaps that is the bigger question. And if tattoos are a place to begin the conversation, color me in.



18 Comments

  1. please can someone help me im trying to find the reglious form of hebrew writing for a tattoo in memory of my mum saying,YOUR ONLY A BREATH AWAY…pleasecan u let me know through e-mail.thank you so much….

    Comment by georgina — September 13, 2008 @ 7:41 am

  2. i want to know the old heberw translation for
    “my temple”

    Comment by laura kirkpatrick — September 24, 2008 @ 9:52 am

  3. i want to know the translation for “God if i can’t have what i want…let me want what i have”

    Comment by m.sanchez — September 24, 2008 @ 10:18 pm

  4. whats the translation for “Rudi.Nicholeen.Jason.Kelly” in hebrew writing..

    Comment by secret — September 29, 2008 @ 7:34 am

  5. Can you tell me the translation for “always faithful” and “own the day”.

    Comment by Morgan Willis — October 17, 2008 @ 6:52 pm

  6. i want my sons name translated in to hebrew please can you help

    Comment by Corey — October 28, 2008 @ 4:24 am

  7. i was wondering if you could translate ” A city of a thousand stories.”

    Comment by Cassandra — November 9, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

  8. Could you please help me translate ” My beautiful angels Zoe and Lachlan” into hebrew please!

    Comment by Tamara — December 2, 2008 @ 7:46 am

  9. i got this quote translated for me into hebrew, want to know what you think it says? (so i know its right!) thank you :)

    أنا لست خائفة ,لقد ولدت لأخدم هذا الهدف

    Comment by Tahnee — December 15, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

  10. can somebody please help me on how to spell “What breaks me makes me stronger”
    please get back to me!!! thanks

    Comment by Eliza — December 16, 2008 @ 11:02 pm

  11. Can you please translate for me “shrouded in wonder today we begin again to discover our destiny” and “you can’t live your life for other people; you’ve got to do what’s right for you .. even if it hurts some people you love”

    Thanks so much!

    Comment by Christina — January 15, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

  12. can u plz translate “In God I trust” and “walk by faith”
    thank u!

    Comment by venus — January 21, 2009 @ 1:10 am

  13. could you please translate ‘only god can judge me’ and ‘ what goes around comes around’ please
    thanks

    Comment by louise — January 22, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

  14. could you tanslate ” what does not kill me makes me stronger” pleaseget back to me via email please. thank you

    Comment by jamie — February 1, 2009 @ 4:07 pm

  15. Please could you translate “my son, my everything, forever”. I’d be very grateful as have looked everywhere but cant seem to find exactly what i am looking for. Very kind of you, thanks.

    Comment by Kate — February 5, 2009 @ 8:00 am

  16. can some one please translate ” dont deny yourself”? please and thank you!

    Comment by jessenia — March 5, 2009 @ 6:16 am

  17. can you help me to translate ‘what goes around comes around’ from english to hebrew in a fancy script?

    Comment by sharon — March 12, 2009 @ 8:58 am

  18. Thank you to everyone who has an interest in this blog post, however we at JOI are not in the translation business. ;) Please do a google search for “Hebrew tattoo translation” and you will find sites like www.hebrew-tattoo.com. Best of luck and thanks for your understanding.

    Comment by Paul Golin — March 12, 2009 @ 1:40 pm

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