Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
  The Living Law
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Kedoshim

Tattooing: Under your skin

The Mitzvah

A Jew is prohibited by the Torah against tattooing his body - namely to arrange to have an indelible inscription etched into one's skin (Vayikra 19:28).

In contemporary Western society, there is a morbid fascination with body art.

What emerges from tattooing - the process of which entails scratching the skin and applying ink so that the writing or design is of a permanent nature - is an erroneous perspective of the human body where a person is free to do with it whatever his heart fancies.

Whether as a decorative design or as an object of fashion, the Torah emphatically forbids a tattoo on any part of the human body. The Torah framework educates how, in truth, man cannot consider himself the true owner of his body; for he is merely the humble custodian of this divine gift.

It is not him, even though it is his to put to excellent use. It is his to hold, his to safeguard and his to protect for the duration of his limited period of his lifetime on Earth. It is not his to abuse, to deface or to destroy.

Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe ztl observed how an astronaut can only walk and survive in space dressed in a spacesuit. Similarly, the only way how a soul can operate in this physical world, for any period of time, is by being enveloped in a body, a suit of flesh and blood. Without this, he cannot function.

But the 'body' is not simply the clothing of the 'soul'.

The human anatomy itself expresses the mystical forces of how G-d engineered His Creation whose climax was the fashioning of man. Indeed, the structure and bodily organs therein correspond to the spiritual building blocks of the universe – to the extent that the human body is said to 'bear' the imprint of G-d: "In my flesh shall I see G-d" (Iyov 19:26).

That means that the body is itself the chosen vehicle for holiness and spirituality. Cue the famous kabbalistic correspondence between the 248 limbs and 248 positive commandments. Or the 365 bodily sinews and tendons and 365 negative commandments. Or the formulation of the blessing "...[G- d] Who sanctifies us with his commandments..."

The 'body' is designed for the 'soul' to interact with the physical world to serve G-d. However its very nature is to be a temporary garb – one that it shed upon arrival to the World to Come – akin to the astronaut takes off upon his return to Earth. It is not permanent. Hence any permanent mark on its skin, such as a tattoo, goes against the very nature of its functionality.

The Jewish nation is an inward looking rather than an outward projecting people. The beauty of the body lies in its internal workings on and its divine occupation. It is not a superficial, 'skin deep beauty', an extraneous man-made addition that goes against the spiritual function that the body serves.


The course is presented by Osher Chaim Levene, author of SET IN STONE (2004: Targum) about the meaning of mitzvah observance and PEOPLE OF THE BOOK (2007: Targum) about the biblical personalities. A London-based writer and educator whose website www.mitzva.org explores the wisdom of the commandments, he learned at the Gateshead and Mir Yeshivas, holds a Bachelor of Science (Honors) business degree from London's City University, and is a Member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.


 






ARTICLES ON MASEI AND THE THREE WEEKS:

View Complete List

Why Should We Remember?
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5768

Wandering No More
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5760

Unquestioned Answers
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5761

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Mourning on the 9th of Av: The Reasons
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5757

Clear Vision
Shlomo Katz - 5761

A Hopeful Mourning
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5762

> Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758

In the Eye of the Beholder
Rabbi Yehudah Prero - 5766

Growing Pains
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765

Looking for a Chavrusah?

In Other Words
Shlomo Katz - 5764

You Can’t Get More Local or Global Than That!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5773

To Tell You The Truth...
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5764

ArtScroll

Listen to the Mussar
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5762

Where Have You Been?
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

A Question of Faith
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5764

With A Kiss
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information