Hebrew tattoos are all the rage in the last few years.
Celebrities like Madonna and others have popularized what they call Kabala (it’s more like pop-kabala, but that’s a discussion for another day!) and this may be one reason why so many people are sporting Hebrew lettering on their bodies: Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears and Victoria Beckham all have one.
Plus, some Christians seem to think tattoos of Biblical verses in the original Hebrew will look more authentic. And some people just find them cool.
But – are you really sure you want one? Here are a few reasons why it might not be so cool after all:
If you don’t know Hebrew really well, how do you know what it is that you are getting permanently etched into your skin?
Bad Hebrew tattoos happen so often that there are entire blogs and websites on the internet devoted to making fun of them – gross misspellings, backward letters, and sentences that do not at all mean what the tattoo victim thought it would. Many of the Hebrew designs available weren’t made by native Hebrew speakers. What if the word now permanently inked on your body, which you thought meant “courage/strength”, turns out to really say “goat”? How do you think the woman who thought she had “beloved forever” on her lower back feels, now that everyone online knows it actually says “uncle world”?
And transliterations – spelling English words with Hebrew letters – aren’t fail-safe either: I wouldn’t recommend writing "Mom" using the Hebrew alphabet, for example. In Hebrew, it spells mum – mutilated. (Rather appropriate, actually, for a tattoo …)
A tattoo is forever. Think long and hard before getting one in a language you don’t know. (Hey, is this an incentive for you to really learn the language? You can learn Hebrew online – here’s how.)
The Bible forbids tattoos – Leviticus 19:28 – in Hebrew or any other language.
Tattoos were used by the Nazis to brand human beings like cattle.
Getting a tattoo hurts, can take several hours and there is a chance of the wound becoming infected.
If you decide five years from now you don’t like your Hebrew tattoo anymore, there’s no guarantee you can get it completely removed. Removal costs way more than getting the tattoo in the first place.
By the way, the wide-spread belief that Jews with tattoos cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery is not true. While some burial societies may have imposed such a rule upon themselves, there is nothing in Judaism that forbids a Jew with a tattoo from having a Jewish burial in a Jewish cemetery. Don’t believe me? Check it out here: Can a person with a tattoo be buried in a Jewish cemetery?