My Tattooed Reminder

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The Torah reading this Shabbat is from the portion “Emor”, from Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23. The reading from the prophets is from Ezekiel 44:15-31. From the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:4-10.

Like every week the readings from God’s word are all interesting and full of important things that we today need to understand and remember to put what we can to practice.

From the Torah I want to discuss with you Leviticus 21:5:

“They shall not make any bald place on their heads, nor shall they shave the edges of their beards nor make any cuttings in their flesh.” – Leviticus 21:5 [NKJV]

From last week’s reading Leviticus 19:28,

“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.” – Leviticus 19:28 [NKJV]

The text from Leviticus 21:5 is specifically speaking to the priests who serve the Lord in the Tabernacle. The text from Leviticus 19:28 is speaking for all the people of Israel: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the Lord.”

These texts from God’s Word are so very relevant for today’s Western culture. Do you think that God has changed His mind from the time that He gave the Torah to the children of Israel? Do you think that now in the 21st Century God loves it when His children tattoo and even the pastors cover their bodies with tattoos?

The tattoos themselves are equated in these words from God’s word like cuttings in the flesh. The Word of God teaches that our bodies are the temple of the Lord. We believe that the Holy Spirit of God dwells inside of us, this is a teaching from the Old Testament and from the New Testament.

Tattoos are a hallmark of pagan culture. Humans are known to have had tattoos for the last 12,000 years. The practice of cutting and tattooing bodies was spread around the world before 5000 BCE, in cultures as diverse as East Asia and the Americas.

The God of Israel who gave us the Torah, the prophets, the writings, and the New Testament has forbidden His children, the children of Israel, to participate and disfigure their bodies with cuttings and tattoos. I have one tattoo of a Star of David that I did together with all the boys and girls in my neighborhood in Jerusalem when I was 13 years old.

The reason that all the kids in our neighborhood did the same tattoos of a Star of David was because most of the parents of our friends had numbers tattooed on their arms by the Nazis when they entered the labor and death camps in Poland, Germany, Austria, Holland, Ukraine, Latvia, and Lithuania.

We all did something stupid because we didn’t know the Torah and most of us didn’t know God. I would remove the small tattoo from my arm, but I am keeping it to remind me of how stupid I was as a young teen. The Torah teaches us to honor our bodies and keep our selves pure from any pagan signs and practices.

Okay, so, if you, like me, already have tattoos on your body, there is not much that you can do other than to regret putting tattoos on your body. You can teach others of the youth not to do it. You can teach that it is expressly against the will of our Creator and it is something ugly and unnecessary, nor does it add anything profitable to our lives.

OK, if you are a traditional Christian that knows only the New Testament and you don’t have respect for the Word of God from Genesis to Revelation – you still ought to consider that God said to Israel to not cut or tattoo your body. If it was something positive God wouldn’t have forbidden His children, the children of Israel, from doing cuts on their bodies or tattoos.

Now let me speak to families with young children and teenagers. It is wise to share and explain without anger or condemnation that as disciples of the Messiah we are chosen people. We have a special mission to be the light of the world. We are to be examples of a good and holy life and of good and holy behavior.

Please consider the following texts from the New Testament:

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:2 [NKJV]

“And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight…” – Colossians 1:21,22 [NKJV]

“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?” – 1 Corinthians 6:19 [NKJV]

I realize that we have freedom in Christ, but freedom is not unlimited, and it has God given boundaries that we ought to honor and keep. All that God has given us, is for our good, and for our life of purity and faith. Ignoring God’s advice and commandments is a mistake that might turn out into sin!

This article originally appeared on Netivyah and reposted with permission.