Friday, November 11, 2016

Time to Rethink our Presidential Election

I propose we make a much-needed constitutional amendment!

Nope, I’m not referring to electoral college.

I propose we move the elections to a nice warm time of year, like midsummer.
That way, if you’re upset with election results, you can just chill and go to the beach, or go hiking, camping, or some other fun, outdoor activity. You can even go to Disney. Mickey Mouse can help take your mind off your post-election misery. (But maybe you should avoid Donald Duck for obvious reasons).

This time of year is a tough time for people who are struggling to cope with the reality of the loss of their candidate and an incoming president whom they revile.

On a very serious note, I became concerned for the welfare of a dear friend and member of our community yesterday. He sounded depressed and not well, and I feared that he harbored thoughts of harming himself. It was late at night, so I called the police department to discuss.

A police officer was at my door within two minutes. I described my concern. He told me that they are receiving numerous calls like this since the election, but also because of the recent time change (significantly earlier sundown) and weather change. He said that those two factors are significant triggers that can push someone over the edge. They sent police over to our friend’s house within minutes, and made sure he was safe and that all was well. My friend later called me to thank me, and that he appreciated the warm and friendly policemen’s visit.

Parenthetically, I am grateful for our devoted police department. It was the first time that I saw a law-enforcement officer helping others in that context, not just enforcing a law or reporting a crime, or just ensuring highway safety. These officers showed me a new side of law enforcement, one that shows genuine concern and care for an individual’s welfare and state of mind, to make a wellness checkup and a friendly visit, giving the fellow a warm smile, hope and encouragement. The police are awesome!!

So back to my original point, were the elections to be held in a happier and warmer time of year, perhaps all would benefit. Imagine the benefit of a late-summer election. That way, if we are despondent about the election results, we can go to shul and pray our hearts out, because Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur would be right around the corner!

On second thought, maybe it could be spring or early summer. That way, we wouldn’t have to waste our precious summers on these unpleasant and stressful campaigns that no one enjoys.


Just a thought.

Tired of Post-Election Rhetoric

Friends, this is getting ridiculous. Please stop denouncing other voters. 

Everyone has the right to their own opinions. This is a democracy.

Please don’t deplore half the country. It didn’t work for Hillary’s campaign and it won’t work for you.

(To be accurate, it was a quarter of the country. Nearly half don’t vote at all, but that means that they’re okay with a Trump presidency, because if they weren’t they’d have voted, one would hope. So please don’t deplore three quarters of the country and a vast majority of states).

We may protest stated policies of the winning candidate. We may mobilize to remind our representatives in Congress that we expect healthy checks and balances to keep the incoming president in line.

Please stop saying that this is the end of our country as we know it, or that we just elected Hitler. Because it simply isn’t true. I understand your frustration and the benefit of hyperbolic ranting, but please be mindful of your rhetoric.

Yes, it’s true that DT had some shady supporters (like white “supremacist” groups), but HC had her share of shady supporters too (like rogue Islamic terrorist-sponsoring states). DT didn’t do enough to distance himself from his unsavory donors, but neither did HC. It’s just that you didn’t hear too much about the shady donations to her campaign, because the media is much more sensitive to right-wing extremists than they are to Islamic extremists. Both candidates were compromised, perhaps one more so than the other, but even that is debatable and impossible to know for sure.

Many voted for DT simply because they feared a nuclear Iran far more than they do David Duke. That does not mean they are willing to tolerate persecution of minorities.

Remember that politicians are opportunists and often make bold statements to rally support and get elected.

There is nothing that DT said that is even remotely fascist, although the media did a good job as showcasing his statements as though he were.
He may not have been my choice or your choice, but he was our country’s choice, so he most likely will become our new president. Accept that fact, because it’s reality.

You may call for a constitutional amendment for popular vote, but it will not change the present reality.

Also, here’s an important thing to bear in mind:

The presidential election is a bit like a sports game. If the team you root for won or lost, YOU haven't really won or lost anything. YOU are NOT the Red Sox or Patriots. They don't even represent you. They are merely making a living like everyone else. It’s just that YOU voluntarily decided to identify as a fan of theirs. That is your choice that you can change at will. You can choose to identify however you prefer, but that doesn't really change reality. Likewise, you are NOT a dem, rep, rino, dino, or otherwise. You didn't win nor lose the presidential election. The country as a whole elected a new president.

Neither you nor your team really won anything. The winning candidate is now going to govern the country, thanks in part to your vote (if you live in a state where your candidate won, or in Maine or Nebraska). But he is just a politician who said whatever he had to say to win your vote. Whether he is going to deliver is an entirely different question. So instead of celebrating, you ought to be planning your next steps, like how are you going to hold the candidate to his campaign promises? Likewise, if he is out of line or his policies are wrong, then how are you going to speak out in protest? He’s not your team that you need to be loyal to. It’s your country that you ought to be loyal to.

Same is true for those who voted for the losing candidate. YOU haven’t lost anything. You may be concerned for the welfare of the country, and perhaps rightfully so. You ought to be planning your next steps, like how will you as a citizen impress upon your representatives in government to maintain healthy checks and balances to help keep the new president in check.

So please stop deploring fellow American voters. And please stop categorizing them by race or education in a demeaning or disparaging way. That's prejudice. Lots and lots of women and people from other racial backgrounds voted for him, and lots and lots of white males vote for her. Some of the most brilliant and educated people I have ever met voted for him, while some of the least educated and uninformed people I have ever met voted for her. And vice versa. This is silliness.

Let’s move on. Just my two cents. Peace.


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Torah Thoughts for Post-Election 2016

Dear Facebook Friends who are celebrating the results of yesterday’s election:


Here are two relevant teachings of our Sages from Pirkei Avot (4:18), written some 1,800 plus years ago. Please read & share with your friends:


“Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar would say: Do not appease your friend at the height of his anger; do not comfort him while his dead still lies before him; do not ask him about his vow the moment he makes it; and do not endeavor to see him at the time of his degradation.


“Shmuel the Small would say: "When your enemy falls, do not rejoice; when he stumbles, let your heart not be gladdened. Lest G‑d see, and it will be displeasing in His eyes, and He will turn His wrath from him [to you]" (Proverbs 24:17-18).”


Here is a link if you’d like to study it in depth: http://www.chabadhebrewschool.us/…/…/jewish/Chapter-Four.htm

This election has been unnerving enough. There is no need to taunt or denounce anyone, regardless of whom he or she voted for. It is not helpful.

Here are the obvious directives from the above-mentioned teachings:
  1. Your fellow American who voted for Hillary is probably very angry right now. Respect that.
  2. Don’t try to appease or comfort him. Let him grieve. If he wishes to rant, let him and be quiet.
  3. If she vowed to move to Canada, don’t remind her or ask her about it. Understand that it was hyperbolic.
  4. Do not rejoice over her grief or loss. Just be happy over the election of the candidate you think will be best (or least bad) for the country. No need to revel or gloat on social media in a way that is disparaging to others. Be humble (like Shimon the "Small"). If it helps, try to remember back to 2008 or whenever when your candidate lost, and have some empathy.
  5. Do not say anything to make another person feel bad. Don’t rub it in. This goes for sports too. If you’re a Red Sox fan, for example, don’t taunt or insult a Yankee fan in a way that will really make him feel bad, unless both of you mutually understand that it is in good spirit. The Torah calls this “אונאת דברים.” It is forbidden to hurt another person with your words, spoken or written.


This goes the other way too. The same law also applies to those who are incensed over yesterday’s election results. Grief, anger, despair, regret, etc., is all fine. But please do not disparage other Americans who voted for the winning candidate. They do not necessarily approve of: misogyny, xenophobia, sexual assault, adultery, or anything else their candidate has been accused of. Nor do they even necessarily agree with all his stated policies.

Perhaps she voted for him because she feared the alternative more. Maybe he is a single-issue voter, like a jobless coal-miner in the rust belt, and the only thing that matters to him is his ability to put food on the table. Or maybe she fears a nuclear Iran more than anything else in the whole world, and feels that a misogynist, tax-evading buffoon is preferable to a perhaps-more refined and experienced candidate whom she fears is more likely to tolerate a nuclear Iran. Maybe for her, it’s a matter of life and death. Let’s stop judging each other and stop looking it in terms of US and THEM.

Peace to all. G-d bless America (and Israel too).

x

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Most Important Election Ever...

This is undoubtedly the most consequential vote you will ever cast.

For whom will you vote?

Your fate, the fate of your family, community, nation, and the entire world, literally hangs in the balance! The fate of Israel too, believe it or not, will be forever affected by the outcome of this crucial election.

Here are your choices:

One candidate embodies selfless virtue and sacrifice toward a greater cause. The other candidate stands for greed, self-aggrandizement and narcissism.

One candidate promotes love, truth and respect of one’s fellow, irrespective of our differences.

The opponent promotes hate and party politics, pits you against your own family members just because they’re different from you or have differing opinions.

One candidate inspires moral courage and fortitude, while the opponent is a fear-monger, trying to make you feel unsafe and vulnerable. These insidious tactics often incite reactionary aggression from among this candidate’s followers, who get easily sucked into their candidate’s angry rhetoric.

One candidate insists on honesty, integrity and accuracy, and does not tolerate any untruths. The contender’s campaign is fraught with lies and falsehoods. Every single statement uttered by this devious candidate needs to be thoroughly fact-checked. In fact, based on past performance, it’s reasonable to assume that every one of this candidate’s arguments are a thinly-veiled attempt at misleading gullible listeners and misrepresenting the facts.

In addition, this candidate likes to bring attention on the other’s flaws or shortcomings while conveniently ignoring his own. This candidate encourages others to spread malicious reports just to breed resentment and ill will.

This candidate teaches adherents to rant and rave, often shouting vulgarities or intimidating others, whereas the other candidate require that her adherents speak firmly but respectfully at all times.

This candidate believes that the entire Land of Israel belongs to Jews, and encourages every Jew to take possession of what is rightfully his/hers. The other candidate feels that Jewish homes are “unhelpful,” and that Jews ought to kowtow to world opinion and secular agendas. This candidate might claim to support Jewish causes, but only to further the sinister agenda that ultimately calls for the dismantling of everything Jewish, G-d forbid!

Needless to say, this candidate is NOT good for the Jews, but shockingly, a vast number of Jews (including Orthodox Jews) are enamored by the false assurances and empty promises that this candidate continues to offer.

One candidate exemplifies compassion and empathy, but prioritizes that compassion on victims, not the victimizers. According to the other candidate, however, victims ought to be blamed and their victimizers pardoned and enabled to continue preying on others.

One candidate bears no secrets but just says it as it is, while her opponent has secret pacts with the Dark Side, taking bribes, clandestine funding and phony donations. Suspicious individuals with ties to organized crime have been found to have numerous dealings with this candidate. That’s why the candidate’s platform promotes an agenda that ultimately will lead to violence, misogyny, misandry, lawlessness and a complete breakdown of society. And that’s the real agenda, to take away your freedom.

Indeed, that’s why this candidate has so many crooked and disreputable supporters, while there are so few people who are brave enough to speak out in favor of other far more virtuous candidate.

It is deplorable, but there is overwhelming media and celebrity bias in favor of the compromised candidate, because they are influenced by the same debased powers that be. Naturally, they also endorse this candidate’s dissolute and irreverent policies.
It’s amazing that although this candidate has such a scandalous history, people are still fooled by her self-professed innocence.

This candidate repeatedly sought to evade justice by denying past misdeeds and shady dealings, and even attempted to delete evidence after being ordered by Court to bring it forward. Of course, this is rather foolhardy, because in truth, EVERY single message, speech or deed does its damage and gets recorded forever, somewhere out there in cyberspace or elsewhere. It’s only a matter of time before it will all be public knowledge, and ultimately justice will be served. Do you wish to vote for a candidate who will be under investigation and ultimate indictment for breaking laws!? Do you wish to submit to such defective leadership?

One candidate is committed to defending your rights but also holds you to your obligations, thereby preserving your dignity and self-esteem. The opponent beguiles the electorate to become freeloaders and shirk all sense of personal responsibility. Of course, this is an attractive option to lazy people who would rather get free lunch than exert effort.

This candidate gloats over evading one's civic and communal duties, stiffs workers, and defrauds unsuspecting investors. While the opposing candidate personifies humility and responsibility, this candidate never acknowledges any guilt whatsoever.

This candidate claims to have more seniority and lots of worldly wealth, and consequently deserves to call the shots. However, it is no secret that the candidate has declared bankruptcy on more than one occasion, and is in fact morally bankrupt. The opposing candidate, however, may be younger in years and with far fewer worldly assets, but is rich in wisdom and moral values.

The older candidate claims to have lots of experience, but in fact is just maintaining status quo to keep the same corrupt villainous forces in power. However, if you vote for the younger candidate and grant her executive powers, the glass ceiling will be broken wide open and we will soar to unprecedented heights!

For whom will you cast your vote?

Don’t think that your vote doesn’t matter. It does!

In fact, your vote will literally decide who will be the next commander-in-chief! It is your vote that confers that awesome power!

So please vote. And vote wisely.

Location and time for voting is right here and right now.

No, I haven’t been discussing the Novermber 8th US presidential elections. My apologies if you were confused.

The two candidates I’m referring to are the Yetzer Tov and the Yetzer Hara. Your G-dly soul and your animal soul. Yup, the two are vying for executive power inside of you. It is you who casts the only vote, with every decision you make. Whose voice do you heed?

Hope you elect the right candidate!

G-d forbid, if you made the wrong choice and voted for the wrong candidate, don’t worry! You can demand a recall and vote again.

It is never too late to turn back the clock and do teshuva!

And when you elect the right candidate, that will empower others around you to correctly elect their own winning candidate, and together, we break the glass ceiling of exile and usher in the glorious Redemption and the coming of Moshiach!




PS: the Animal Soul claims seniority as it was in you since the day you were born. The G-dly Soul, your higher self, isn’t completely manifest in you until you became bar or bat mitzva.

Contest of Deplorables




As mentioned in my previous homiletic, nothing about this election is too poetic.
Nonetheless, I must confess, poems help me suppress my stress.
So please bear with me as I express
my disbelief over this current mess, two candidates we ought to dispossess


She said the word right. It’s a deplorable fight. Our nation’s horrible plight.

It cannot be denied. It’s on each side of the wide divide.

Election season of deploring, abhorring and warring.

Condemn the Dem. Throw the Reps down the steps.

Silence honest debate. Replace it with hate.

Use the flag as a gag. Put your opponent in the bag.

No more stars and stripes. Only spars and gripes.

The white is out of sight. We’ve put out the light. Nothing else bright.

Now it’s just solid Red or Blue. Me versus you.

Us and Them, Rep or Dem.

Us Adorables against Them Deplorables.

Two alternate universes. No exchange of ideas, just of curses.

Yup, worlds that are parallel. Any attempt at discussion is more like a carousel.

Trash the other. Trample your brother. Civil dialogue easy to smother.

Why tout policies, when we can shout fallacies?

It’s a distortion beyond proportion!

Who cares about moral clarity or what’s good for posterity, 
when we can discuss vulgarity? And that helps foment polarity and further entrenches each in his own insularity.

It’s all a parody, or should I say, hilarity? Feel free to overlook your candidate’s insincerity, if that helps promote his/her popularity. Of course, because the other one’s worse! (I keep hearing that verse.)

Our choices are grim. Her or him.

The question that stirs: whose mendacious slurs the electorate prefers? His or hers?

Whose corruption do you prefer? That of him, or that of her?

And if that’s the case, and there’s one you embrace, then the other you feel the need to debase?

Of course, the opponent must be deplored, while your candidate’s faults surely must be ignored.

Her husband is a whore, his wife is a whore. My ears have grown sore.

Is he a predator? Depends who’s the editor. And that depends on who’s the creditor.

He stiffed his contractors! She murdered her detractors!

She blamed her husband’s victims! (Never mind his locker room dictums).

The women he’s mistreated! He lied and he cheated! (Just overlook all the classified emails she illegally deleted)

Special govt treatment for her corporate investors. He rejected a judge because of Mexican ancestors. She’s a protestor against a sexual molester? (Hmm… she lives with one… something must have possessed her.)

He annoys sensitive females. She destroys sensitive emails.

Dispose of the evidence. Just rely on your eminence.

Media runs wild. Both candidates historically reviled.

He mocked the disabled! All the womanizing she enabled!

His fictitious facts. Her secret pacts. His unpaid tax.

Returns undisclosed! Wall Street speeches undisclosed! 

Conspiracy theories proposed. Secret nuclear deals unopposed. Incriminating evidence conveniently disposed. DNC fraud exposed.

He’s a buffoon and a glutton, can’t be trusted with the button. She can’t be trusted with the delete button.

Entered dressing room without permission! Defended husband’s exploits without attrition!

Business failures. Foreign policy failures. Political favors of unsavory flavors.

Illicit relations and vulgar conversations. Shady donations, phony foundations, rogue corporations, failed nations.

He’s Kremlin-backed. She’s Saudi-backed. His dearth of tact. Her emails hacked. Benghazi attacked. Cataclysmic nuclear pact.

Presidential endorsements. In Benghazi no reinforcements.

Crony capitalism. Patterns of fascism. Dangerous pacifism. Creeping socialism. Huge social schism.

Widespread discontent. Both candidates from the top one percent.

He’s up in Trump Tower. She’s in her Ivory Tower.

He’s the financial elite from Easy Street. She’s the political elite in cahoots with Wall Street.

Her lucrative speeches and security breaches. His fancy hotels on sandy beaches.

She's the political establishment, no stranger to scandal and corruption. He's the cynical anti-establishment...but can we handle his next eruption?

She’s a typical dishonest politician. He’s an inimical tycoon with no inhibition.

She shatters glass ceilings, but raises debt ceilings. Her shady dealings. He hurts people's feelings.

A nation in debt, spending trillions more than we net.

Millions on the dole. Trillions deep in the whole.

He may have experience in business, but these staggering numbers are causing me dizziness.

Some of his enterprises have gone bankrupt. She ran a government that’s practically bankrupt. They're both morally bankrupt.

She’s Whitewater and Kenneth Starr. He's reality TV star with hair that’s bizarre.

His grandiose promises. A huge fabulous wall. Her failing health, her 9/11 fall.

She’s for open borders. He’s for laws and orders. He insults reporters. They both have repugnant supporters.

She takes in migrants and “donations” from tyrants. His election defiance and Putin alliance?

Quite a feminist dame, adopted her husband’s surname. Built her career on her First Lady fame.

Do we wish to inspire that type of feminine ambition? Stay married to a liar, so you’ll get a great position?

Indeed quite an accomplishment, staying married to Bill. But not sure if that means she has presidential skill.

At least she stayed committed. (Although of course, she benefitted). Her opponent, on the other hand, has never submitted.

The billionaire’s affairs. Like stock options and shares. Then find someone else with better wares, once you grow tired of theirs.

He’s like royalty, but has no loyalty. Like King Henry the Eighth, lacking marital faith.

Their personal lives, maybe not so germane. It’s more about the economy, Syria, Iran and Ukraine.

But should we give the presidential nod to one whose character is so flawed?

No matter who’s your choice, it’s no reason to rejoice.

This election is not about diversity. It’s about adversity and perversity. Not to mention a phony university.

He defrauded his pupils without any scruples. She defrauded the nation, and is under FBI investigation.

No self-respect, the peculiar elite sect. Whom shall we elect? To vote for neither surely isn’t correct.

Hopelessly shameless, both claim to be blameless.

She’s a hawk. He’s all talk, strutting around like a barnyard cock. Voters gawk and balk.

His rhetoric incites disunity. She breaks laws with impunity.

To evade justice is a cinch. Bill’s chat with Loretta Lynch. 

Does that make you flinch? Can someone give me a pinch?
Media bias. Language impious.

Celebrities adore her. Patriots abhor her.

She’s adored by every celebrity. He IS a celebrity. Both sorely lack integrity.

Islamic terrorism, she can’t acknowledge. He alleges rigging in the electoral college.

Her ties to Muslim Brotherhood. She vies for terminating motherhood. Supports late-term abortions. His odd facial contortions.

His plans mass deportation receives broad condemnation. But what about the widespread public frustration with relentless illegal immigration?

He plagiarized! She’s compromised! We’ve all grown desensitized.

You’re with her? Not so sure I’m ready to concur.

Can we afford four years of more of the same? A foreign policy that’s set the Middle East aflame?

And a domestic policy that’s messed up our nest. Unprecedented racial unrest. The oppressed and repressed always under arrest, and likewise those who have so professed. Everyone’s distressed. Opinions suppressed. Have we progressed? For every police a bullet proof vest.

Can’t we do better? Don’t mean to upset her. Just worried we may come to really regret her.

But what’s the alternative? A renegade conservative, whose exaggerated self-view is so ultra-superlative?

So go root for your team, while the rest of us squeam.

But please focus your aim. Don’t blame and shame. It’s a lame game.

Color War, either or. You think the polls really keep score?

Red or blue. The joke’s on you. Don’t you have anything better to do?


Click here for my next post, more serious thoughts about election: "Most Important Election Ever."

2016 Election Poems

This election season has been so pathetic, with voices from both sides sounding frenetic. Nothing about it has been so poetic.

Two candidates otherwise unelectable in a campaign battle that’s truly un-delectable.

Voting is non-elective, even if the choices are rather defective.

But getting all worked up over it is in fact elective, and for the most part, rather ineffective. And all this invective is totally irrespective. Everyone’s thinking has become so subjective, they hear what they want, with listening that’s selective. Sadly, we’ve lost sight of our collective objective.

Time for us all to be more reflective, and open-minded and introspective.

Voting is indeed our obligation, even if both candidates are under investigation. Just stop all the denigration, condemnation and agitation.

So go out and vote. But quit screaming… you’ll get a sore throat.

And just remember that in the end, it’s more important to have a friend, so don’t offend or condescend, even if that’s the appalling trend.

If the winner is Trump, don’t be a grump or kick anyone in the rump, or head over to a bridge to jump!

And if it’s Hillary, don’t get out your artillery, or drag anyone off to the pillory, or go drown in your sorrows at the local distillery.

Sheesh. It’s only a vote, not a sinking boat.

So what if our next president is an illegal resident?

G-d above is our protector, no need to jump ship and become a defector.

Despite Pharaohs and Hamans we always endured. So too G-d will save us from Hillary or Donald, rest assured.


We will survive. Moshiach will arrive. Am Yisrael is alive!


Click here for next election poem: "Contest of Deplorables"

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

No Tattoos for Jews

Why no tattoos?

The ultimate reason not to get a tattoo is because the Torah categorically prohibits it (Leviticus 19:28). Period.

Think not of the Torah as a set of incomprehensible rules that one must unreasonably enforce upon himself by means of guilt or blind faith. Instead, consider the fact that the world has not always existed and hence does not exist independently. Rather, it has been wondrously brought into being with an incredibly detailed design. Every effect has a cause, every design a designer, and every orchestra a conductor. The immaculate intricacy of our universe denotes a purposeful design intended by a purposeful Designer. See the Torah as the world’s blueprint, the instruction manual that our world’s Divine Manufacturer imparted to ensure the fulfillment of mankind’s (and the entire world’s) purpose.

Instead of random lawlessness and chaos, we humans have been placed here to cultivate the earth, to create civilized society that safeguards rights and freedoms but also order, justice and peace. Sometimes personal liberties are sacrificed for the sake of safety, and choices are curtailed for the sake of well-being. The Torah proscribes various behaviors just as your new appliance’s manual contains instructions and cautions against misuse that would result in your appliance’s diminished function or ultimate disrepair. It might make perfect sense to you to operate your appliance in a way that is discouraged by the manufacturer’s handbook, but a wise consumer ought to consider that perhaps the gadget’s maker knows a bit more about the device than he.

If the Torah has prohibited making markings in one’s flesh, it is in the individual’s own best interest to observe this rule ordained by his very own Creator and Designer, the One Who certainly understands what is good for him in body and spirit infinitely better than anyone else.

However, the fact that the Torah communicates this rule to us allows us to speculate as to its reason and underlying benefit.

Let’s consider some possible reasons why tattoos are prohibited:

The true value of the human being is indefinable, indescribable and unfathomable, a literal part of G-d from Above, as it were. In the image and likeness of our Divine Creator, just as G-d is indefinable and inscrutable, cannot be represented or objectified in some trivial image or depiction. Any man-made image or likeness is merely a distraction, sullying and obscuring one’s pristine connection to G-d.

So too, a marking on our body trivializes and objectifies the body. But in reality, the body is a vehicle for an infinite G-dly soul that cannot be marked, labeled or represented in any image or artwork.

Slave-owners tattooed their slaves to prove ownership, as cowboys
branded their cattle. Ford and Honda mark their cars to identify their name brand. Human beings are higher than brands, labels or images. The soul is eternal, and in a sense, the body ultimately is too (Resurrection of the Dead is a basic tenet of Jewish belief). It is on loan from our Creator. Self-inflicted gashes, mutilation, excessive body piercings or tattoos all bespeak a lack of respect and reverence for the body, and hence, the body's true Owner and Designer. It’s kind of like etching a name, smiley face or obscenity onto someone else's freshly-poured cement. Or like scrawling graffiti onto a venerated national monument.

Perhaps that's why the depraved Germans tattooed human beings at Auschwitz. In addition to the obvious utility that it enabled them to keep track of prisoners like widgets in a supply chain and automated their horrific slave labor and killing machine, it was also an obvious attempt to dehumanize their victims and strip them of any sense of dignity, hope or courage. The erstwhile-free individual was now nothing more than a nameless number, mere property of the Reich. A mark on the skin is obviously a statement of self-identity, and an indelible one indicates immutable and perpetual subjugation. Why on earth would a self-respecting human being wish to subjugate oneself to a tattooed number, word or image, in the same manner as the accursed Nazis inflicted on their hapless victims!?

Tattoos also reduce the body to a mere transitory shell, a disposable writing surface that may be scribbled on or illustrated without any regard for past or future. Indeed, tattoo markings often have only momentary and ephemeral relevance.

Imagine an infatuated lover tattooing his partner's name in the height of passion, only to terminate his relationship at some later point. Now they have split up and are no longer meaningful to each other. But for the rest of his life, he bears the name of someone who means nothing to him or less...

Would you tattoo your phone number into your skin? What if you change your number?

The same is true of any tattoo. It is a skin-deep and short-lived thrill of having a phrase, word or image indelibly etched in one's skin. But what happens when the fleeting appeal wears off, or the attitude to that phase, word or image changes? A large percentage of people ultimately regret their tattoos, according to recent studies.* So why would a self-respecting human being label himself permanently with a superficial mark of vanity that is here today, gone tomorrow, while his inherent value and self-worth ought to remain forever?

Even if the phrase or image represents a loved-one or idea that perhaps ought to remain forever dear to the tattoo seeker, tattoo is the wrong way to perpetuate the memory.

Let it be etched in your heart, let it inspire you daily, but do not mar or scar your body with it. For then, what ought to be a living memory is now reduced to lifeless ink intrusively inserted where it doesn’t belong… a dead, man-made icon where there was supposed to be only life. 

Perhaps that’s why the Torah juxtaposes the prohibition of tattoos next to the injunction against making gashes in skin out of grief for the dead: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor imprint any marks upon you: I am God.” Tattoos in the skin are akin to death marks… they are not a sign of life. Only your untarnished, natural living flesh is a sign of life.

Why must your skin remain unsullied and intact? Because “I am God.” The ineffable Divine Name used here (“Yud-kay-vav-kay,” also called the “Tetragrammaton” in English) can be interpreted as the One Who continually brings (you) into existence. Indeed, belief in the phenomenon of constant creation ex nihilo, that G-d is creating the world anew every moment, is a basic tenet in Judaism. At this present moment, you are being created as an entirely new being. Just as you were born in a pristine state, without blemish or markings, so too your body is a constant reminder of God’s continually creating you. “מבשרי אחזה אלוקה” – “From my flesh, I perceive God” (Job 19:26).

Your flesh bears witness to its Divine Creator. No images or words can define God, and no images or words belong on your skin.

Perhaps that’s another reason why the Torah concludes the verse with “I am God.” A tattoo is akin to idolatry, creating a lifeless carving on what is meant to be a living tribute to the living God. As such, the tattoo is emblematic of death, not of life.**

With the tattoo, one's living flesh is now permanently polluted by a foreign and artificial invader. The meaningful thought or memory has been reduced a superficial icon to be flaunted like a tee-shirt that can never be removed.

I'd reason with the tattoo-seeker: if you'd really enjoy seeing that image or name on your chest or forearm, how about buying a stamp and stamping it on in erasable ink after every shower?*** Do that for now and then let's meet again to discuss in five or ten years. You can always revisit the tattoo option later if you still want it, but can't remove it if it's the reverse. Why should its permanence be important to you? Is it a symbol of surrender or devotion to something irreversible? Can you express that feeling or devotion in a more self-respecting way that preserves the beautiful and natural state in which G-d created you?

It's okay to put on and take off different labeled or illustrated clothes. You may even mark your designer suit with permanent markers. That’s your personal preference, so long as you can change the suit at whim. You bought the suit so it’s yours…

But for crying out loud, please don't permanently mark up your birthday suit! That's G-d's suit that He painstakingly and lovingly hand-tailored just for you, so please don't mess with it. Indeed, He knows you better than you know yourself, and knows that you look absolutely perfect in it! Now and forever. As a youth, as an adult, when you're hoary and gray, in the grave, and at the resurrection. So respect that irresistible, G-d-given body of yours! Keep it clean and authentic, unmarked and indefinable.


Footnotes:

* http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/tattoo-regret_n_1654959.html

** Interestingly, Rashi comments that the Torah uses for tattoo, כתובת קעקע (literally "writing that is sunken") shares a common root with והקענום, "and hang them," in Samuel 21:6, since the gallows were thrust into the ground and the executed man hung upon it, it is as though the one hanged were inserted and sunken into the ground. This further reiterates the point above, that the tattoo's sunken ink is associated with morbidity.

*** It should be mentioned that even fake tattoos are discouraged by Jewish law, since they can be easily mistaken for real ones. This principle is known as “mar’it ayin,” that one ought to avoid causing others to have a false impression that he is violating Torah law.