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by Kefa

“You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord”

Leviticus 19:28

There has been a lot of debate in the Mishnah about the application of the latter half of the aforementioned verse. After a lengthy discussion, Maimonides concluded that, ‘regardless of the intent, the act of tattooing is prohibited.’ (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Idolatry 12:11)

Recently, I have noticed an influx of sites promoting tattoos in a Jewish context or culture; tattoos of Hebrew letters, tattoos of verses from the Tanach in Hebrew, etc. At first blush, this seems incredibly ironic, if not oxymoronic; what’s next, Hindus working at Coach? After a little digging, we find that the general idea behind this is to use tattoos as an expression of your dedication and zeal for your Jewish roots; an outward representation of the pride you take in your ancestry.

What is the justification? How are you able to slip past the clarity of the text? I’ve heard that tattoos were used in pagan culture and/or idol worship. Since you’re certainly not getting a tattoo to worship a pagan god and are more likely getting it to embrace your heritage as the People of G-d, you may be able to find security in this justification. G-d was simply separating us from the pagan worship of the nations, right? Therefore, since you have a pure mindset, you are excused from this command.

No! May it never be! Remember Solomon, who thought he understood what G-d meant in Deuteronomy 17:17 (He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself) and subsequently was turned from G-d by his many wives. Shall we belittle G-d, in His omniscience, by daring to comprehend the reasoning behind His commands? Shall we elevate ourselves over the One who laid the foundation of the earth?

In conclusion, do not feel compelled to break one of HaShem’s commands to express your zeal; instead, consider channeling that energy into demonstrating your love for Him by keeping His mitzvot.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

1 John 5:3


by Kefa

I’m sure we’ve all gotten some sort of request by our employer for some weekend work sometime in our lives (ok, I actually haven’t :P) A quick favor turns into an agitated plea, which turns into an irritated requisite, which turns into an ultimatum; your job or your religion.

There are three sides to a response:

  • Honor G-d, honor the Torah, and honor the Sabbath; never work on a Saturday, whatever the cost.
  • Avoid any Saturday work until it puts your family’s well-being in jeopardy (job-threatening).
  • And, of course, you could just work on Shabbat…

If you’re an option 3 person, you can stop reading here.

A lot of men are torn between their responsibilities as a husband/father/provider and their obligation to the G-d of Israel. G-d commands us in Exodus 20,

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your G-d. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Pretty straight forward, don’t you think? You may argue that G-d values life over the Sabbath. It’s for this reason that we find no problem lying to save a life. The Preservation of Life trumps any other mitzvah in the Torah. But can providing money for your family be considered the Preservation of Life?

Is the necessity of  financial security, a roof under which to sleep, and food to eat an influence caused by the world? Perhaps we need to re-examine our convictions.

I would turn your attention to Joseph, son of Jacob, who was faced with pleasure and security on one side and his convictions and conscience on the other. Sleeping with Potiphar’s wife would have saved him from a bad reputation, losing his job, and ultimately ending up in jail (not to distract from the point, but if had slept with her he also wouldn’t have had to flash the other servants). But of course, he chose to disregard what the world considered valuable and he glorified G-d’s Name and His Torah.

Adultery may seem a far cry from the Sabbath, but is the situation much different? “Break commandment (one of those special ten, no less!) for reward.” What is the difference from your employer saying, “You will lose your job if you don’t lie to this prospect about the value of the item,” or, “You’re fired unless you steal our competition’s business plan,” or, “You can say goodbye to your job if you don’t come with the boys down to the strip club”? What makes the Sabbath a lesser commandment that you would make an excuse to break it? Have you no shame?!

“How can we serve G-d if we starve to death? How can we be a light to the world if our children are unclothed, unhoused, or unfed?”

Is it really our place to question the Will of G-d?! From where do we draw the authority to assume that G-d will not provide for the ones who love him, as demonstrated by their adherence to his commands?

If you are truly convicted of your beliefs, you will be willing to suffer for what you choose to do or choose not to do; you will accept the consequences and trust G-d for the omnipotent father that he is.


The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.

Proverbs 21:1

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