By Tobi Schwartz-Cassell
As a member of that community, I never understood why. After all, my father (the “Frank” of Franks & Beans) had Airforce wings tattooed on his inside forearm. Reason: he served proudly as an aerial photographer and staff sergeant in WWII. But it’s said that if you bear a tattoo, you can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery. Yet thankfully, my dad now rests peacefully in one.
While discussing this with my dear friend Brian, a scholar of the Catholic faith, he decided to get to the bottom of the debate, and found the answer in the Torah: “You shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves.” (Leviticus 19:28)
Well that pretty much says it all. Or does it? What’s the ‘why?’
Three plausible explanations appear on Chabad.org. The most profound interpretation (in my opinion) is: “The human body is G-d’s creation, and it is therefore unbefitting to mutilate G-d’s handiwork.”
That makes sense. And, it led me to think that perhaps purposely getting a tattoo might be considered a reminder of the unspeakable atrocities of the Holocaust. During that horrific time, victims were tattooed as a degrading way of identifying them. Those vile revisionists can say whatever they want, but the Holocaust was real, and the inked numbers on victims’ inside wrists are just one piece within an entire body of evidence.
Yet despite all this, when my daughter Jardin announced her plan to get a tattoo, I accepted her decision.
First, at 20 years old, Jardin is an adult. She works and saved her money to pay for that tattoo, and doesn’t need my permission anymore.
But the second reason is something that spoke to my heart. About four years ago, Jardin met a young woman named Vicki who changed her life in a number of positive ways. Jardin was Vicki’s most trusted babysitter, and when Vicki was transferred to open the Cherry Hill location of Jules Pizza, Jardin was her first hire. It was Jardin’s first “real” job, and she still works there to this day. Vicki and Jardin became friends and confidants, and the three of us joked that Vicki was Jardin’s “work mom.” I could not have chosen a more beautiful soul to be my daughter’s work mom. Sadly and very suddenly, Vicki passed away. It was about two years ago. And it was devastating, to say the least.
Jardin’s dorm room at Rowan University is decorated by posters of rock bands and family pictures. Among them are pictures of Vicki.
Jardin chose to get a tattoo as her remembrance to Vicki. So now, she proudly sports a slice of pizza in an innocuous but hidden place (hidden because she plans on becoming a teacher, and can’t have a tattoo that shows). Just under the point of the slice is a bold, stylized “V” for Vicki.
A slice of pizza sounds like a trivial tattoo, but the reasons behind it are anything but. And I’m okay with it.
RIP, beautiful Vicki.
PS: Do you have a tattoo? What is it and why did you choose it? Please use the comment section below.
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