Ritual for Getting a Tattoo

This ritual is intended for a Jewish person dealing with post-Shoah trauma to say before getting tattooed. As a grandchild of survivors, the taboo around Jews and tattoos is inescapable for me. I wrote this ritual with Ashkenazi Jewish women in mind; specifically Ashkenazi in relationship to the legacy of the Shoah and the decision to get a tattoo, and specifically women in regard to the complicated relationship of our bodies and society. It can be adopted and used in whatever way that is relevant to the person reciting it.

There is so much pain surrounding tattoos in the Jewish world. My heart hurts for my people. Give me comfort and help me to heal from the pain. Give my people the understanding that choosing to get a tattoo is not the same as being forced to have one, neither does it dishonor my family members who were subjected to cruel punishment on account of their religion.

There is so much pain surrounding the body in this world. This gift that you gave us, this holy vessel with its terrific connections, its openings and closings, its ability for so much good, is suffering. As a woman, my body has been marked public property. It is subject to ridicule and disgust. It is sexualized and demeaned. My heart hurts for my body. My heart hurts for all the bodies in this world who suffer under this cruel treatment. Give me the strength to face this world with courage. Give me comfort on the days when the weight of the world’s fear is too great to bare. Help me remember that my body does not belong to society. My body belongs to me.

You gave me this body. It is mine to love and care for in this world. It is beautiful. My body does not belong to anyone else. May I be reminded by Your teaching: “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.”*

  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה אֲדֹנָי בּוֹרֵא כָּל חַי, מְעַצֵּב כָּל גּוּפִים שֶׁנָּתַן לִי אֶת הַמְתָּנָה וְהַאַחְרָיוּת לִהְיוֹת בַּעַלבַעֲלָת הַגּוּף שֶׁלִּי וַהַיְכֹלֶת לְקַבֵּל הַחְלָטוֹת לִכְבוֹד וְלֶאֱהֹב אֶת הַגּוּף שֶׁלִּי

Blessed are You, Hashem, Creator of All Living Beings, Shaper of All Bodies, who has given me the gift and responsibility of owning my body and the ability to make my own holy decisions to honor and love it.

*Song of Songs 4:7

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