Monday, January 12, 2009

Tattoos and Jews
"...the choice was not between upholding an ancient tradition and undermining its authority, but in appreciating the way every practice is different, even if it looks the same from the outside, because every practitioner is different."
Brad Hirschfield, You Don't Have to Be Wrong For Me To Be Right, p. 125-6.

This is a very powerful concept. In context, it revolves around a young woman getting a tattoo that is very much an affirmation of life over death, a laudable concept, not in either/or relationship to the forbiddence of Tattoos, but in deep opposition to the connections to the rituals of mourning and ancient pagan death cults, connected to the very condemnation. The idea that behind an averah may be something that transcends the immediacy of its forbidden nature - the averah is not denied as an averah, but the 'intention' affirms something utterly removed from the averah itself, in fact very close to Jewish ideals. With mitzvot, I find it more powerful; not every mitzvah has the same cause and affect for each person doing it, as each person is different. This is a common theme regarding kiruv rachokim, not so much discussed in kiruv kerovim. Each mitzvah counts, etc. (I, II) The Jewish life of two people from the same community may externally seem very much the same, but one struggles with issues and beliefs while another goes with a flow; but what is the value of each act, each continued belief or practice, each challenged and reaffirmed - and therefore in a sense reforged and refined - belief?

WE can't weigh the averahs and mitzvahs of others, granted cases where it is foolhardy not to (my mothers opinions aside). Intent remains central. There are obligated beliefs, indiscernable to others that, as mitzvot, are the backdrop for the fulfillment of other mitzvot; the six constant beliefs, or R. Yosef Albo's Gimmel Ikkarim. If they are absent, it's far more difficult to speak of 'not judging' the action of another. In 'praying to God', has a Jew who prays to the Trinity prayed to God "give or take two"?


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