The risk of "Hebrew Smatter"

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/05/16 03:01 -04:00, original URI:

The mail I got the other day via the Contact link was a tad scary for me:

Hi Michael,

I come from Switzerland. I'm 21 years old and I'm studying tourism.

I was looking for some helps on the Internet as I have a passion for Hebrew and all the jewish culture.

I have in mind to get a tattoo between my shoulder plates and I just wanted to ask you if you would help me to translate the message I want in Hebrew script ?

Just let me know ...

Thanks for your attention.

Now the scary part is not the interest -- over the years I've known and in some case even dated people who weren't Jewish but who had a certain fascination with the religion, and my quite odd "took years of conversational Hebrew, more years of Biblical Hebrew, studied Torah/Talmud extensively, raised Conservative, became Orthodox, now is mostly a knowledgeable agnostic who stutters when reading Hebrew except for the prayers he knows" fueled lots of interest -- especially the philosophical questions and doubts that led to the transitions.

What I'm saying is that anyone can be a "Hebro-phile" and it does not scare me.

But doesn't the consideration of a tattoo seem like just begging for something like the Hebrew equivalent of Hanzi Smatter -- that site that is dedicated to the misuse of chinese characters in western culture.

I would just be so afraid to end up giving poor advice here -- advice that ends up good enough to look like a great Hebrew tattoo but which takes on a subtle meaning that is either offensive or insulting (or both).

So, I am going to have to beg off of this one, and avoid becoming someone to cause Hebrew Smatter in Switzerland....


This blog brought to you by ף (U+05e3, aka HEBREW LETTER FINAL PE)

ReallyEvilCanine on 16 May 2008 10:22 AM:

If he's really that interested in Jewish culture and such this guy ought to have a look at Leviticus 19:28 -- tattoos = bad. Also, piercings, scarification, burning and any other permanent markings or disfigurements caused intentionally and not for medical reasons.

Jeroen Ruigrok van der Werven on 17 May 2008 3:35 AM:

Hanzi Smatter?

It's actually Hanzis matter... ^^;

Shoshannah on 28 May 2008 10:45 AM:

And another:

Hey Shoshannah!

The one I find most disturbing on that site is the one that says אהבה in a tramp stamp:


This is just plain creepy! -- Michael

Sandheat78 on 31 Oct 2009 11:37 AM:

This is a comment to the reply of Really Evil Canine.  It is a common misconception that the Leviticus verse in the bible is saying that as a believer, you should not get a tattoo.  Actually, what that verse is says is "Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD."  It was common practice for people to cut themselves for idol worship, or for honoring the dead.  Because we are only to worship God, these practices are dishonorable to Him.  Jesus, if you do some research, actually had a tattoo Himself, on his upper leg.  The Bible also, will restate verses several will find the Bible eludes to this verse in Isa 15:2; Jer 16:6; 41:5; Isa 44:5; Re 13:17; 14:1.  

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