21 Jan

[] 2015 1 18 TOEVAH copyThe Torah reading, for weekend of January 18th, addressed, wink, Ridley Scott’s movie, THE EXODUS: Gods & Men, the ‘original’ story, full text, not abbreviated nor paraphrased or 3 lined, the Hollywood pitch. The Congregation read the real deal, as did Congregations around the world did too, original text, no rewrite, read year after year, generation after generation, complete with footnotes. It wasn’t just from having seen Ridley Scott’s EXODUS: GODS & KINGS, retelling of the plagues that liberated the Jewish people from Egypt, that this word ‘spoke’ to me. Knowing how the Exodus story ended my mind drifted down the page ito the Commentary.

There, in a pew, a week after seeing Ridley’s interpretation of the Biblical story, one footnote to the Torah text caught my eye. More specifically, one word caught my eye, “To’evah”, pronounced “Toe-ay (as in hay)-va (as in va-va-voom). To’evah spoke to me. Days earlier, online at the market I saw photos that spoke to me too, that same word, had come to mind, Taboo. More correctly, the words I thought were ‘oh no he di’int.’

He did. Justin Bieber in his spended, glory and tightie whitie had carved in to his left side four Hebrew letters, each letter a life lesson on to itself, together a word> Hebrew letters, each on to their own, are impressive to the Jewish people. Yod. Shin. Vav. Ayin. Each letter is rich in history and tradition.

TO-EVAH. Search it online. One definition of this word, “Abomination,” seems to have higher keyword rankings than the other, “Taboo.” Taboo? To me? Seeing hebrew letters carved in to Justin Bieber, in his drawers.


Tattoo. Taboo.

I am a soferet, a woman scribe. Literally, truly, I wrote the book on hebrew calligraphy which gives me a more critical eye when I see hebrew lettering on walls and other places, increasing frequently these days, on people. I have seen Hebrew phrases popping up on celebrity after celebrity, like Bieber and David Beckham who I photographed, upclose and personal when he played here in DC, in LA, UK and other cultures where I have worked as a news photographer, tattooed on other people, too, of all color and ages.

I know the value of each letter. I know how a fraction of a measurement on letter length can change the meaning of a word. What is left, misspelling and all, is the message. Nothing implied, just the message.

A chapter in my book, one of the longest Hebrew calligraphy books, selling for decades, WBU, Will Be Updated, when I get my rights back to my book. I will adressthe real words carved in to the walls of our Nation’s Capitol. Not implied. Written. Be scared.

Seeing Justin Bieber in his drawers, tightie whities, in, not one but two national magazines, US and one other, with hebrew lettering carved in to his left side, caused me to speak up in obligation to the beauty and history of my craft. These four hebrew letters.

This act of a tattoo artist inking hebrew letters in to skin on Justin Biebers left side, detracts from the spirituality of my role- Hiddur Mitzvah. Hiddur mitzvah is the act of enhancing/beautifying a positive commandment. Jews are forbidden, by Jewish law, to tattoo their bodies, Leviticus 19:28, “You shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves.” This taboo was behind Hitler’s decision to tattoo numbers on to Jewish death camp and ghetto inhabitants, deliberate, an insult to Jewish culture. Maybe The FRANK Museum saw fit to give Bieber a pass on his scrawl to a teenager murdered for no reason other than her faith. No pass here. Time to be accountable for decisions Bieber is making. These four letters, the spiritual weight of the four letters carved in to Bieber’s left side, resonated, leave me cold.

These four letters are more than Yod. Shin. Vav. Ayin. These letters are more than just a reminder of the miracle that Ridley Scott re-enacted in his movie “Exodus: Gods & Kings.”

Yod. Shin. Vav. Ayin.  Each letter stands on one leg. Like lies, push one, they all topple over, falling down. Together, they bring community, a strength in banding together. A potential Bieber has to manifest, if and when, Bieber decides to grow up.

Yod. Shin. Vav. Ayin, come with responsibility, genealogy, miracles to be remembered. Tales to be told.

The world has morphed in to a ‘do anything’ without considering consequence and impact. Tattoo and Judaism do not go together. To the tattoo artist, it was a gig. We think Holocaust, the intentional defilement of a religion with the intent to crush man’s will. This grown unfettered wild child grabbing his ‘privates’ body twisted to show off these three letters, his ‘tat’, tattoo on his left side, is testament to something much bigger than idealogues are yet to grasp. Bieber hoped Marky Wahlberg approved of Bieber’s self-grope in the underwear shoot. Three letters come to mind. T. M. I. Too much information. For what what gain. There isnt much, it seems to being a ‘Belieber.’ There is a lot more to being a Believer. There is something to be said for Self-Respect.

With the increasing popularity of faith bastardized by Hollywood box-office and the inking world of Tattoo, The Exodus Commentary, two words “TABOO” and “ABOMINATION,” remind me there is far more for our global community to address

To’evah, taboo, in Bieber’s case, tattoo…

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