Before describing kabbalah tattoos, it is important to remember that some Jewish groups and Christian groups regard tattoos as a clear transgression of the Torah mizhwah against making cuttings in one’s flesh. Since the interpretations of Torah do not contradict each other, if this reading is adopted as the correct pshat, it cannot be overridden by another interpretative method, but only by demonstrating superior pshat reading of the Hebrew text and grammar. However, because others within Judaism and Christianity have in fact received kabbalah tattoos, it is important to understand them, and even more important to recognize one’s responsibility within kabbalah to be at peace with one’s fellow and not to cause offense by one’s action or inaction.
Torah also commands the covenant of circumcision, and the covenant of the ear-piercing of dedicated servants. Particularly, a servant who desired to enter a lifetime covenant with a master would request ear-piercing, and the master would then be required by Torah to pierce an awl through the ear and into the doorpost of his house. The servant’s flesh would thus be physically joined to the wooden doorpost (upon which was also attached the mezuzah scroll of covenant), and the eternal adoption of the servant would further be symbolized by an earring. The energy attached to the physical shedding of flesh and blood is added to the strength of the proclamation of covenant (public in ear-piercing, private in circumcision) also observed with the kabbalah red string bracelet.
So with kabbalah tattoos, there is an even stronger commitment to the principle embodied by the symbolism chosen. Because the mutilation of one’s own body releases significant energy and represents an unalterable lifetime commitment, one should triple-check with oneself that kabbalah tattoos are appropriate and the highest form of symbolic proclamation that one can conceive. (And consider that waiving one’s right to kabbalah tattoos is also a very significant symbolic proclamation.) Since there is greater risk of being misled by kabbalah tattoos than by kabbalah jewelry, this demand for certainty must be repeatedly emphasized.
In deciding on kabbalah tattoos, meanings and symbolism should be very limited. Each of the 10 names of God is an appropriate symbol of the ultimate, as encompassing the echad as well as every other name; this is not the case with the 10 sefiroth, each of which encompasses only subsets of the others. “Yahweh” is the most personal of these names, denoting the self-existent One and that which causes itself to be. “Ein Sof”, the 11th name, is a declaration of one’s limited understanding of God’s limitlessness; “Chai”, meaning life, is a short form of the name “Elohim-Chayim”, the living God; and the tree of life network of 10 nodes and 22 segments proclaims an echad in diversity.
Should red string bracelets be depicted as kabbalah tattoos? It is possible to interpret kabbalah tattoos, consisting of depictions of red thread bracelets, as the marks of God as “Melech Olam”, king of the cosmos, because they represent the right to covenant with King Messiah (who is represented by the kingly line of David connected with the red thread bracelets).
The decisions of kabbalah tattoos are personal choices that should be made after repeated meditation, and after removal of selfish rationales. Certainly red string bracelets as bracelets have one advantage over tattoos, namely, that the putting on and taking off of the bracelet and the constant stimulation by the sense of touch are better reinforcements of one’s covenant than the “automatic” ever-present tattoo and its occasional stimulation by the sense of sight. But it is just as possible for those with tattoos to employ them as effective means of proclaiming covenant as well.