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(Re)turning

11/08/2010

Check out this tattoo. It was a HHD season addition to my friend Carinne’s body. Says: Teshuvah. Means: turning or returning. Teshuvah is what we do when we make a conscious effort to turn towards a path of right living or justice or our true selves or what we imagine is wanted of us by God (however defined). It is the theme of the High Holy Days, Shabbat, and just about the entire Jewish path. Fall off the horse and get on again. And again. And once (dang it!) again. Those who turn to Orthodox Jewish practice after other options are often called ba’alei teshuvah, masters of returning, though I don’t believe you have to be crazy-observant to be named in this way.

Anyhow, it’s hard to tell from the photo, but this is a good-sized tattoo running along Carinne’s right side. She decided on the Hebrew word for (re)turn after the death of a loved one of a close friend (and ¬†therefore, a loved one of hers). Though there’s a specific story involving a dream that Carinne told me before she got inked and I seem to have forgotten, the inspiration for inscribing this particular word was the spiraling of life: how we begin and end over & over. That sense of teshuvah, of coming back. Seasons, people, love, struggles.

I’m particularly fond of this tattoo — and just a little jealous — because my beloved has this sweet (and I’ll admit, sometimes exasperating) habit of asking to “make teshuvah” in the middle of a marital spat. It is his way of signaling that he wants to get closer to me, to make things right. I’m usually still in the blame mode, in no mood to make nice, when he says this. It may take a while for the cortisol levels to come back down and making nice to happen, but it is a lovely gesture nonetheless. So, teshuvah is up there with my favorite & most deeply felt words, along with truth & justice & love.

Thanks to Carinne for sharing your new tattoo. Beautiful.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 11/09/2010 5:10 pm

    Wow. I just don’t think I could get inked. I know many people who have, but I’m a wuss and wouldn’t want to sit there for hours while someone pokes me repeatedly with a needle.

    It’s a lovely tattoo, though.

    • sue swartz permalink*
      11/09/2010 5:51 pm

      It hurts. Burns, actually. No poking sensation involved – at least for me. And it’s possible to get a lovely tattoo in under an hour’s time. So, don’t less wuss-dom stop you if that’s all that stands in your way.

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