If I ever called my father and told him I was going to get a tattoo he would have a fit. And if I defended myself by saying that he had already tattooed me himself when I was eight days old, he would think me insane. But it is true—I wear God’s brand on my penis.
This is on my mind because of a conversation I just had with an eighteen-year-old guy with a tattoo of the Nike swoosh on his calve. I asked him if Nike paid to have him advertise for them, and he said “no,” he just liked the image and the idea of “Just do it!” that the swoosh implied.
I told him that some companies buy body space on which to ink their message. He said he has lots of skin available for billboards, and the friend he was with began a very raunchy riff on products that might be associated with various body parts. That’s when I thought about circumcision.
God is advertising on the head of my penis. As a theologian I find this insight intriguing. What does it tell me about God? Actually not much. After hours of contemplation all I could come up with is this: God needs to hire a new advertising firm.
What is the point of placing an ad where no one will see it? Maybe the original command was to place God’s sign on your forehead rather than foreskin, but that amidst all the thunder and lightening people misheard what Moses was saying. This would make much more sense. First, it would be open to both men and women. Second, lots of people would see it. Third, it would explain why yarmulkes (skullcaps) don’t have brims (they would hide the sign). And fourth, it would make it much more difficult for Jews to pass as Gentiles. And it might be true: foreskin from forehead is not such a huge jump (at least in English which as every believer in the King James Bible knows was God’s original language of choice).
My point is this: mistakes happen. For example, according to one rabbi (that would be me) when Moses told the people not to boil a calf in its mother’s milk they had such trouble hearing him that they thought he said, “Thou shalt not mix dairy with meat and must have separate dishes for meat and dairy and separate sets of dishes, one for meat and one for dairy, for everyday use and for when guests drop by, and separate sets of dishes for Passover one each for meat and dairy, one set for guests and another for everyday.” That is eight sets of dishes. Add that to the decorative plates the Israelites undoubtedly bought as they sojourned from place to place in the desert and during their various exiles, and we are talking about a lot of china. How practical is this? If God thought about dinnerware at all, He probably imagined that each person would have one bowl for dairy and one for meat. But mistakes happen. Maybe circumcision is just one of those mistakes.
So if you are planning a bris, think about using a different body part. A crisply printed “Ask me about Yaweh” on the forehead might be nice.