Why are jews not allowed to have tattoos?

topic posted Fri, March 24, 2006 - 11:48 AM by  Katie
Where does it state that jewish people are not allowed to have tattoos? And why are jewish people not allowed to have tatoos? There is a debate about this on and I wanted to know inform some folks there!
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  • In the Bible Old testament, Leviticus 18:26 or 29 says thou shalt not make any permanent matkings in your skin or somesuch, Orthodox Jews do not pierce their ears (or anything else). And under rabbinical law piercings and tattoos will keep you from being buried in a Jewish Cemetary.
    • Unsu...
      The law that makes tattoos taboo for Jews is Leviticus 19:28, which states: "You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves: I am the Lord." (This is also why Orthadox Jews do not allow piercings.) Judaism has always seen our bodies as a gift from God and believes that you should use your body as a house for your soul, keeping it in as pristine a condition as possible.

      However, times are a-changin'. According to my Rabbi, these days a tattoo will not necessarily prevent you from being buried in a Jewish cemetary. It is becoming more and more commonplace and I was told that there have been Jews buried by our own synagogue that have had a few tattoos... and in a Jewish cemetery, no less. There are even Orthadox Jews that are getting tattooed discreetly for their own personal reasons. I know a Reform Rabbi that is getting a tattoo very soon... and I'm going along and getting one myself. I figure what's good enough for the Rabbi is good enough for me and I've wanted this since I was 14. I'll be 36 (double Chai) this year, so I figure I'm old enough.
    • "In the Bible Old testament, Leviticus 18:26 or 29 says thou shalt not make any permanent matkings in your skin or somesuch"
      Cicumcision seems pretty permanent to me. I'm just saying....
      • Do we have to live in a society where we have to go by the rules of our elders? It is a different way of life today, and seriously, does it matter to you if you cannot be buried in a Jewish Cemetary just 'cause you're tatted up? When we're dead, we're dead.

        I haven't been struck by lightning as of yet, so, maybe my tatts are not as much of an issue.
  • 1. If god created humans...then he created tattoos as well.

    2. If people wont get tattoos because of the holocaust then they are still living in the past...LIVE YOUR LIFE!!! it could be very short

    3. You think people in Israel have no tattoos?? you want to see a real war??...when the orthodox wont allow deceased Israeli soldiers with tattoos to get buried in Jewish cemeteries

    4. making a tattoo is against the "Bible rules" we even follow the rest of these "rules"...i know i don't...DO YOU??
    • I thought it also had to do with not wanting to mirror contemporary pagan practices of marking the skin with graven images, of idols and dieties. You shall not make any false images etc etc... In fact, there is a tattoo shop near here called Graven Images. Awesome..

      So is the whole burial thing custom or law? Would the coroner or mortician really examine my corpse and proclaim, "My god, this girl is a heathen, she cannot be buried with her ancestors in that blessed portion of ground that arbitrarily ends at that fence... Throw her coffin in with the rest of the idol-worshipping tattooed folk into this spiritually corrupt burial plot and call it a day..."
      • The "burial thing" is actually a myth. As I have heard from several rabbis that I have personally questioned on the subject matter: "It is most likely a myth created by Jewish mothers who were trying any means necessary to convince their children not to get a tattoo."

        The same rabbis explained to me that yes, it's a rule in the bible, but is it something that is no more forbidden than say, eating bacon. So by comparison, saying you can't be buried in a Jewish cemetery for having a tattoo would equate to not being granted burial in a Jewish cemetery because you ate a bacon-double cheeseburger.
    • in response to part 2, I felt exactly that way when I got my first tattoo. I realized that at least I was getting to choose, it wasn't forced upon me to de-humanize me. That's when I knew I'd get a Star of David tattoo soon after. I am proud until the day I die, and maybe an hour or two longer. :-)
  • I remember researching this back in college before I got my first tattoo...I seem to remember finding it referenced in a book on Talmudic law that referenced the "thou shalt not worship false idols" commandment. I think perhaps other cultures that existed during the time the law was created probably used tattoo as a form of carrying their "graven images" with them.

    I'm a big believer in the interpretation of laws as they apply to the current world we live in, laws should always be "living" documents....this is the main reason I personally don't follow the dietary laws....they had a time and place in keeping people healthy and preserving the culture.....but are now pretty much antiquated.

    The law against tattooing, in my interpretation, only applies as far as tattooing images for the purpose of worship.....I'm not worshiping the images in my tattoos, nor is anyone else.....they are for me, art, memorium, and catharsis.....and therefore are just fine.
    • I am studying Judaism for the purpose of conversion, if at the end I feel this is what I need to do.

      I am worried about my tattoos showing during taking the mikvah in front of the Rabbis. I am studying via the Conservative route.

      It's cool to hear of even Rabbis who are getting tatted. And after reading some of the responses I don 't feel too out-of-the-ordinary.

      Thank you all.
      • I wouldn't worry too much. They understand that you had a life before you decided to change your religion. Perhaps you could mention it to them beforehand with the intention of clarfying your understanding of halachic laws re: tattoos. You are a Noahide and it is natural and accepted to ask questions. Good luck!

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