Religion & Beliefs

So why don’t you get a tattoo?

I grew up hearing a lot about the Jewish prohibition against tattoos and other forms of body art/mutilation.  It was explained to  me that all kinds of crazy pagans were running around in the pre-biblical (AKA pre-penicillin) middle-eastern deserts cutting … Read More

By / January 3, 2007

I grew up hearing a lot about the Jewish prohibition against tattoos and other forms of body art/mutilation.  It was explained to  me that all kinds of crazy pagans were running around in the pre-biblical (AKA pre-penicillin) middle-eastern deserts cutting themselves to ribbons, and then getting infections and dying. 

But not the Jews.

Because our wonderful Jewish god had seen the wisdom of avoiding unnecesary slashing and scarring, and instructed us to avoid such decorative pain.  And hence, contemporary decorated Jews could not be buried in Jewish cemetaries.

But LOOK!

It turns out that's not entirely true.  It turns out that…

Tattooing is an explicit prohibition from the Torah. However, those who violate this prohibition may be buried in a Jewish cemetery and participate fully in all synagogue ritual. While no sanctions are imposed, the practice should continue to be discouraged as a violation of the Torah. At all times a Jew should remember that we are created b'tzelem Elokim. We are called upon to incorporate this understanding into all our decisions.

Now, I'm not telling you to go and get some ink.  But I thought maybe you'd want to know.