Ink Inc.

Question

Hi Rabbi, is it true that a person with a tattoo can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery? Thanks!

, 2 months

Answers

  1. No, it is not true. It is one of the great misconceptions about Judaism.

    It is true that the Torah prohibits placing any permanent tattoo on our bodies, whether it is a word or a picture, and regardless of what message is written or conveyed. The verse states, “You may not make cuts in your flesh for a person who died. You may not etch a tattoo on yourselves. I am the God.” (Lev. 19:28). It seems clear from this verse that the reason for the tattoo ban is to not imitate the practices of the immoral heathens who would make cuts in their bodies and fill them with permanent ink — i.e. tattoos — to mourn their dead.

    I have heard an explanation for the misconception of not burying a person with a tattoo in a Jewish cemetery. When an unidentified body was found with a tattoo, the deceased was presumed to be non-Jewish and was therefore buried in a non-Jewish cemetery.

    The topic of tattoos teaches in important lesson in our relationship to God. The human body is holy and is perfectly designed by the Creator to fulfil its task in this world. The only permanent sign that may be made on a Jewish person is the sign of circumcision, the covenant between God, Abraham and his descendants. Any other permanent mark or mutilation is a desecration of the human body and does not help a person grow closer to his Creator.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team