Answers

  1. Yes. Believe it or not, this is one of the most frequently asked questions we receive.

    It is important to dispel a widespread misconception. If, for whatever reason, a Jewish person has a tattoo, nevertheless, he or she unequivocally can and must be buried in a Jewish cemetery.

    The probable source of this misconception is that when an unidentified body was found and it had a tattoo, the deceased was presumed to be non-Jewish and was buried in a non-Jewish cemetery.

    It is true that the Torah prohibits us from placing any permanent tattoo on our bodies, whether it consists of words or pictures, regardless of what message is written or conveyed (Lev. 19:28). A tattoo is defined in Jewish law as any word, letter or picture that is marked on the skin by means of dye or ink, which is introduced under the surface of the skin, either through piercing with a needle, scratching or cutting.

    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 and Abraham and his descendants. Any other permanent mark or mutilation is a desecration of the human body. Some commentaries suggest that the prohibition against tattoos is also intended to prevent us from imitating idolaters and their practices.

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team