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Tattoo and Jewish Burial

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Topic: Burial, Disqualification from Jewish

Claudette Maxim wrote:

Dear Rabbi, I came across an article that stated that a Jewish person may not be buried in consecrated grounds if he or she has a decorative tattoo. Is this true?

Dear Claudette Maxim,

No, it's not true. This seems to be a widespread misconception, and many people have asked us this question.

The Torah explicitly forbids a Jew from getting a tattoo: The verse says "Don't put hypodermic writing in your flesh, I am G-d." (Leviticus 19:28)

So, we see that getting a "decorative" tattoo is considered a sin for a Jew. But it doesn't disqualify him from being buried in a Jewish cemetery.

Rabbi Chanoch Teller relates the story of a young man from a non-religious upbringing who returned to traditional observance of Judaism. Remaining from his former lifestyle was a tattoo which he carefully kept hidden under his shirtsleeves.

Before Yom Kippur, this young man went to the mikveh, the ritual bath, as is the custom. Try as he might, he couldn't hide his tattoo from the others at the mikveh. His embarrassment was noticeable. Then, an elderly Jew approached him: "Don't be embarrassed," said the old man as he held up his arm to show the numbers tattooed there by Nazis. "I also have a tattoo."

  • Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 180:1

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