Tattoos for Jews?

Isn't there a better way?

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Comments (63)

(63) Alan G., January 3, 2012 2:28 PM


I've always wanted a tattoo. I was proud of my military service and what better way to show it? However, I didn't go through with it because my religon is much more important than my personal needs.

(62) G, February 14, 2011 11:51 PM


My earliest memories of tattoos were also those on the arms of people from shul, survivors of the camps. I grew up orthodox with the concept that a tattoo would deprive you of even being buried in a Jewish cemetery. I was active in Jewish causes even volunteered in 73. Some time ago I read a book about some one who tattooed their relatives concentration camp number on themselves so the world would not forget. I remember trying to find a significant made up number of one of those who had lead one of the many uprisings. Some time later after realizing that the prohibition against tattoos was in line with shatnes I decided to go ahead with my personal tribute and have Zachor in Hebrew on my right shoulder.

(61) Tzipa, January 5, 2011 3:34 AM

Judgement is sin.

How dare any Torah observant Jew pass judgment on another for actions which have nothing to do with them and do not affect them in any way? If you are bothered by seeing a tattoo perhaps you should do some work on yourself. Be cautious with the things you say- passing judgment on a tattoo could make a person decide not return to their faith or affiliate with a religious community. Yes, marking ones body is prohibited however once one has a tattoo there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Making one feel ashamed for such a personal thing is absolutely wrong. Seeing people with tattoos in a religious community should make ffb's and bt's feel extremely happy that so many people have returned to Judaism.

(60) GMC(SW/SCW)Peter M Michelson, October 20, 2009 4:28 AM

One Question

I have reed all the replies. I am an observate Jew, Keep 100% Kosher even on deployments. If you are so against tattoos what about freckles? Those of use that are fair skin with red hair have millions of them. I know I do. So what do the freckles represent in relationship to having color under the skin? I do look forward to your replies.

(59) Anonymous, December 25, 2008 4:58 AM

he's right, but

Rabbi Salomon is absolutely right, of course, Jewish law clearly forbids tatooing, and there are better ways to connect spiritually. However, I respectfully suggest that some thought be given to his speaking manner, which I find to be rather acerbic, especially for a kiruv site. If I were a non-observant Jew with a tatoo, I expect his tone would put me on the defensive. All that's missing is the wagging finger.

(58) Martin, August 9, 2008 1:26 PM

Grow up

please,what on earth are talking about? when people get tattooed they have a permenant reminder of temporary pain,and should thefore stand by that decision. don't add to lifes regreats.

(57) Leah, August 1, 2008 3:31 AM

I am unconvinced...

I am Baal Teshuva, and I have 1 tattoo.

I was 21, rebellious, and had been particularly unhappy with myself and my life for a while. I have many scars on my arms and legs from other outlets I used to injure my body. On loan or not (at the time I was not so sure), my body was the only outward representation of myself and I didn't like it much at all at the time. I had come through a particularly dark time, and found myself less interested in injuring myself, but I still wanted a permanent, pretty (to my tastes) touchstone that represented where I'd come from and where I was hoping to get to. So on my wrist, set apart from all my other scars (which still make my heart ache to see), I tattooed a small star. (Not a Magen David - at the time I was still somewhat resentful of my Jewish roots.)

It's in a visible spot on the inside of my wrist. It's a spot that, while it's not exactly noticeable, no matter how tsniut I dress, there's a chance someone will see it peeking out from beneath my sleeve. It is what it is, and I've done what I've done.

I am unconvinced that I've done something terribly wrong in making such a choice when I was so clearly alienated from Hashem. This small tattoo, it was not a mistake. The mistake was alienating Hashem from my life. I still have that tangible reminder of "from whence I came." I don't see it as all that different from other scars (physical, emotional) people acquire through their lifetimes - it's physical evidence that at the time my soul was wounded, and I sought out ways to heal it. I eventually found the one way that's worked, and thanks be to Hashem that the tattoo IS only skin deep!

I would certainly never get another one, but I am not going to regret a misguided choice I made when I was young and stubborn and lost.

(56) stephen collins, July 29, 2008 6:18 AM


i have a lot of tattoos i got them very young my wife hates the site of them where now i have to cover up if the muslims seen my back they would kill me because it shows the star of David so be careful tattoos could end your life

(55) Ruth, July 28, 2008 11:28 AM

you might be sorry

I'm neither here nor there on the religious issues, but I have seven tattoos and I wish I didn't. As I've got older, they've aged too. They're ugly. I dress a lot more tsniut than I used to so people don't see them anymore, but I really wish I hadn't gotten them.

(54) Bryan Djordjevich, July 27, 2008 1:36 AM

A permenant set of clothes

People may wear all sorts of clothes. Some like me wear the same jacket day in day out, others may have several articles. A tatooe could be referred to as that one jacket I always wear.

It's not how often I wear it, it's WHAT I'm wearing.

Given that modern technology and awareness has greatly decreased the health risks, tattoos in themselves are not a sin.

Marks on the body however have quite often been used in pagan worship and idolatry in the past. Compounding this negative tradition is the pop culture regarding tattoos and the sinful images that they a) depict and b) usually surround the marked person.

Tattooing the words to the Shema wouldn't be blasphemy, tattooing images of lust/violence would be.

Are there other ways to spend the money and money as well as expressing one's self?

Yes (in my opinion) but that's not to say its sinful or degrading. I'd much rather pray that Shema louder or spend that money on education around the Shema, than to tattoo the image to my body. But that's just me, either way it's the image.

Tattoos that we know for today: guns and lustful sex, yeah that's sin.

Tattooing the Shema, maybe not wisest thing to do, but defenitly not wrong/evil/sinful.

-19 yo engineering student

(53) Rivky, July 26, 2008 11:03 PM

regarding #1's comment

I strongly feel that what G-d wants from us more than anything is that we-His children- should have LOVE .PEOCE and ACCEPTANCE between each other! As Stephen from #1 wrote-let G-d do His work judging ppl, our job is to embrace every jew and accept them regardless of what they look like to us.
Obviously if they dont know from Torah and mitzvos its not only our job to not be judgemental, but just the contrary, its OUR job to teach and enlighten them with the holy torah!

(52) David haRofe, July 26, 2008 7:02 PM

Tattoos are OK to have, if not to get...

IT IS NOT AGAINST JEWISH LAW TO HAVE TATTOOS!!!! This video runs a risk of alienating Jews who have gotten tattoos in the past. It should be strongly noted that the prohibition in the Torah is against making new tattoos. To this end, holocaust survivors as well as gen-X'ers (who made teshuvah) who have been tattooded should not be stigmatized. Also of importance to clarify, the idea tale that one cannot be buried with a tattoo is ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT.

(51) Sapphire, July 26, 2008 3:02 PM

Our ways vs G-d's ways

When we begin to justify our ways and not G-d's instruction as it is written in the Torah, then we are saying to ourselves that G-d's ways don't matter-which would be wrong. Parents set rules for a reason in a child's life, to help guide the child correctly. If the child sets outside those rules willfully then the child has lost respect not only for the parent but for themselves because the child is a reflection of their parents and represents the parent in society. Just as G-d is our Father, we are to obey His commandments we are also commanded to instruct and teach them to our children.


(50) adam, July 26, 2008 12:07 PM

whats worse?

Me living in Eretz Yisrael, settling the land like G-d says with my body and my tattoo or the rest with no tattoos but living in the Galut, with no excuse not to come here?

And why does this Rabbi not call Leiviticus by the Hebrew name? Why use names G-d never used?!?!?

Also why is it always one or the other? Dont tattoo your body but tatto your soul with acts of kindness. Well im 20, moved to Israel, just a young kid yet I still find the ability to donate money or help others. My tattoo has never stopped me from being kind, connecting with G-d or Eretz Yisrael.

Who here has not sinned? Maybe my tattoo sin is more easy to bash because of its outward physical appearance? But just because your sins are inward, makes me no worse of a person.

(49) SusanE, July 26, 2008 6:42 AM

Name 3 Wonderful Reasons for Getting Tattooed.

Ahhhh. Ahhhh. Ahhhh. Well,ummmm.

#1 My daughter wants the family crest on her stomach.
#2 Grandma wants her address on her forehead in case she gets lost. Maybe a couple roses too for pretty.
#3 For me I'll have the heart with my wifes name on it and an Eagle on my shoulder to tell people I'm patriotic, and a barbed wire around my arm for some reason I forget, and a snake with it's fangs out cause it's real scairy, and a picture of a ship on my chest cause I was in the Navy, in case I forget that I was. Oh and a hula dancer that moves when I flex my muscle, she's not to remind me of anything, she's just for whimsey.

Of course the above is all about being sarcastic. But these are the reasons some people give for being tatooed. I.D.for belonging to a particular group., body decoration, self-expression.

Give me a break. Tattoos aren't just a mistake as some would like to think. They are a decision you make to illustrate your body with permanant decorations that say something about what you believe in.

A mistake is something you do that you didn't intend to do. We make mistakes all the time. They are unintentional. Mostly they can be fixed.

Making a decision about a tattoo is intentional. It's a decision to last a lifetime. A poor decision about anything in our lives can be sometimes be fixed, but we have to change our character or our ways of thinking to correct those decisions.

I think a better, less permanent way to call attention to ourselves or to shout what our beliefs are would be to wear a ballcap with a patch, wear a message on a t-shirt, put a pin on our jacket, or paint a logo on our car. Bumper stickers work well too.

Piercings ----same thing. Name 3 good reasons.
Maybe a t-shirt that says "I'm rich and I could have gold and silver and jewels hanging on my body if I wanted to".

Don't make excuses for your decisions. Either live with them or change them. You can do either.

(48) Colin Carpenter, July 25, 2008 3:22 PM

permanent sign of temporary insanity

I enjoyed your video. It is amazing how many people cave in to the trends of society. Afew years ago, my sister called me exitedly said "you have to get a tattoo" . I replied Why do you say that" ,she said "Kevin has one(Kevin is my brother)then all of us kids will have one.I found a cartoon of a rose tattoo that read "PERANENT SIGN OF TEMPORARY INSANITY!"and mailed it to her. I did not get a tattoo, I read what the the Torah said and didn't do it.I just said "NO".I don't think we are judging those with tattoos by not having or liking them.We should still love and respect others despite their decision to mark their bodies.i will be the first to say there are areas in the Torah I am deficient,but they don't have the outward lasting effect of a tattoo.My daughter was aksking about tatoos earlier this week and my wife expained to her that in the 60's &70's only seemingly questionable people had tattoos many were done in ports of call or far away lands. Maybe the tough guy images on Discovery & the Learning Channel are glamorizing this trend.When we do things to satisfy the animal soul this is what we get. Please consider what God thinks about you before you worry about what society thinks about you.Remember this markcould be"A PERMANENT SIGN OF TEMPORARY INSANITY". Keep your body clean if you are one of God's "set-apart" people.We are to be examples to the world. Shabbat Shalom Colin

(47) Robert Manning, July 25, 2008 1:01 PM

Only skin deep!

"Tatoos are only skin deep!" What a great insight and lesson for all our young people to learn! We should all be seeking to imprint our heavenly Abba's Torah in our heart and on our soul. Wearing the Torah on the outside, like a tatoo or an outer garment will never have a real impact on our lives and the lives of others! The Torah should be part of our inner being, part of who we are not just something we put on for show.

(46) Moshe Steven Kaplan, July 25, 2008 11:35 AM

Great message from the 1st and extends beyond

tattoos, Jew Gentile....and on and on. I do not think it pleases Hashem to exclude people, especially when they hunger for a knowledge of the truth! This ATTITUDE has brought about untold suffering for our people!

(45) NesanelS, July 25, 2008 8:04 AM

Dear Stephen,

You are saying good per-se. It's true, we shouldn't be so blunt (and even on a website where one may have a feeling he's not really talking to anyone. The truth is people are reading and are interested in what people are saying - especially in forums as special as this. And, after all, who is coming here if not people who are interested. So your words are really encouraging and remind us to 'calm down - in the proper sense, and be a little introspective before we talk.
I was just thinking though - what you probably thought of also - that I think people are just saying what comes to the top of their mind but not really meaning to criticize etc. So the truth is that your words are also necessary, that we need a reminder for this alone - in a forum where people are voicing their thoughts - and although they mean nothing - and perhaps even many people will not - for example - to get a tattoo, because someone called it crazy. In other words, he showed that he had the 'guts' to call it that, so it may calm others from it. Your words come to modify it, so if someone got insulted, he'll see your words and remember that, in case he was insulted, he does not have to worry. So we need to pray that no one should be and like with many things in life. (Hey - I hope what I'm writing here doesn't come out negative in any way – I'm interested in what you think. Please write!) OK, anyways, it's great here, people are really responding with sincere thoughts and - like with yours - caring about the 'carers' also - that's ultimate!!!

(44) Stephen, July 24, 2008 10:46 PM


As I have read the comments left by some of others, I wonder if they ever have made a mistake in life? I guess not because the rotten things people say While some may think it is ok to call people names it amazes me. In regards to Tattoos we look at what a tattoo is a mark on our bodies, well isn't sin a mark on our bodies? We may have people that place an outward mark, yet we as sinful man have the mark on sin on our bodies as well. If we sit around in our high and mighty life and point the finger at others does that help you or I? Maybe we should explain that, we ALL are marked in one way or another. So lets stop casting the first stone and offer support for those with or without a tattoo or mark and start offering our love and acceptance in those that may have gotten a tattoo. I know that a tattoo was unacceptable per Torah. Yet as many young people do, they have a urge of growing up. Sometimes we all make a bad choice once in awhile. As my Rabbi said one day WHO can be considered GOOD? You or I? Let G-d do his work and let us help him by following in his foot steps, lets create Love. Not hate for someone that may have made a mistake. Even if they do not realize it, lets show them our love and acceptance in our neighbor, not of who they are or what marks they have on their body, but in the facts that G-d created All men in his likeness, not just our own likeness.
Peace Out

(43) ruth housman, July 24, 2008 5:26 PM


Your points are interesting. I did not know this was forbidden I personally do not like tattoos, meaning I would never consider this. There are people who are covered as in "illustrated". Personally I don't object though I think my parents were very disgusted by this practice and this was totally not something to ever consider doing. On the other hand, I do try to be open. I do see that in many cultures, the tattoo has been a form of personal decoration and surely there is much artistry that goes in to this.

I think one can certainly live life with empathy and love and still have tattoos and in fact I have seen many that do have symbolic connection to the environment and to words that do connect with a love of beauty. So I am not one way or the other. I try to find beauty wherever it is and not condemn. What's important, as you say, is that soul and that is independent of "decoration" externally.

(42) Bob Goldman, July 24, 2008 4:10 PM

#1 comments are way off

Going against G-d is poison to our body and soul. #1 comments therefore is not rational. Would #1 have the same attitue if his own family member drank poison in fron of him or her? I don't think so. Thank you Rabbi Solomon for your beautiful message and for trying to stop Jews from poisening themselves eternally.

(41) Ya'akov, July 24, 2008 3:28 PM

It's conformism

Tattoos are now so common they have become trite, redundant and boorish! It's like getting a Harley Davidson, nearly everyone has one or wants one.
To acquire one is to be a simple minded conformist!
If you really wish to express your individuality, then don't get one!

(40) Jared, July 24, 2008 1:38 PM

Tattoos are not the devil

Anyone who says tattoos are evil needs to free their mind.

(39) Daniela, July 24, 2008 9:05 AM

not allowed to do with the Goyim do

If we focus on the "defacement" of the body as the reason we're not allowed to tattoo ourselves, then we open ourselves up to the kinds of questions we've had here like, what about fat people (you've got to be kidding!) and what about piercing, which was clearly done a great deal as evidenced by the Torah (sin of the Golden Calf, etc). The plain reason why we are not allowed to tattoo ourselves is because of how it has been used by others throughout history in their worship practices and general culture. We are not allowed to be like other people. It's as simple as that. As soon as the reason looks like criticism more than anything else, it takes us away from the real lesson. Piercings don't have connection with paganism, war, or sex (with few exceptions, but they're not wide spread enough to make that much of a difference). Tattoos have had connections with all three of these things. Take a quick look at anthropology - this isn't about art or expression.

(38) Manu, July 23, 2008 9:13 PM

Get a life!

Please allow people to do what they want to do with their own bodies as long as it does not hurt others or damage the environment. If you want to be of service through your religion, as you say, there are better ways.

(37) markdouglasobenour, July 23, 2008 2:16 PM

I got a tattoo when I was rebellious-now What?

If we got a tattoo when we were in a rebellious attitude and now regret it do we need to have it removed as part of proper teshuva, or is that just desecrating our bodies again?

(36) eva, July 23, 2008 1:07 PM

what a wonderful way to start off the 3 weeks - with kindness to ourselves and others

Thank you so much for your words of wisdom. We all need more acts of kindness, both to ourselves and to others. These 3 weeks that are upon us can be so beneficial to us if we utilize them well. Every time we do an act of chesed (no matter how small) we are indeed improving our souls. Thanks again.

(35) Anonymous, July 23, 2008 10:52 AM

My Tattoo

I am a Baal Tshuvah (a returnee to observant Judaism) and I have a tattoo. I have been careful to avoid showing my son the tattoo until he was old enough to understand. I took my 5 year old son swimming at a local yeshiva (jewish school) and had forgotten about the tattoo (on my back). We're swimming in the pool and my son ask "Abba (dad) what' that on your back?". I was completely taken by surprise and the words just tumbled out. I said "You know how Hashem gave us Torah and Mitzvot?...well your Abba got that before he knew about Hashem, Torah and his Mitzvot"...but now I know.

He just smiled and kept swimming

(34) Rafael V Rabinovich, July 23, 2008 6:43 AM

An even worse bodily defacement

Well, since you touch this subject, an even worse case comes to mind: Jews who leave behind instructions to be cremated after they pass away, and relatives who think it's OK.
We are indeed required to return our bodies to the ground, through burial, not get reduced to ashes -- another known Nazi practice to get rid of Jewish bodies -- and disposed like garbage, or kept in a box as a souvenir. Those who can't afford burial should know the nearest Jewish community may have a Chevra Kaddisha willing to help with the expenses of burial and even the tombstone, which is a mitzvah. Many Jewish philanthropists will be forthcoming with burial expenses -- which should be in a Jewish cemetery and in accordance to Jewish law. Furthermore, doing so will help with closing and comfort in the time of grieving.
So, while this anti-tatoo video is a good thing, perhaps a video on the touchy subject of Jewish burial -- NOT CREMATION -- would be of even greater importance, and help someone out there to decide to do the right thing.

(33) Andy, July 23, 2008 6:23 AM

some look great but reason as you stated is Torah forbids it

it's like a tasty food that is not kosher. we are supposed to say it's probably delicious but as Jews we are commanded to eat kosher by God.We don't really know why other than that,and I was taught that it's a mistake to try and come up with logical reasons and base the decision on that.For example today there seem to be more humane ways to slaughter and a healthy treif diet may be better for one physically than a fatty kosher one.if faced with a choice as a holy nation we still of course need to eat kosher even if unhealthier than the treif available at the time. same may apply for tatoos. An exapmle of altering the body that is a must do for male Jews is that God commands us to return our body changed thru a brit.A great sage stated all laws given by God have elements beyond understanding and the reason for following is because we are commanded by God to do's tempting to try and give rational explanations but for even a seemingly logical command such as honoring parents there are non rationsl aspects, like if parents are abusive we are still commanded to honor them.

(32) Yoni, July 22, 2008 11:39 PM

Basic Wisdom.....

Baruch Hashem for this basic wisdom! Your words "you can do better than that" fully hit the mark. Hashem is activating His Yoshua's and Calev's, those who walk the walk. Let's put our kippah's on and go be what we're supposed to be. We need Moshiach now.
Todah Rabbi!!!

(31) Stanley A., July 22, 2008 9:03 PM


People who Tattoo their bodies are FOOLS
with a capital " F ". They think that it looks cool but it looks ugly. They
should look at themseleves in the mirror
and get a real good look.

(30) Sally, July 22, 2008 8:47 PM

Great analogy

I always knew that tattoos are forbidden but with Rabbi Salomon's analogy, I now understand the why much better. thank you.

(29) NesanelS, July 22, 2008 8:11 PM

erase a tattoo

p.s. I feel for anyone who has a tattoo. As Rabbi Salomon said, there are 'better tattoos'.
So, it is nice to know, that there are simple ways to get rid of a tattoo. Just Google ' erase a tattoo '.
p.p.s. There are many things which galvanize us into action. I once heard from Horav Shlomo Brevda, speaking in Lakewood, in the name of the Ohr Hachayim Hakadosh [the holy] in Parshas Vayechi, that basically there is a pleasant way and a difficult way that the redemption can come about. If we have merits, it will come about in a nice way. Otherwise, The Creator will stand up a king who is a hard as Haman and because there would be so many difficulties, we will merit the redemption.
So he asked, would we not say that what we had 60 years ago was a 'king as hard as Homon? He answered that it seems that The Creator is giving us a second chance - because top have the redemption in the nice way is really what we want!
We could add that this could be a general lesson in life. All things can have a 'good way' and a way 'that it comes about through a king as hard as Homon.
May we merit having the good!!!

(28) Tova Saul, July 22, 2008 8:06 PM

Beautifully said

Isn't is mainly teenagers that do this? This is a time when they start smoking, experimenting with drugs, and do other reckless things, all in search of "maturity", "rebellion", "identity", whatever. They probably regret it when they reach their 20's. By then it's too late---they're hooked on nicotine and stuck with the tatoos. I say---Lock them all up till they're 20.

(27) NesanelS, July 22, 2008 7:54 PM

A few thoughts

I was just thinking about this recently, in an invention by Yamaha. They have a CD burner that can 'burn' words into the data side of the disc. It does this just as the burn process turns the data side a different shade, so they said 'why not be able to burn pictures or words?' Though it's a special technology because it is complicated to line up the continuous circles, as data on a disc is a continuous spiral of dots and dashes, but where it is relative to the circumference does not matter. Anyways, so they call it Disc T@2. I was thinking 'Disc T@2, the only tattoo that a Jew may do'.
Anyways, another interesting thought, about a Taryag Mitzvo Legacy Foundation. they set out a few years ago to explain all of the commandments. So they produce 'Mitzvo Cards' which have an explanation of each mitzvo. For children, they have a picture. The picture for this mitzvo is of two brothers (or friends) passing a tattooing 'paaaalir' and one is looking as if 'maybe' and the other, realizing this, motions 'let's get out of here fast!' So I was thinking that they really hit the nail on the head, because that's really what it is all about.
With appreciation top Rabbi Salomon

(26) rachel, July 22, 2008 7:48 PM

changed their mind

There is a bal teshuva I know of who has tattoos on each of his fingers. He is ashamed of them and sometimes covers them with makeup. I am sure there are others who regret painting their bodies.

(25) David, July 22, 2008 6:11 PM

Why tattoo?

Who wants to put on a decoration that can't be taken off? I'm at a loss to understand the popularity of these things. That said, I'm not sure why Jewish law should get so worked up about this-- didn't Rivka imeinu have a nose ring?

(24) Anonymous, July 22, 2008 6:00 PM


I have come to agree with the Rabbi,but as a young man inthe service ,I have several tatoos,Now at 64 I regret it .It is too late and surgery is just another form of mutilation, so I will bare my tatoos,yet keep them covered as much as possible.Shalom.

(23) Anonymous, July 22, 2008 4:46 PM

Choose life!

Tattoos originated in pagan cultures where witchcraft and death reigned and are prohibited by the Torah. Take notice, you will see that almost every modern day tattoo has something to do with violence, death and idolatry… skulls, swords, crosses… "Choose life that you may live!"

(22) ron stackler, July 22, 2008 2:23 PM

Why is cosmetic surgery better than tatoo?


(21) Jessica, July 22, 2008 2:10 PM

no comment...just some questions....

Is body piercing also forbidden by the Torah?...Just wondering. I think it is.
How does one repent for ignorance? Also, can a person be UN-tatooed or UN-pierced?

(20) Yaakov, July 22, 2008 1:42 PM

Beyond Tattoos

While I agree with you whole heartedly and have never had or plan on having any tattoos, your video would be just as accurate if you replace the idea of tattoos with the idea of being overweight, overly suntanned, or extremely muscular.

If our bodies are on loan from G-d, we should not be too heavy, too thin, too tanned, etc.

An obese person has done more harm to their loaned body than a fit person with a tattoo, no?

(19) Aileen, July 22, 2008 1:39 PM

Why I would never tattoo

Having lived on a Kibbutz in Israel made up of mainly Holocaust survivors, I could never get a tattoo. The amazing people I had the privilege of working alongside fought too hard to survive. It is like a slap in the face to those who survived to see Jews who choose tattoos.

(18) Linda, July 22, 2008 11:57 AM

Excellent Thoughts

I totally agree with your common sense and Biblical thoughts on Tattoos. Some people do not know where to stop, when it comes to the number they have on their body. We are the temples of God.

(17) Jennifer, July 22, 2008 11:02 AM

Expressing oneself

Excellent comments, Rabbi. I have no tattoos but do like to express myself with my outward appearance. How do I do it? I change the jewelry, scarves, and clothing that I wear! My body is never scarred, and if I change my mind, it's as easy as changing my clothing. Problem of self-expression solved.

(16) Carrie, July 22, 2008 10:59 AM

Tatoos are junkie art. Compare the number of those with tattoos with the number that have also used addictive substances. Tatoos also are used by those who follow other religious paths, they are not for us. Tatoos are a pathway to spread blood-borne disease, from the needle or the dye pot.

On the other hand, Holocaust and cancer therapy tatoos are imposed on the subject, not a free choice. They are not the same.

(15) Anonymous, July 22, 2008 10:24 AM

A Secular Point of View

Despite the fact that I think tattooing is dumb, because it's just ruining your body, i refuse to believe that my body is "a loan from G-d." that is utterly ridiculous. My body is a biological organism which resulted from sexual intercourse. But anyways, tattooing is dumb, don't do it.

(14) Mischle Freida Haya, July 22, 2008 10:15 AM

Hashem's laws are best for all

Thank you Rabbi for your wonderful words of wisdom and sharing the law in Lev. 19:28. The money paid for tatoos can be saved and the pain one receives in the tatooing process can be avoided. That same money would be better spend on the acts of kindness and compassion which in the beginning hurt like tatoos being inprinted in the skin but in the long run allow us to move beyond ourselves in the expression of love to others so that our many sacrifices increase our joy in tikkun olam and our hearts expand in love from our G-D and creator.
If the readers of this column would like to share a really good film with their children or friends toying with the idea of tatooing their bodies, I suggest "The Devil's Arithmetic". Our Bet Sefer students were very moved by it. As Jews we have all been marked by the tatoos of the Nazis during the Holocaust. They knew exactly how to flaunt our blessed laws in our faces!
I am so grateful to have never even thought of tatooing as something I would do to my body. It has always seemed revolting to me and now that I am a serious student of The Holocaust and have returned to my family's roots by converting to Judaism, something my poor, frightened mother left behind, I am realizing how the laws of my anscestors were firmly tatooed inside my heart before I could even identify the source! M'chaya! Mischle Freida Haya

(13) Amos, July 22, 2008 9:04 AM

Just like the pagans

Thank you, Rabbi for your clear teaching on this topic. Xians like faith-healer wacko Todd Bentley justify their tattoos by saying it is an expression of their xianity. Jews who are using the same arguments must be grieving Hashem immensely.

Connecting with your Judaism with a tattoo is like connecting with your synagogue by bringing ham and oysters to an oneg shabbat.

(12) Anonymous, July 22, 2008 8:49 AM

if our bodies are on loan, then we should take care of them.

The point that our bodies are on loan from Hashem and should not be defaced is a good one. But I would go further. I see Orthodox Jews who smoke, and who clearly over eat, neither of which is good for the body. Why isn't more being said about those? If our bodies are on loan, then don't we have the mandate to take care of them by eating healthy, exercising, and refrain from smoking?

(11) Tzvi, July 22, 2008 8:44 AM

a jew With tattoos

As a Jew(34years old0 who has a few tattoos, I would say that as long as my tattoos do not 1)remember the dead, and/or 2)represent any form of graven image, then I see nothing wrong with them. I have a Seal of Solomon, which is a symbol straight from our heritage as jews, as well as a Hamsa for protection. Each of my tatoos is tastfull, and both are expressions of my recconecting with my "roots" as a rebel jew(I had a great grandfather who faught cosaacks in a Pogram). My tattos do not make me less of a jew, but they are reminders of where I come from, and where I want to go.

(10) Rabbi Shaya Kilimnick, July 22, 2008 8:22 AM

etched in stone

I personally want to thank rabbi salomon for the meaningful guidance he provided in this brief vidoe...excellently done and sure to leave an impression

(9) Rachel, July 22, 2008 7:49 AM

Tattoos - AKA Vulgarity

The tattoos for medical reasons for cancer patients are the exception to the general rule that tattooing is a sign of vulgarity, immaturity and stupidity.
Consider the words of Anonymous above, "I am an artist and art is an expression of the artists thoughts and abilities. Each tattoo I have desgined is a way to express my inner being in an outward way." It's all about ME: "I feel this and I have to 'express myself' and I know better than Hashem, Who 'wishes' I wouldn't do it." Very self indulgent.

Whenever I see a young person with a tattoo, I feel confident that the person has loose sexual standards, dresses skimpily, and is given to using profane language a lot, and it would not surprise me for such a person to have a bad temper. In short, a tattoo tells me that I would not want this person to marry one of my kids.

Because the tattoo tells us so much about the wearer's lack of good character traits, it does save people a lot of time finding it out otherwise.

And by the way, there ARE laser centers where one can have tattoos removed.

Just why young Jews would want to do something to themselves that the Nazis did to their victims - I do not understand!

(8) Anonymous, July 22, 2008 7:29 AM

My Tattoo

Here I am in my mid-40's with a tattoo. I am also in the process of conversion to Judaism. I did not know this was forbidden in the Torah. Had I known, well it would be different. As I learn so much about this wonderful path I have chosen, I struggle with understanding how this is so different from other Mitzvots. How is this different from a Jew who makes the conscious choice not to keep kosher? For me I did not know!

(7) Ra'sha, July 22, 2008 5:31 AM

how about a canvas?

Personally, I'd be more upset if someone brought my car back to me banged up than decorated. At least if they have decorated my car, I know that thought and effort went into it rather than simple carelessness...that said, many people see their bodies as "on loan". I see my body as a gift. If I gifted someone with a beautiful blank canvas, and they did nothing with it, I would be pretty hurt.

As a proud, spiritual, Jewish woman, I have carefully designed a multitude of tattoos to give outer expression to my inner workings. My tattoos, to those who know how to read into the symbolism of the designs, are the story of my life. I have helped design tattoos for others as well, and I am proud of each and every one of them.

(6) Cid, July 21, 2008 1:50 PM

Good Point

I think the Rabbi has a very good point about our bodies being on loan, nothing in this world belongs to us, everything belongs to G-d. When you think about things that way it changes your perspective. If you want to be artistic and you want to be expressive don't use your body as a canvas, use a real canvas! You can be just as expressive painting or drawing. A Jewish person getting a Jewish tattoo is the ultimate oxymoron to me because if you are so proud of being Jewish you should uphold the Torah and stand out by not having a tattoo (nowadays the person that doesn't have one stands out!).

(5) SusanE, July 21, 2008 8:43 AM

Piercings Are OK?

Rabbi I found this article on Aish while trying to find answers about piercings in respect to Jewish law.

Sanctity of the Human Body - Jan 13, 2008 ... The Torah forbids tattooing because it permanently mars the body, akin to graffiti on a magnificent building (Leviticus, 19:28). Piercing of ... - 67k -
Rabbi, So nose and ears, lips, eyebrows and other piercings are not defaming the body? Women pierce their ears and other parts of their bodies to hang jewels and precious metals there to show off their wealth. I can't understand how this is considered OK by law. This I don't understand.

(4) Anonymous, July 21, 2008 8:42 AM

Why I Tattooed

Despite being Jewish I have more than five tattoos. I am an artist and art is an expression of the artists thoughts and abilities. Each tattoo I have desgined is a way to express my inner being in an outward way. Like the rabbi said, it is not the only way, however, I found that my real Jewish learning began after I forced myself to expose my Jewish identity which I hid fo years.

Would Hashem wish I had no tattoos? Probably, but is Hashem more concenred with my changes in mitzvahs and observance that my tattoos? I am sure of it.

(3) Alejandro Levy, July 20, 2008 11:29 PM

What if you already have one?

I have 2 tattoos, although the prohibition was known to me, as a good revel teenager, I not pay so much attention.

Now i know that it is a great sin, but what can I do?

Someone told that if a Jewish person has a tattoo, he will not be buried on a Jewish cemetery, is that correct?

For everyone who is out there, thinking about getting one, DO NOT DO IT.

(2) SusanE, July 20, 2008 8:35 PM

Tattoos? I just don't know.

Rabbi, I agree with you. I have no piercings. I have no decorative tattoos. I think both of those ways of decorating the body are ugly. So I agree but for different reasons. I simply have never liked them.

Having said that...

Most all of the cancer survivors I know have tattoos on their body. Pinhead sized dark blue spots to direct the radiation beams to kill the cancer cells.
Holocaust survivors have numbers tattooed on their arms so that their captors could identify them. Many cancer victims and Holocaust victims have died already with those marks on their skin. What happens now? How will they all be judged wearing those tattoos?
They are all tattoos. Just the reasons for saying yes to them might be different.

(1) Rosen, July 20, 2008 6:06 AM

avoiding body art

I completely agree with the Rabbi this week. Tattoos are certainly taboo, especially considering your favorite expressions change over time (but hopefully not the values Torah gives).

I don't have any tattoos not only because the Torah forbids it, but that it involves needles as well. So, I'm not fond of needles touching my body unless it comes to a blood test at the doctor's office.

Not only are tattoos a problem, but piercing seems to be getting out of control too. For at least 10 years, some people actually pierce their tongue, which is not a good idea, not only because the Torah most likely forbids it, but the tongue is actually a major blood vessel.

It's best for a Jew, as well as anyone else to express their passions by keeping it simple by verbal words and discussions.

...On the other hand, I've heard if one gets tattooed, and he/she eventually decides to get it removed by lasers, then it's suggested that they can get a proper Jewish burial, as long as the tattoos are ultimately removeable with lasers.


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