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Can a person with a tattoo be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

Can a person with a tattoo be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

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Question:

Is it true that if I have a tattoo I cannot be buried in an Orthodox cemetery? I’m not referring to Holocaust markings.

Answer:

The Torah1 forbids us from tattooing our bodies. Nonetheless, one who has had tattoos can still buried in a Jewish cemetery.

That said, every Jewish burial society has the right to enact its own criteria for who may and may not be buried in their plot. This stems from people’s desire (or right?) to be buried in proximity to others of their choosing. So while technically there is nothing in Jewish law which prohibits a tattooed person from being interred in a Jewish cemetery, certain burial societies—not the majority of them, or even close—will not bury among their own a person who willingly tattooed him- or herself, as it is a permanent exhibition of violation of Jewish Law.

This practice by certain burial societies led to the common misconception that this ban was an inherent part of Jewish law.

Chani Benjaminson,
Chabad.org

FOOTNOTES
1.

Leviticus 19:28.

Chani Benjaminson is co-director of Chabad of the South Coast, coordinator of Chabad’s Ask the Rabbi and Feedback departments, and is a member of the editorial staff of Chabad.org.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
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Discussion (20)
February 1, 2014
Here's a twist
I'm a Breast Cancer survivor. Probably the dreaded gene. After 15 years of starring at one side I had a beautiful tattoo placed on my breast.
They can bury me in a non denominational cemetery with a smile on my face.
Eddie
USA
January 27, 2013
Hello?
After I'm dead you can feed me to wild animals for all I care.
jesse kaellis
New Westminster
November 29, 2012
Whoever is Jewish and knows tattooing is forbidden and still gets one is really wrong. Is it so difficult not to get a tattoo? It clearly states in our Torah that you must not do it!
Can't you resist this temptation? I am not observant myself but I think that one can keep at least the basics.
Daliah
uk
November 28, 2012
judgmental ways of being
I meet a lot of people and they have tattoos. It's not something I would ever want, and I can easily decorate with those washable ones you get for children, if ever I want a rose on my arm or cheek. But those who do, have their personal reasons, and I wouldn't ever judge them for doing what they do. We live in a diverse world. I am against tattoos personally because we Jews were so branded, in those Hitler years. I think it's All G_d and so for me, whatever happens in life, seems to be part of a far far bigger picture, and diversity for sure, is key. Not to bury a Jew in a Jewish cemetery because they "bear" a tattoo, seems incredibly judgmental, as it's the heart and soul of a person anyhow, that this story is all about. Nobody has the right to make such a judgment, and to prevent a burial. That's how I feel and I would take G_d up on that one, if it's forbidden. I believe we're actually here to think about these things, and that's the "crux" of the matter. it's about LOVE.
ruth housman
marshfield, ma
November 28, 2012
Mike
a tattoo is only skin deep and will decay when the flesh dies...this may be true but because of our belief
that a person will be resurrected into their previous body then that body has to be whole and unblemished. The body is seen as holy in itself as we do mitzvot with it and it houses our soul. The soul's job is to elevate the body. We do many things to keep the soul together with the body even after death like the seven days of mourning and the anniversary of a person's death. The body is not just rubbish to be cast out. It's very interesting the way Judaism views the body, different from all other religions.
Esther
Manchester
November 27, 2012
Using a tattoo to promote the rememberance of the Holocaust and Sept.11, 2001.
We are taught "never again", "always remember", to honor all who sacrificed so that we can live in peace and security, to "save one life is to save the world". Use of a tattoo in the 21st century has taken on a new meaning for many Hebrews. G-d gave us commandments. He especially gave us free will and strength of the spark of His Soul within each of us. I use my tattoo as a constant reminder of this. For each person who asks about the significance of it I thank Hashem that I encourage others to remember our shared responsibility. I am a mature female who prays that I succeed in my life's work.
Doris "Devorah" Bergman -Smith
November 27, 2012
Tattoo
My brother died and I have a tattoo with a broken heart. People do all sorts of things to their bodies. Does it not say that you have only ask your parents permission?
alyce
November 27, 2012
Tattoos and Jewish Burial
No one has the right to judge another. Hashem is the only one who we are accountable to on the end. Are you saying that all the Jewish soldiers with tattoos in Israel cannot be buried where their families want or in the soldier's cemetery?
I have two tattoos over my chest with my two son's names and Hebrew verse.They are gone from this world,buried in Jerusalem. No one, NO ONE will prevent me from being laid to rest near them.
Natalie Alush
usa
November 27, 2012
Tattoo's
Holocaust survivors had tattoos placed on their arms by the Nazis’. I don’t believe that any cemetery association should discriminate for their proper burial. If they do…shame on them!
Anonymous
Boston, MA
November 27, 2012
Tattoo Removal
Serious question.... I had a tattoo before I studies in earnest the word of G_d…. I now have a tattoo and know it was wrong. I wish to have it removed for G_d in repentance. What is the best way to have it removed (cheaply?) and as a Rabbi – Do you think this is the right thing to do? I think it is – but will it matter? Maybe G_d is not going to care if I have a Tattoo or not.... But I now know I should NOT have done it. I am sorry and wish to attone...
Al
Air Force Deployed
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