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I plan to convert, but I am a huge fan of tattoos...

I plan to convert, but I am a huge fan of tattoos...



I am planning to convert to Judaism, but I am a huge fan of tattoos. Does that create a problem?


You are probably aware that conversion to Judaism involves complete acceptance of all the commandments of the Torah from this point on—including the biblical prohibition against tattoos.1

Existing tattoos, however, are not a reason to deny a potential candidate the ability to convert.2

All the best,

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson


"You shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves" (Leviticus 19:28).


An exception to this rule may be if the tattoos are inappropriate (lewd or symbols of other religions), in which case the rabbinical court presiding over the conversion might request that they be removed.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a writer who lives with his family in Brooklyn, N.Y.
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.
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Wesley Kirkland Maitland, FL May 8, 2017

Are tattoos okay to get if one is a Noahide like me? I can't believe no one addressed this. I only assume the answer is yes, as I can still eat bacon, but I need to know for sure. I only have one now, a portrait of my grandfather, a WWII vet and a truly great man. I would like to get on my left shoulder, my other grandfather. Problem for a Noahide with no desire to convert? Seven laws are more than enough for me. 😎 Don't want to make God angry. Didn't turn out well the last time. Reply

Simcha Bart for May 17, 2017
in response to Wesley Kirkland:

Good question. Since the tattoo you describe it is not associated with idol worship or its practices, it would be permitted for a non-Jew.


Baruch Davidson Brooklyn, NY November 1, 2010

Re: Heschel The words in the original Hebrew of Leviticus 19:28 are not mentioned at all in Genesis 4:15. There is no comparison at all between these two verses.

The word used by the verse in Leviticus which we translate as tatoo is "ketovet ka'aka". Ketovet means writing or inscription, and ka'aka means etched. A tattoo is an inscription which is etched in one's skin. Reply

Heschel where I lay my head, wherever my charitable org sends me October 29, 2010

"You shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves" ? Rabbi, you used a horribly inaccurate mistranslation; please at least see the YLT (Young's Literal) translation, or better yet the original Classical Hebrew:

In Lev 19:28, the Hebrew word being (mis)translated into the word “tattoo” is the same word in Genesis 4:15, which says, “...and The Deity placed a mark upon Cain…”. Do any of us believe that The Deity came down and tattooed Cain?

Further, Lev 19:28 talks about A CERTAIN TYPE OF "mark" or "cut" and describes it (though the Rabbi has not, in his (wrong) "quote" of the verse) -- but Leviticus does NOT say that the banned practice involved "ink," "needles," etc. So is every Jew who pierces her ears, or a man or woman who gets surgery, going to be punished in hell, because piercings and surgery both leave a "mark"?! Piercings and surgery -- and tattooing -- are not the TYPE of mark that this passage refers to; what was prohibited is a specific type of mark, namely a mark to mourn the dead (or the “soul") and "cross-shaped". Reply

Charles May 22, 2017
in response to Heschel:

No one said that someone who got tattoos was going to hell. I think it's fair to draw a comparison between "marking your body " and tattoos. In ancient times people used different methods of marking their bodies but it's still the same concept. The whole concept is not to be like the nations. The nations tattoo themselves, why do people of the nation of G-d need to do this ? Reply

yaakov January 25, 2008

Re: re Accepting G-d's Torah and being eager to fulfill His will means putting aside one's personal interests that conflict with Torah and that will.
In fact, that seems elementary to the acceptance of, or subservience to, anything - a soldier in the army, an office worker on the job, etc. Certainly in this case.
Natural feeling are also designed by G-d (Creator of Nature), but when you want to sign up to join G-d's army (ok, on more p.c. terms: become one of G-d's messengers on Earth), there are desires, interests and what not that you gotta stifle (not so good but often necessary, at least as a temporary solution), transform (much better), or harness for a constructive manner that enhances your desire to fulfill G-d's will (best by far).
Of course, these are just my thoughts - don't go tattooing them on your skin... Reply

Anonymous January 23, 2008

Re: To Jew or not to Jew Human beings can have their own feelings, and yet accept that G-d's Torah is the real truth and be eager to fulfill G-d's will, despite their personal interests. Reply

Yaakov January 22, 2008

To Jew or not to Jew Converting to Judaism means that one has reached an appreciation of its absolute truth - Divine truth. One is willing - indeed, EAGER - to follow both the letter and spirit of the Torah's commandments.
So when G-d makes clear (in his Torah) that tattoos are bad for the body and soul (like all other Prohibitions), how could a Jew or wannabe Jew say "I am a huge fan" of that prohibited act?! I mean, he can certainly say so - but not in the same breath as "I plan to convert"...! Reply

Yitzi K. baltimore, md January 21, 2008

tattoos- leibels comment Rabbi Boruch is only saying having tattoos on ones skin does not prohibit them from BECOMING Jewish just like eating shellfish prior to converting would not make one a sinner post conversion. Reply

Anonymous January 19, 2008

Converting and Tattoos The answer that Rabbi D offered is quite clear. The existing tattoos do not in any way interfere with ones desire to convert. Getting a tattoo post conversion or for that atter eating shellfish DOES interfere. What is your question? Reply

Leibel Estrin January 18, 2008

tattoos I don't get the answer. It's like saying, you can convert and still eat shelfish because I am a huge fan of lobster! You either accept all the 613 commandments or you don't. It's pretty simple. Reply

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