Soc.Culture.Jewish Newsgroups
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

URL: www.scjfaq.org/faq/11-06-01.html
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Question 11.6.1:
Death and Burial: Is it true that someone with tattoos cannot be buried in a Jewish cemetery?

Answer:

While tattooing is against Jewish law, there is also a principle that a person can repent up until the moment of death. The assumption is that the person did teshuva (repented) before they died, and so there should be no problem burying them in a Jewish cemetery. Of course, it is probably appropriate to CYLAR¹ (appropriate rabbi) as well as CYLAFD¹ (appropriate funeral director). There is a story that relates to this (courtesy Micha Berger):

There was a ba'al teshuvah (returnee to Orthodoxy) who went to the mikvah on erev Yom Kippur. Before discovering Judaism, he got a tatoo on his upper arm. By the time of the story he was learning in a yeshiva and quite embarassed of it. An older man saw how this teen was standing with that arm toward the wall. And then "just happened" to throw his towel over that shoulder. In short, squiriming around to make the tatoo less noticable. The man walked over to the boy and showed him his arm. "See I too have a tatoo. I wear it with pride. It reminds me where I have been, and how far I have come."

Note that deliberate tattooing is against Jewish law: "Do not lacerate your flesh for the dead, do not tattoo yourselves." (Lev. 19:28). Cutting of the flesh and tattooing was associated with idolatrous usages among the Canaanites. Many traditional mortuaries and cemeteries will not officiate at a funeral of one who is tattooed. However, since this practice has become more and more common, even among Jews, the policies may become more relaxed with time. If you intend to be interred in a traditional Jewish cemetery, you should contact them to verify their policies.

Do remember: today, tattoos are in; tomorrow they might not be. And though there are ways to remove them, why risk the potential cost and pain? Let the beauty of your soul be the example people will see and not a "heart with Mom" inside. And take the money you would have spent on this body art and give it to a noble cause.

¹[CYL = "Consult your local"]


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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