Are Tattoos a Sin in Judaism?

Jerusalem, Israel old city skyline

Table of Contents

Are tattoos a sin in Judaism? Yes, they are. According to the Torah (Leviticus 19:28), “You shall not carve gashes in the skin for the dead, or incise marks on yourselves: I’m the Lord.” So, tattoos are usually prohibited in Judaism. 

Modern rabbis explain the restriction as a component of a larger ban on body modification. In this post, we’ll talk about why tattooing is forbidden in Judaism and if it’s among the Jewish taboos.

Let’s get the ball rolling!

Why Is Tattooing Forbidden in Judaism?

Here are some reasons why tattoos are forbidden in Judaism:

  1. Since God created the human body, it is improper to mutilate God’s creation. It is especially inappropriate for people who are a part of chosen God’s nation to harm their bodies. One must have the conviction that God, the greatest artist of all, created them in the most suitable form, and one must not alter it. Changing one’s body is equivalent to disrespecting God’s creation unless it is necessary for health reasons.
  2. Similar to how an animal gets branded by its owner, idol worshippers in the past would tattoo their bodies as a symbol of their dedication to their deity.
  3. The circumcision covenant is special because it is a physical reminder of our connection to God in our bodies. Making more indications would devalue and weaken this unique sign in the body. 

Can a Jew With a Tattoo Be Buried in a Jewish Cemetery?

Yes. Tattoos, body art, and body ink are unusual terms in Jewish culture since many Jews think you can’t be buried inside a Jewish cemetery if you have a tattoo. This notion is untrue.

The Torah forbids the desecration of the body. Therefore, having a tattoo voluntarily is forbidden. However, this does not prevent a person from getting buried in a Jewish cemetery. 

There is no justification for denying burial to anyone who disobeys this rule. Whether or not to bury Jewish individuals with tattoos rests on the specific synagogue or society burial ground.

Jewish people have a long-standing dislike of tattoos. Even among Jews who are mostly secular, there is still a strong taboo against body art, which is blamed on the tattooing of Holocaust prisoners in concentration camps and the urban legend that Jews with tattoos can’t be buried in Jewish cemeteries. 

Some Jews have embraced tattooing as a means of paying tribute to forebears who were inked by the Nazis, as it has become more widely accepted in recent years.

Every Jew should always remember that they were created by Elokim. They are expected to consider this knowledge while making all their judgments.

Is the Jewish Dislike of Tattoos Fading Away?

Yes, old taboos about tattoos are being broken down as tattoos become more and more popular among young Israelis.

Ironically, Israelis are more likely than ever to obtain tattoos, even though their faith forbids altering one’s body in any way. 

Although many people and cultures from all different walks of life dislike tattoos, it is a well-known stereotype in the Jewish community that getting inked is frowned upon or forbidden.

Israelis were exposed to new events because of Western influence, and they became receptive to the notion that getting a tattoo isn’t the most offensive thing to do. Why adhere to some laws but not others?

If the Torah forbids creating gashes in one’s skin, then the same reasoning must apply to ear piercings, which are more prevalent in Jewish and Israeli society. 

Since the 1990s, this change in attitudes toward tattoos has been widespread and has given Jewish Israelis new opportunities to express themselves.

Why Is It Forbidden to Have Tattoos in the Bible?

The prohibition against incisions or tattoos appearing immediately afterwords tied to sorrow, as noted by Huehnergard and Liebowitz, may support the initial argument. 

However, when they look at what is known about the funeral rites in Israel, Syria, Egypt, and ancient Mesopotamia, they don’t come across any examples of people leaving marks on their skin as a show of grief. 

They also mention other instances where two sides of a verse deal with separate topics in Leviticus and Exodus. Therefore, this could also be the case.

Designating slaves was a typical application of tattoos in ancient Mesopotamia. Egyptian prisoners were marked with the title of a god to identify them as the pharaoh’s or priests’ property. 

However, worshippers might also bear the god’s name they honored on their bodies.

Final Word

Are tattoos a sin in Judaism? Now we’ve got the answers. You’ve known how Judaism and tattoos relate. Based on this post, you should know that Judaism tattoos and piercings are forbidden.

However, with the change in opinions and modernization, some cases of people from Jewish culture who have tattoos have risen.

More Of The Same Category​

Michael Blau

Michael Blau

I have been tattooing for over 15 years and have my studio in Brooklyn. While I'll tattoo just about anything on anyone, my specialty is religious tattoos.
I am originally from Williamsburg, a neighborhood in Brooklyn known for its large Jewish population. This has given me a lot of experience and understanding when it comes to tattoos and religion.

About Me

Recent Posts

40 Small Religious Tattoos For Men