Is Judaism against tattoos? It’s commonly thought that Judaism frowns on tattoos and that tattooed Jews can’t be buried in a Jewish cemetery, but shockingly this is a misnomer.
The origins for Judaism’s negative views on tattoo come from the Bible in Leviticus 19:28:
“Do not make gashes in your flesh for a dead person; do not etch a tattoo on yourselves. I am God.”
According to this, a tattoo is considered a sin just like any other for a Jewish person, and a sin is not an end all that would keep someone from proper burial. Then, the hype over Jews with tattoos spiked after the Holocaust when Jews were forcibly tattooed with identification numbers by the Nazis.
The truth: There are plenty of Jewish burial societies that choose to decline inked Jews the right to be buried in their Jewish cemetery, but this isn’t common practice. In fact, Jewish-themed tattoos using Hebrew, the Star of David, the Hamsa, and other Jewish symbols have become increasingly popular over the years.
Either way, when individuals become more religious and wants to start fresh or if someone wants to be buried in a strict Jewish cemetery, does tattoo removal provide an option and an out?
Judaism has questionable views about anything that it might qualify as “plastic surgery,” and laser tattoo removal could fall into this category. Any kind of plastic surgery is considered to be injuring oneself, so any kind of skin-altering surgeries would be problematic. Laser tattoo removal, on the other hand, works in a less problematic way. Lasers produce short pulses of intense light that pass through the skin and are selectively absorbed by the tattoo pigment, which causes it to fragment into smaller particles that are worked out of the body by the immune system.
Ultimately Judaism prohibits getting a tattoo, not having one. Once you’ve got it, you aren’t required to get it removed if you become more religious, unless, of course you feel like it will make you more comfortable. So laser tattoo removal does provide a fresh-start option for Jews who want to get a tattoo removed in an acceptable way.
Are you Jewish? Have you gotten a tattoo removed? Why?