Verses lead to differing opinions on tattoos in Judaism

Verses lead to differing opinions on tattoos in Judaism

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Verses lead to differing opinions on tattoos in Judaism

SAL0817-Hank Arends000.IMG Hank Arends(Photo: Timothy J. Gonzalez / Statesman Journal file)

There was a day when tattoos mainly were on sailors or bikers.

Today, you might find them on your doctor, grocery clerk, a grandchild or a clergy member. I remember one old caution as tattoos were growing in popularity: "Never get a tattoo where a judge can see it!"

Rabbi Daniel Aronson of Temple Beth Shalom in South Salem said — like other faiths — there are divided opinions in Judaism on receiving tattoos.

In bygone decades, "Tattoos were something you had if you were certifiably ‘tough,’ with exceptions made for flower children of the ’60s.

"For many, tattoos were a sign of belonging to this or that group. For others, tattoos shouted out defiance or deviance," he wrote in the synagogue newsletter.

This columnist’s younger brother bore the words "love" and "hate" added to his knuckles with a ballpoint pen during a rebellious time in his all-too-short life.

Aronson told of making the acquaintance of Galveston, Texas, Rabbi Marshal Klaven who wears "one of the more fascinating tattoos I’ve seen of late."

Wrapping his bicep and forearm is a micrography of tiny letters of the tefillin or prayer phylacteries from the Torah reading "bind these words as a sign upon your hand.""When people see Rabbi Klaven’s expressions of Jewish pride and commitment engraved on his body — yes, there are others — many undoubtedly question whether Jews, let alone rabbis, are permitted by Jewish law to have tattoos."Aronson answered with "it depends." Some point to Leviticus 19:28 prohibiting the "marking" of one self. Others say that scripture had to do with idolatrous purpose or images of God.The rabbi noted, "In short, whether Judaism permits tattoos is a legitimate matter of debate."He pointed out the false assumption that tattoos prevent one from being buried in a Jewish cemetery. Such a person is no more excluded as one who smokes, drinks or takes drugs to excess. Current times even allow suicides to […]