Tattoos & Torah: What do today’s teens in St. Louis think?

Tattoos & Torah: What today’s teens in St. Louis think?

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Tattoos & Torah: What do today’s teens in St. Louis think?

Teens, jews and tattoos, oh my! Simchas Ad But getting a tattoo is not without its risks, including skin infections, potential HIV exposure and emotional regret later in life. However, for Jewish teens there is a deeper issue with tattoo art. As specified by the Torah, it is against Jewish tradition to make permanent markings on oneself.

This law comes from Leviticus 19:28 and reads, “And you shall not print any marks upon you.”Although it is clear that there is a law against tattoos, interpretations differ based on translations and sects of Judaism. At the time the Torah was received, tattoos were associated with idol worship.

“Many ancient people used tattoos as a means of supposedly drawing power from their gods,” Rabbi Noah Arnow of Kol Rinah explained. “Tattoos were linked to idolatry and thus a Jewish tradition of rejecting tattooing was developed.”

Despite the textual rejection of tattooing in Jewish tradition, many Jewish teens admit that they would not consider the biblical law when deciding to get a tattoo. According to an informal survey conducted through social media for this article, 30 percent of 112 teens polled disclosed that Jewish laws would not be a factor in their decision to get a tattoo (see survey results at right).

As a result, it becomes important that Jews reconcile how biblical laws apply to a society in which tattoos have become an artistic statement.

First, no sect of Judaism punishes for getting a tattoo. The popular notion that someone marked with a tattoo is unable to receive a burial place in a Jewish cemetery is a myth as confirmed by local rabbis from all sects.

“While we would not encourage tattoos,” Arnow said, “Jews with tattoos are and should be fully and completely welcomed and accepted in all aspects of Jewish life.”

While the lack of punishment is consistent, interpretations of the Torah’s tattoo laws vary slightly. The Mishnah, for example, implies that tattoos referred to in the Torah are those following […]