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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776
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Think tattoos are forbidden? Reform Rabbi Says ‘Guess Again’

Chicago-based Reform leader has thriving career “explaining” Judaism to Christian audiences
Who cares if the Torah says 'no'?

Who cares if the Torah says 'no'?
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ever want to get a tattoo, but refrain from doing so? Fear no more! A reform “rabbi” has now ruled that “there is no blanket prohibition on tattoos,” and rabbis should consider why a person wants to scar their body before ruling out a tattoo.

According to Evan Moffic, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Solel in Chicago, Judaism maintains a “nuanced” view of tattoos. After all, says the “rabbi,” if Jewish law banned tattoos outright, then “survivors of Nazi concentration camps—whose arms were branded with a number—[would be banned] from residing in a Jewish cemetery.”

To back up his peak halacha, the rav cites two ideas: One, that tattoos smack of idolatry. “Some groups in the ancient Near East used tattoos as a way of worshipping gods. Egypt in particular had several gods whose images were frequently tattooed onto bodies and household items,”

Second, he writes that tattooing, does not serve the purpose of “devot(ing) out body to sacred service. Rather, like smoking or drinking, it involves unnecessary dangers, such as harming our skin or causing infection.

The halacic conclusion? “According to this point of view, the content of the tattoo is not as significant as the act of branding itself. The Law is not Black and White.” 

Funny enough, Harav Hagaon Moffic fails to cite the Torah verse (Lev. 19:28): “You should not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor imprint any marks upon you: I am the Lord.” Generations of rabbinic authorities have interpreted this verse as… how did the rabbi put it?… as a “blanket prohibition.”

But, hey, what’s an explicit Torah verse when you’re trying to make “Judaism” attractive to non-Jewish society?

 

Meir Halevi Siegel

About the Author: Meir is a news writer for JewishPress.com - and he loves his job.


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