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What’s wrong with a purely artistic tattoo?

by Rabbi Shlomo Chein


Library » Mitzvot » Prohibitions | Subscribe | What is RSS?



I want to get a small tattoo on my body for no other reason but for artistic purposes. I love and fear G-d and would never do it for any forbidden purposes such as idol worship or any other ritualistic purposes. Please tell me if making this tattoo will affect my future for burial, when Moshiach comes, or in the hereafter. Thank you


Your tattoo might effect your burial, depending on the customs/regulations of your particular cemetery.

Your tattoo will affect you when Moshiach comes, because at that time G-d’s Will will be clear and understood to us finite humans and we will realize the true damage inflicted by tattoos.

But right now you are alive, and hopefully you will be for many, many more years to come. Also, as of the writing of these words Moshiach is not here—but hopefully that will change very soon.

When you paint a picture on a bare wall you most definitely enhance the beauty. But when an amateur paints a picture over a Chagall, he is ruining a masterpiece
Which brings us to the here and now, and a tattoo will have a damaging effect on you now.

Art is beautiful. But your body is not a drawing board.

Artistic expression is pretty. But your body is prettier.

When you paint a picture on a bare wall you most definitely enhance the beauty. But when an amateur paints a picture over a Chagall, he is ruining a masterpiece.

Needless to say if it was so obvious that painting on our body was like painting on a Chagall you wouldn’t be asking the question in the first place.

Then again, if it is so obvious that coloring on her parents wedding album will ruin an already beautiful picture, the little girl wouldn’t do it; but in her mind it is not that obvious and that is why an adult needs to explain to here the inherent beauty and value of the wedding album.

By the same token, G-d explains to us the inherent beauty and value of the body: the body is a shrine for the soul; the body is a hand crafted design based on the “image” of G-d.

Our body is already as artistic as can be.


Please email me when new comments are posted (you must be  logged in).



Posted by: Howard Kideckel, Thornhill, Ont, Canada on Jun 10, 2006

Your answer regarding a tattoo appears to say that we are defacing our bodies. Our bodies are a beautiful thing as created by G-d.

I take pride in my body and eat a healthy diet and excercise on a regular basis.

Most people in our community are overweight and even obese. I quite often see observant Jews walking down the street or in the parks smoking. That is not only desecrating their bodies but in my opinion a form of suicide.

Those acts are a bigger disgrace to the human form than a small tattoo on my leg.

Burial and Tattoos

Posted by: mikeex on Jan 13, 2007

Wouldn't pierced ears carry the same connotation as a tattoo. The body is being pierced which is not in the image of G-D.

Editor's Comment

Body piercing is only permitted for women for beautification purposes. It enhances their looks and does not subtract from their likeness to "the image of G-d". However, if it would be done to damage the body in any way, what you say is correct. See "Does the Torah prohibit body-piercing?" (


Life Cycle » Death » Burial/Cemetery

The Messiah. Moshiach is the person who will usher in an era of peace and tranquility for all of humanity when there will be no jealousy or hate, wars or famine. This is a fundamental Jewish belief.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.