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Tattoos, Suicide, and Jewish Burial


From Volume 1 Digest 25
From: Eric Wenger <wengere@csa.delta1.org>

A friend asked me whether a Jew could be buried in a Jewish cemetary if he or she has a tattoo. I responded that to the best of my knowledge tattoos were prohibited unless they were the result of Nazi atrocities.

Was my response correct?

******************************************************************
Eric Wenger             wengere@delta1.org
Visit my website at 
http://www.dgsys.com/~ewenger/index.html

From Volume 1 Digest 27
From: David Greenberger <d.greenberger@cornell.edu>

I believe it was (in general, I don't think you're held responsible for anything you do totally beyond your control), but I'm not sure how relevant it was to the question. That is, many acts are prohibited (e.g., eating shellfish, lighting a fire on Shabbat, etc.), but people who do them aren't prohibited from being buried in a Jewish cemetery. Any person who was born to a Jewish mother or who converted is considered a Jew for life. Please correct me if I'm missing something.

David J. Greenberger              Young Israel of Cornell
Cornell University ('96)          (607) 256-2171 / (607) 272-5810 fax
College of Arts and Sciences
Computer Science major            http://crux3.cit.cornell.edu/~djg2/

From Volume 1 Digest 27
From: Ydfrankel@aol.com

Yes, the Torah prohibits tattoos. Leviticus (19:28). No, this has absolutely no bearing on burial and a Jew with a tattoo may be buried in a Jewish cemetary.

Sincerely,
Yitzchok D. Frankel


From Volume 1 Digest 28
From: EDTeitz@aol.com

Eric Wenger wrote asking whether it is permissible to bury a Jew with a tattoo in a Jewish cemetary. While his response that tattoos are prohibited is correct, it does not answer the question.

The only Jews excluded from Jewish burial are those who commit suicide. Some cemetaries have sections reserved for those who were shomer Shabbat. The halacha states ( Shulcha Aruch, Yo're De'ah, I'm not sure of the exact siman) that one should be buried in an area with others who were of similar religious observance.

Eliyahu Teitz


From Volume 1 Digest 30
From: Eric Wenger <wengere@csa.delta1.org>

In reply to my question about tattoos, I was told that while tattoos are not permitted, having one would not prevent one from being buried in a Jewish cemetery. One explanation that I received, is that we should presume that the recipient of the tattoo repented prior to his/her death.

However, I was also told that the body of someone who committed suicide would be rejected. Why shouldn't we presume that the person who kills him/herself repented just prior to death but too late to reverse the act?

Eric Wenger
- wengere@delta1.org


From Volume 1 Digest 30
From: Ydfrankel@aol.com

Eliyahu Teitz writes:

The only Jews excluded from Jewish burial are those who commit suicide.

I am afraid that many will misunderstand this statement and its real context. I suspect that Eliyahu Teitz is referring to the technically defined case of suicide mentioned in Yoreh Daya 345:2, that is clearly not the situation in the great majority of suicides. Even so, it seems to be the consensus of the poskim [halachic authorities] that even such a person (a suicide spoken about in halacha) is NOT excluded from a)burial nor b) burial in a Jewish cemetery. (S'dei Chemed Aveilus 5; Responsa of Tzitz Eliezer Vol. 10 Siman 41) It is important to note that as Eliyahu Teitz himself mentions...

Some cemeteries have sections reserved for those who were shomer Shabbat.

In fact,even a technically defined suicide would, at the worst, only be excluded from this section.

Sincerely,
Yitzchok D. Frankel


From Volume 1 Digest 31
From: nechama@borealis.com (Nechama Cox)

[Eric Wenger writes:]

However, I was also told that the body of someone who committed suicide would be rejected. Why shouldn't we presume that the person who kills him/herself repented just prior to death but too late to reverse the act?

In reply to Eric, I have heard that for this reason if someone kills themself by throwing themself out a window they can be buried in a Jewish cemetary because it is assumed that they repented between falling out the window and dying, but at that point they could not do anything to stop.

Nechama Cox
nechama@borealis.com


From Volume 1 Digest 32
From: CSTEINMETZ@delphi.com

In general, there is a rule of "ain kovrim tzaddik etzel rasha", "one does not bury a righteous person next to a wicked person" (Sanhedrin 47a) This would mean that impious Jews would be relegated to a seperate section of a Jewish cemetery. Many later authorities wanted to exclude people who are cremated on this basis (see for example Seridei Eish II 123-124). But as R. D.Z. Hoffman (Melamed L'Hoil II:113-114) notes, if we used this rule to restrict anyone who is a sinner, then we could never bury anyone who is not fully observant in a Jewish cemetery!

Chaim Steinmetz


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