Jewish History paper Essay


            The Jews has a colorful culture starting from the Biblical times - Jewish History paper Essay introduction. They have a set of religious beliefs which are the foundation of the values, way of life and their points of views. They strictly adhere to what is written in their laws. They  also have a set of beliefs that is being followed like the Bible. They based their values on these dogmas, that serve as a guide in their attitude, their relationship among others and life style.

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However, as time goes by, there arose a faction of belief on certain practices, if it really has been in accordance to Torah or not. One of these issues that concerns a lot of the Jews, is the concept of body marking, popularly known as “tattoo”. In this research, we are interested to find out the reasons that motivated the Jews why tattoos have been considered as a prohibited practice among them. The discussion will be based on the religious beliefs of the Jews in accordance to Torah, Talmud and other religious documents to support the issue. This will also discuss the belief based on the Bible, as it has been commanded by God in the early times.

Tattoo as seen in the Jewish History

            The concept of tattoos being a taboo in the culture of the Jews started from the Biblical times when the Lord God ordered it so in one of the five books of Moses, known as Leviticus. “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord” (The Holy Bible – King James Version, The Family Heritage Edition, Leviticus 19:28). God commanded the Jews not to make any markings in their bodies because it is what the Lord wants and tattoo is a marking on the body, thus, it is considered as against the commandment of God. There are other verses to prove that it was not just commanded once by God, but in the different books of the Bible, it was indeed commanded by God, not to do this act. Let us mention some of these verses.

Accounts from the bible indicated “they shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard, nor make any cuttings in their flesh”  (The Holy Bible – King James Version, The Family Heritage Edition, Leviticus 21:5). Another verse said “Ye are the children of the Lord your God. Ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead” (The Holy Bible – King James Version, The Family Heritage Edition, Deuteronomy 14:1). These clearly explains from the Biblical point of view that body marking such as tattoo is prohibited by the God, meaning, not to be practiced. The big question is why? The Lord God also indicated the specific reason why body marking such as tattoo is not allowed. According to Him, “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God and the Lord hath chosen thee to be peculiar unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (The Holy Bible – King James Version, The Family Heritage Edition, Deuteronomy 14:2).

However, not all are following the Biblical scriptures since there are Jews whose rationale is different from what the Bible said. There were many views regarding the idea of tattoo which will be presented as follows. There was an interview conducted which says “The eight rabbinical scholars interviewed for this article, from institutions like the Jewish Theological Seminary and Yeshiva University, said it’s an urban legend, most likely started because a specific cemetery had a policy against tattoos” (Torgovnick 1). Some are thinking that this concept of prohibition of tattoos had just came from a policy which was imposed by a certain cemetery, while being skeptic among the true reason as implied by the Bible.

Another belief that has been passed through the people was about the interview of Andy Abrams, a filmmaker of a documentary movie  entitled “Tattoo Jew”, who says “one reason Jewish culture opposes tattoos is that Jews were involuntarily marked in concentration camps” (Torgovnick 1). This explanation as opposed to the Biblical perspective, could be regarded as one of the many reasons why Jews dislike the concept of tattoos on their bodies.

Among the Orthodox Jewish tradition they “essentially forbids any permanent changes to the body, except for the circumcision of boys”. This concept has yet to be discussed. The belief that the body is a sacred, thus, any markings on it would mean a disrespect for the Lord. Accounts from the bible said “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (The Holy Bible – King James Version, Romans 12:1). A lot of Jews are uncomfortable with tattoo, even the non-Jews. “On the other hand, it’s a Jewish tradition to argue about the meanings in the Torah (the Jewish bible)—and there are certainly Jewish people who love tattoos and have no problem with getting inked” (

The concept of tattooing among the Jews is also debatable in the sense that there are also Jews who use the Bible as the reason as to why tattoos are allowed. “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof”. (The Holy Bible – King James Version Ezekiel 9:4). There is a big difference between the lines. When the Lord “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord” (The Holy Bible – King James Version, The Family Heritage Edition, Leviticus 19:28), he is commanding the Jews not to do it. But, in the explanation that is being used by the Jews as a rationale of allowing tattoo’s, they are using another concept, and that is to “set a mark upon the foreheads of the men”. The Holy Bible – King James Version Ezekiel 9:4). There is a big difference. In his first commandment, He was forbidding the people, telling them not to do it (body marking). In the second commandment, it is has been commanded by God, that He wants his people to do a particular  commandment, and that is to set a mark upon the foreheads as a sign of abominations that has been done by the Jews. There is a marked difference if the Lord would make a commandment of not doing a certain thing or doing it for His own purpose. However, this concept is still debatable.

The concept of  prohibiting tattoo is also supported by Torah, the Jewish Bible. According to it “You shall not make gashes in your flesh for the dead, or incise any marks on yourselves”. (Leviticus 19:28). This is the same explanation that the Christian Bible is referring. On the other hand, the Geramah, example, the Babylonian Talmud has debated his concept, finding out if it is the insertion of the name of God that makes tattooing as a wrong act or is it the concept of desecrating the body itself. “Either way, however, according to Jewish Halakhah (law), it is forbidden to voluntarily get a tattoo” (

Although the method of tattooing nowadays are different in terms of the style, the process is still the same. The very reason why it was not allowed because “According to the Rambam (Maimonides), the reason for the prohibition is because it resembles the practices of idol worshippers”(Ullman, 1). According to him, having a tattoo as a decoration is still considered a sin, it does not take away the right or exclude the Jew from being buried in a cemetery. Still every Jew deserves a Jewish burial. Tattooing is also the same as this. Ulman (2004) mentioned “there are many things that Jews do against the Torah either willingly or unintentionally, but that doesn’t prevent them from a Jewish burial”.

The Living Law (Torah) mentioned in Iyov 19:26  that “the human anatomy itself expresses the mystical forces of how G-d engineered His Creation whose climax was th fashioning of man. Indeed, the structure and bodily organs therein correspond to the spiritual building blocks of the universe – to the extent that the human body is said to ‘bear’ the imprint of G-d: “In my flesh shall I see G-d”. That means that the body is itself the chosen vehicle for holiness and spirituality”(Levene 1). Therefore, it is clearly understood in the the Jews Law that tattooing is a taboo, but it just the same, it does not hinder the Jews to be buried in the Jews cemetery if they have a tattoo on their bodies.

With regards the question as to why face or nose lifting are allowed among the Jews. Here is the explanation. Both face and nose lifting are allowed practices among the Jews for the simple reason that it benefits the concerned individual. There is the process where the skin will be cut and fixed again for the purpose that will benefit the concerned. Unlike in the process of tattooing the body, where the individual inflicts pain for no reason at all, which is prohibited by the Law. According to  Rambam “A person is forbidden to inflict a wound, whether upon himself or upon others. And even…hitting someone in a hostile or insulting way…transgresses a Torah prohibition.” From here we learn that the prohibition applies only when intended to damage a person, but not when it’s for his benefit. Similarly, the Talmud relates how one of the Sages lifted up his cloak when walking through thorns. “Skin heals, clothes don’t,” explained the Sage. (Ullman 1). Though there is a scratching of the body, it was not intended for hurt, instead, it was done for the protection of the body. Furthermore, this explains why cosmetic surgery among women, that includes face lift and nose lift are not prohibit among the Jews although there is a marking/cutting of the skin because it benefits the woman, for as long as it will be performed by a trusted health provider. If the act itself will be the way of inflicting pain on other, it would be considered as a transgression of the Law, for it was intended to inflict pain or harm with your fellow beings. There is nothing wrong with the concept of beautification through these cosmetic surgeries of modern times because this is being done with the good intention. Motive is a factor in this issue. It is for a benefit of the concerned.

Works Cited

The Holy Bible (King James Version): The Family Heritage Edition. New York and

Cleaveland: Collins Publishers, 1971.

Torgovnick, Kate. “For Some Jews, It Only Sounds Like ‘Taboo’.” New York Times.

            July 17, 2008: 1. December 10, 2008.


“The Holy Bible – King James Version”.October 3, 2005. 10 December 2008.


“Religions and Tattoos “. Love to Know Tattoos. October 6, 2006. 10 December 2008.


“Hebrew Names of God – Are Hebrew Tattoos Kosher”. Christians.Com.

2008:1. 10 December 2008.

Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman. “Tattoos”. Ohr.Somayach: Ask the Rabbi .14 February 2004: 1

            December 10, 2008.

Osher Chaime Levene. “Tattooing: Under your skin”. The Living Law. (2008):1. December 10, 2008.


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