4/22/2007

Tattoos Part II – Muttar Today

Soon after this post went up, I received this comment, which referred to this ruling by Rav Abadi, in which he says that the prohibition against tattoos is only prohibited if done as a reaction to the loss of a loved one. I quote:

“You would have noticed that in the Shulchan Aruch (and it is much clearer in the Beit Yosef,) it says that the only time we are prohibited to put on a Tattoo is when it is done out of the pain of losing a loved one. Thus it is completely irrelevant in our current era. Tattoos are not done in that way today and permanent makeup is certainly unrelated.”

I found this to be too shocking to believe, so I went a looked it up. Indeed, it is too shocking to believe. If fact, it is flat-out wrong (though he is correct about permanent make-up, contra the questioner).

The Tur, Beit Yosef, and Shulchan Arukh do not say anything about tattooing as a mourning ritual. The Tur rules that one gets lashes no matter what one tattoos, against R’ Shimon who rules in the Gemara (Makkot 21a) that one is only liable if he tattoos the name of a pagan deity.

The Tur then goes on to discuss a separate prohibition – serita, or some kind of ritual scratching as a sign of mourning, and also as a form of worship. Here, one is only liable for lashes if it is done in one of those two modes – as a sign of mourning or as a form of worship.

It seems that the good Rabbi conflated these two issurim. There is nothing in the Tur, HoJo, or SA which would limit the prohibition in this manner. I’d love to say that I’m shocked, but I’m not.

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