You shall not etch a tattoo on yourselves. I am the L-rd. Leviticus 19:28
Q: I have a tattoo, can I be buried in a Jewish cemetery?
A: In years past, some burial societies had their own covenants (not required by Jewish law) that they wouldn’t bury tattooed individuals in a Jewish cemetery. This is one of the bigger myths out there.
Q: Aren’t you sanctioning bad behavior by not “punishing” them for violating Jewish law?
A: First of all, I work in the inspiration department, not enforcement. There is a number to call for the enforcement department. 1-800-Gei-Feifen. I was “hired” (or inspired) by G-d to inspire. Second, Jewish tradition does not make us the judge of others. Most people, myself included, do things that they shouldn’t. None of us are perfect.
When we have trouble looking at people with a favorable eye, we need to change the way we look at them. The perspective we need to have of others is a soul perspective. They are a piece of G-d. They are inherently good. There is nothing anyone can do that can take away their absolute inherent goodness. Why? Simply by the fact that G-d decided to make them and put them here on this earth, with a soul in a body. Anything they do beyond that is icing on the cake.
When one makes a mistake, we need to help them come back toward their soul identity. We do that by inspiring them, not by judging them.
Finally, a major litmus test of our behavior towards others (besides the obvious – is it in conformance with tJewish law?); Is it effective? If it is going to alienate or ostracize or hurt the other it is not OK. If it will draw close, inspire and uplift, it is probably going in the right direction.
When I break my diet and beat myself up, decide I am bad and “punish myself”, am I more likely to get back on my diet or numb my lousy feelings about myself with another piece of cheesecake?
If I “punish” the person with the tattoo and ostracize them, in life or in death, will they have a stronger relationship with G-d or not? Will they be more involved in Judaism or less? Am I really sanctioning bad behavior by accepting that it was done and looking past the surface and loving the person themselves?
Have a good Shabbos! Let our soul perspective of other people be looking at their soul.
May that perspective be as permanent as a tattoo.
Rabbi Mendel Schusterman
Thanks to my brother, Rabbi Kushi Schusterman, Chabad Harford County, Maryland., for sharing the above thought and to my brother, Rabbi Nechemia Schusterman, of Chabad Peabody, Mass. for fine tuning it and myself for putting the finishing touches 😉