|Ask Rabbi Lerner|
My father had a tattoo from the concentration camps. I saw in a book (Halachic
Questions of the Holocaust) that Holocaust survivors asked the Kovono Rabbi
if they should have their tattoos removed. The rabbi answered certainly not,
and that they should be worn as a badge of pride.
My question is: Would I be allowed, under these circumstances, to tattoo my left arm with the number of my father, who recently passed away. I know tattoos are contrary to the Torah, but this kind of tattoo could be a reminder to the world to not forget the Holocaust.
I've never considered such a question and I thank you for bringing it to my
attention. It is tragic that we even have to think about such a topic.
I would urge you not to have the number tattooed on your body, and I believe that most of those who endured the camps and the tattoos would also wish that their descendents not be tattooed, and davka with a number from the camps.
There are other ways perhaps to insure that the members of your family never forget his number, just as they will never forget him. Consider sculpture, paintings, commissioning a print for each member of the family, a special mezuzah built from those numbers, etc.
Even though your intention is good, this tattooing would still be contrary to Torah tradition.
Thanks again for writing and may the new year bring you and your loved ones only peace and blessing in a world at peace.
Rabbi Barry Dov Lerner
Foundation for Family Education (FFFE)