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A Jew is prohibited from tattooing himself. If a person with tattoos were to convert to Judaism, would they be required to have the tattoos removed?

Would a Jew who got a tattoo and later repented be required to have it removed?

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I know a Baal Teshuva who still has a tattoo. He is a Talmid Hacham so it seems that there could be a Heter to keep it. –  Hacham Gabriel Mar 29 '13 at 16:22
Perhaps it is impossible to remove, and therefore it remains. However if it was possible perhaps he would be required to remove it. –  Gershon Gold Mar 29 '13 at 16:25
I just read a poem by Yehoshua November related to this in Jewish Action. –  Isaac Moses Mar 29 '13 at 16:59
@HachamGabriel, my understanding (though I have no related experience) is that it is a very expensive and painful process that can take years to complete, and depending on where it is located, it might even be dangerous. –  Seth J Mar 29 '13 at 17:11
My father had tattoos before converting to Judaism, and was not required to have them removed when he converted. When asked about his tattoos, he would tell people he was a non-Jew when they were done( and a fool besides). –  Tamir Evan Mar 30 '13 at 17:09

1 Answer 1

According to this article, Rav Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron (Techumin 22:387) viewed the removal of a tattoo as a meritorious act to avoid remembering a previous sinful life. However, Dayan Weisz (Teshuvot Minchat Yitzchak 3:11) does not (seem to) agree that this is necessary. (This is aside from the opinion of Rav Ephraim Oshry (Teshuvot Mee’ma’makim 4:22) that Holocaust survivors should not remove their tattoos (which may have a unique status).

All citations are found in the linked article. I have not looked up any sources inside.

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Meritorious and required are very different things in halakha. So I am not sure there is a disagreement between Rav Bakshi-Doron and Rav Weisz. –  Rabbi Michael Tzadok Mar 30 '13 at 18:01

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