Tattoos & Body Piercing
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
Until legitimate sources have been added for each halacha, please note that the halacha's without sources on this page may be questionable.
The prohibition of tattoos
- It is forbidden to get tattooed.
- Body piercing per se is not forbidden. Nonetheless, since piercings involve inflicting a wound to oneself, it is only permitted if it is done for beauty.
- It is permitted for woman to have their ear pierced.
- Men should refrain from getting body piercings. Some, however, forbid any piercing that resembles the non-Jewish culture. See Chukkot HaGoyim.
- If you're considering a body piercing, the real question you should ask yourself is why you want it: If it's to be fashionable and "in," know that there are many people walking around today who regret having done things in their youth that cannot be undone. Is it a call for attention? I think there are more constructive ways to express yourself than to make permanent marks on your body.
Jews with Tattoos by Rabbi Dr. Ari Zivotofsky
- Vayikra 19:28, Makot 21a; see Rashi. One is not chayav unless there is both writing and engraving. Pouring ash on a wound is also forbidden because it looks like a tattoo even though there is no writing or engraving(Makot 21a).
- Rav Tuito on yeshiva.org.il writes that it is permitted to have a piercing for beauty such as women have ear piercings. However, piercings which are done just as self-expression or culture such as a a belly ring, which isn't seen anyway, are forbidden.
- In fact, Rivka Imenu not only had her ears pierced, but wore a nose ring as well, which was the custom at that time. (see Genesis 24:22)
- In Jewish law, the main determination is whether a particular body piercing is done for a constructive purpose. Excessive body piercing without a constructive purpose is considered making a wound, which the Torah forbids. (Deut. 4:9, 15; Code of Jewish Law – C.M. 420:31). See Rashi Devarim 14:1 who writes that Hashem wants Bnei Yisrael to look nice without bruises or cuts.
- As for men, if we're talking about a society where men also pierce their ears or other parts of their body for beauty, it is permitted – see "Rashi" Exodus 32:2. LACKING A HALACHIC SOURCE. If, however, it is common for only women to pierce, but not for men, it is forbidden to don a woman's attire or jewelry, and therefore is not allowed. (Code of Jewish Law – Y.D. 182:1)
- Yalkut Yosef YD 182:11
- EVERY HALACHA ON HALACHIPEDIA STRICTLY REQUIRES A SOURCE. PLEASE ADD SOURCE HERE, OTHERWISE THIS HALACHA WILL BE REMOVED.
- By the way, there is a Jewish stigma to male ear piercing, since this was a Biblical sign of a slave who wasn't interested in going free. (see Exodus 21:6)
- VeShav VeRafeh 3:264 writes that wounding oneself for a constructive purpose is permitted and piercings would seem to be included. However, he writes that it is forbidden because it is an imitation of the non-Jewish practices.
- Rav Tuito on yeshiva.org.il writes that it is very unadvisable for a person to get a belly ring even if it would be technically permitted. It is better to find another avenue to express one's individualism.