Tattoos & Body Piercing
This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.
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.
- Some 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
- 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.