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Does the Torah prohibit body-piercing?

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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The question is very complicated, for there are several prohibitions which piercing borders on. [There is no connection between piercing and tattooing. The prohibition of tattooing is - primarily - inscribing oneself indelibly].


The general answer is as follows:


It is permitted for women to pierce themselves for (commonly accepted) beautification purposes. However, it is forbidden for a woman to pierce in concurrence with a fad or trend because we are commanded not to "follow the traditions [of the gentiles]". 1

It is forbidden for men to pierce themselves since piercing is considered primarily a "woman's adornment."

[Sources: Deuteronomy 22:5 and Leviticus 18:3. See Maimonides, Laws of Idolatry 11:1 and 12:10.]

 

Footnotes

  • 1. To distinguish between what is “commonly accepted” and what is merely a fad or passing trend, consult with a local orthodox Rabbi
TAGS: piercing

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COMMENTS

Piercings

Posted by: Kelsey Herr, Hixson, TN on Jan 24, 2005

Hey, ok part of my family is Jewish and they say that if I get my tongue pierced they'll disown me!!! But I REALLY want it done!! So what should I do???

Editor's Comment

You should contemplate the reasons why you want to have yourself pierced. Afterward, sit down with an adult whom you trust and get advice from someone who is experienced -- someone who's been there, done that, and moved on.


Piercing and Fads

Posted by: Piercing Question on Feb 20, 2005

You write above that it is forbidden for a woman to pierce in concurrence with a fad or trend, because we are commanded not to "follow the traditions [of the gentiles]". When is a fad considered "over and done with"? For example, certain kinds of piercings were likely fads years ago. Now they are somewhat passe or not the craze anymore. Would such a piercing be allowed now (whereas it would not have been allowed in prior years)?

Thank you.

Editor's Comment

It becomes permissible after the trend becomes mainstream practice.

Ear piercing

Posted by: Sherry on Mar 22, 2005

I read over your article and subsequent questions regarding body piercing. The main prohibition seems to be against following the fad or the "in" thing. I was wondering about the Jewish stance on ear piercing. For some reason a friend of mine said she had heard that according to Jewish law, one is not allowed to pierce any part of their ear with cartilage - so one can basically only peirce the lobe. Cartilage piercing has been around for ages so I don't think it would be considered a fad (and I know some might not consider it a form of beautification - :) - though many do), but I have been unable to find any concrete source for this. Is this true or is this a misunderstanding of something else? Please explain.

Editor's Comment

To my knowledge, there is no specific problem with piercing cartilage.
Maimonides
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
Leviticus
The third of the Five Books of Moses. This book deals with the service (of the Levite Tribe) in the Tabernacle, and contains many of the 613 commandments.
Deuteronomy
The fifth of the Five Books of Moses. This book is a record of the monologue which Moses spoke to the Israelites in the five weeks prior to his passing.