Body Piercing

Everybody in my high school is getting their body parts pierced. I think some of the piercing is attractive – like multiple earrings or the navel. But some of them are gross – studs in the tongue or pierced eyebrows. I was shocked in gym class to see how many girls have piercings in other parts of the body. I'm getting peer pressure to join the crowd. I'm also worried about my little brother because the guys in school sometimes take piercing to a real extreme. What does Judaism have to say about all this?

The Aish Rabbi Replies:

Body piercing per se is not forbidden. Our matriarch Rebecca 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). Certainly piercing done for the sake of mutilating the body is clearly forbidden.

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. 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)

Also, if it is done for erotic reasons, it is forbidden as a violation of the command to "be holy." (Igrot Moshe – E.H. 4:66)

But the real question 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.

In terms of your own personal growth and development, the piercing is probably not a very good idea, since it may mean identifying with a certain stratum of society who may not best represent your own goals and values.

Unfortunately in today's society, kids have simply no limits and you must therefore try to set a boundary for yourself. Since you are going to have to draw the line somewhere, it may as well be here.

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)

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