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Rabbi David Samson20 Elul 5762
1920
Question
I read your explanation of tattoos with great interest. My question, however, regards body piercing. Women obviously pierce their ears. But is a Jewish man allowed to put a ring through his nose? I have been assured that if I should ever get my nose pierced, and want to remove it, the puncture will close up within a short time.
Answer
There are two problems at issue here. One concerns the prohibition of damaging one’s body. The other regards a man’s dressing up like a woman. An interesting story is related in the book, HaTorah HaMisamachat (page 298), about the 13 year-old daughter of Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein. When she wanted to have her ears pierced, her father discouraged her, pointing out the serious prohibition of inflicting a wound on one’s body. The girl didn’t give in so easily and got him to agree to go together to the famed Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach to ask his opinion. The Rabbi received them in his house and told them that from time immemorial, it has been the accepted Jewish tradition that boys are circumcised and girls have their ears pierced. Women, to enhance their beauty, are also allowed to have cosmetic surgery, even though this involves surgically inflicting a wound since it is being done for a positive purpose (Igrot Moshe, Choshen Mishpat, Vol. 2, Responsa 66.). However, there are rabbis who disagree with this ruling, so a halachic authority should be approached in each case. However, a man’s need to be beautiful is not as pressing as a woman’s. Therefore, cosmetic surgery for reasons of vanity becomes more problematic. Nevertheless, even though the rabbis do not recommend it, a man who insists on piercing a part of his body can find halachic justification for his decision, especially if the wound is not permanent. If body piercing were a custom practiced by woman exclusively, then it would be forbidden since men are prohibited from dressing up like women. “A man is not allowed to wear women’s jewelry in a place where only women dress in this way” (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah, 182:5.). Thus in a place where both men and women wear earrings, then a man can have his ears pierced. So too, regarding nose piercing; it would depend on the current fashion. In Kenya, yes; in Bnei Brak, no.
Rabbi David Samson is one of the leading English-speaking Torah scholars in the Religious-Zionist movement in Israel. He has co-authored four books on the writings of Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Hacohen Kook and Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Rabbi Samson learned for twelve years under the tutelage of Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook. He served as Rabbi of the Kehillat Dati Leumi Synagogue in Har Nof, Jerusalem, and teaches Jewish Studies at Mercaz HaRav Yeshiva Institutions.
Tzvi Fishman was a successful Hollywood screenwriter before making Aliyah to Israel in 1984. He has co-authored several Torah works with Rabbi David Samson and written several books on Jewish/Israel topics.
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