Cosmetic Surgery: A Jewish View

If it does not serve a legitimate medical purpose, cosmetic surgery is frowned upon by the Jewish legal tradition.

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Piercing and Tattooing

By "surgery," we do not refer to such comparatively non-invasive procedures as the piercing of the ear. In such a case, since the community has long accepted these for cosmetic purposes, we would have no objections, provided that the procedure poses no significant health risk.

On the other hand, tattooing and more extreme forms of body piercing, when not undertaken as part of a regimen of medicine or reconstructive surgery, are most difficult to reconcile with Jewish tradition, which commands us to strive for holiness and to treat our bodies with reverence and respect. They are to be regarded as havalah, as pointless manipulation of the human form, rather than adornment.

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Rabbi Mark Washofsky

Rabbi Mark Washofsky, Ph.D., is associate professor of rabbinics at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio, and serves as chair of the Responsa Committee of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.