May Jews Have Piercings and Tattoos?

May Jews Have Piercings and Tattoos? April 12, 2024

May Jews Have Piercings and Tattoos? made by Rebecca Keene with Image Creator
May Jews Have Piercings and Tattoos?

After the article on Female Genital Mutilation, a reader wrote in to ask about the laws concerning piercings and tattoos. I will attempt to answer her questions here. So, may Jews have piercings and tattoos? While it may be tempting to say that the answer is a straight yes or no, nothing is ever so simple in Judaism. Different sects and different individual Jews have their own beliefs, but there are some general consensuses among Rabbis. Also, The Torah offers some insight into these matters.

Torah Law on Piercings and Tattoos

May Jews have Tattoos

So, may Jews have piercings and tattoos according to The Torah? Leviticus 19:28 states “You shall not make any cuts on your body for the dead or tattoo yourselves.”  While this law mentions a specific situation, “for the dead,” in reference to cutting one’s body, no such reference is made to tattoos. The law simply says you shall not tattoo yourself. That seems to be pretty clear. However, it is likely related to the same reason for not cutting oneself. That is to say, it is likely forbidden because it was a pagan practice. Pagans often marked their bodies in honor of the dead. Israel is to be a people set apart. Therefore they cannot practice pagan rituals.

The law about tattoos may be more set in stone than the law about cutting due to the permanency of a tattoo. If you make a gash in your skin, you can repent and allow it to heal. However, a tattoo is somewhat permanent even in today’s world. Removal is expensive and painful. In the ancient world, removing a tattoo would have been impossible.  Therefore, becoming ritually clean again would be impossible. So, Torah outright forbids tattoos.


Torah Law on piercings is not so simple.  The above law states not to make any cuts to your body “for the dead.”  While this prohibition would mean no piercings in honor of a dead loved one, it leaves open the possibility of piercings for other reasons, including aesthetics.

Piercings are mentioned throughout The Torah. Ezekiel 16:12 states “And I put a ring on your nose and earrings IN your ears and a beautiful crown on your head.” Exodus 21:4 also speaks of piercing the ear of a slave.

So, it would seem that by Torah Law Piercings are allowed so long as they are not in honor of the dead. However, there are modesty laws to consider. A Jew is not to draw attention to their outer beauty. This is where Rabbinical Law enters the conversation.

Rabbinical Law On Piercings and Tattoos


While some more liberal sects of Judaism may accept a member with a tattoo, the consensus among Rabbis is that tattoos are a direct Torah violation. Therefore, tattoos in Judaism are frowned upon, even forbidden. Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform denominations all agree that tattoos are forbidden.

Of course, as with all aspects of Jewish law, there are lone Jews who practice differently. Rabbi Marshak Klaven has tattoos and wrote a thesis in which she argued that tattoos that affirm one’s Jewishness are not forbidden. This argument is based on Isaiah 44:5 which reads, “This one will say I am the Lord’s, another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, “The Lord’s…” Most Rabbis agree, however, that this verse is not about tattoos. Writing something on one’s hand is not permanent, like a tattoo.

Therefore, tattoos are taboo at best. They are frowned upon by the Jewish community and are a direct violation of Torah Law. To have a tattoo separates one from the Jewish community in a very public manner.


Because piercings do not seem to be a direct Torah violation unless they are in honor of the dead, Rabbis tend to be more lenient about them. All sects of Judaism allow for women to have a simple piercing in each ear.

The debate among Jews involves modesty. To ensure modesty, The Orthodox only allow one hole in each ear for women and no piercings for men. Conservative and Reform sects may allow for multiple piercings on many body parts for both men and women. This is likely because The Torah does specifically mention nose rings multiple times in an accepting fashion.

So, may Jews have tattoos and piercings? As with many things in Judaism, the jury is still out on piercings. The answer depends upon the reason for the piercing and if it is done tastefully. However, there seems to be an agreement that tattoos of any form are forbidden. Jews should not permanently scar their flesh.


About Rebecca Keene
The author, Rebecca Keene, has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Religion. She graduated from the University of Pikeville as Religion Honor Student in 2014. Currently, she is studying for a MA in Women, Gender, Spirituality, and Social Justice at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Also, Rebecca is the author of FAITH UNDER THE RAINBOW: RECLAIMING THE TRUTH ABOUT HOMOSEXUALITY AND THE BIBLE.  In addition, she founded and independently runs the social media community, Reclaiming the Truth.  Therefore, you should visit Rebecca's author page and purchase her books at: Amazon Author Page or: Publication Page Rebecca is currently in her 3rd year of Kabbalah study. She is ordained to perform LGBT weddings and is certified in Hypnotherapy. Rebecca lives in Kentucky with her two adult children. She practices Non-Denominational Judaism. She is passionate about social justice and fiercely advocates for the marginalized in society and religion.  When not with her children or writing, Rebecca enjoys spending time in nature, with G-d, or in a good book.  She also enjoys making and selling art which you can find at Art by Rebecca. Author, Rebecca Keene,  is always happy to hear from readers. You may contact her through the Reclaiming the Truth page on Facebook, or you can email Rebecca will try to answer all correspondence, but please be patient, as life is busy for us all. You can read more about the author here.

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