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Author:  mikael kavian
E-mail:  not available
Date:  1/16/2006 10:27:00 AM
Subject:  permanent makeup

May I please give you some of my notes which I put together when I was studying this subject not too long ago. I thought I will quickly type up some of my notes for you:

Applying permanent makeup is prohibited because of the prohibition of Kitovet Kaaka (tattooing, see Vayikra 19:28). Rashi writes that Kitovet Kaaka lasts “Liolam”, according to the Rambam, Rashi does not mean “forever” literally. Rav Gestetner cites Rashi in another context (Shabbat 111b Vieilu Kesharim) where he uses the term Liolam and it is fairly obvious (in light of Rashi, Shabbat 112a s.v. Bidichumrata) that Rashi means for a long period of time, and not necessarily forever. Rav Gestetner rules that three years is considered “a long time” and thus even semi-permanent cosmetic tattooing that lasts for three years might be biblically prohibited.

Rambam (Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 12:11) and the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 180:1-4) do not limit the prohibition to permanent tattooing, thus implying that one violates the Kitovet Kaaka prohibition even if the tattoo is not meant to last permanently, in accordance with the view of the Nimukei Yosef.

It is important to note that the Yad Ketanah (commentary to the Rambam cited in the Frankel edition of the Rambam) notes that based on the Tosefta and Rambam, one violates the Kitovet Kaaka prohibition even if the individual who inscribes the tattoo is not Jewish. Thus, the problem of cosmetic tattooing is not mitigated by using a non-Jewish derma technician, since one is forbidden to have a tattoo inscribed in his body, regardless of who is performing the inscription.

Moreover, Rav Shneelbag notes that all Rishonim agree that one violates at least a rabbinic prohibition even if the tattoo is not a permanent one. The proof to this is the fact that the Gemara (Makkot 21a) debates whether one is permitted to put stove ashes on an open wound, which creates a mark that resembles a tattoo. This mark does not last very long and is undoubtedly classified as temporary. The fact that the Gemara even raises the possibility of regarding such a mark as Kitovet Kaaka proves that one violates at least a rabbinic prohibition even if the mark does not last forever. The Rivan (Uchtovet) might also indicate this, as he writes that “it is forbidden to write any writing” on the flesh.

I understand that the Smak (72), Rabbeinu Peretz (cited in the Smak), Orchot Chaim (22:4) and the Chinuch (253) seem to believe that one violates this prohibition only if he tattoos letters into his skin. This approach might be based on the reason offered by the Rishonim (Rambam and Tur, Y.D. 180) for the prohibition of Kitovet Kaaka, that the practice of idolaters was to tattoo the name of their god into their skin.

However, there are Rishonim who explicitly state that writing is not necessary. These include the Raavad (Torat Kohanim, Kedoshim 76) and the Rash Mishantz. Rav Gestetner even argues that the Rambam (see above) and Shulchan Aruch (see above) appear to indicate that one violates Kitovet Kaaka even if one does not inscribe letters, as these authorities make no mention of this requirement.

THUS: the Rishonim would agree that one at least violates a rabbinic prohibition even if one does not write letters. Imprinting color onto one’s skin is included in the prohibition according to the strict opinion either biblically or rabbinically.

Tosafot (Gittin 20b s.v. Bichtovet) teach that Chazal forbade acts that resemble Kitovet Kaaka, such as making permanent markings on the skin without cutting the skin. This clearly indicates that a biblical level prohibition is violated even if one’s intention is not for Avodah Zarah.

Rama (Y.D. 180:4) forbids branding one’s slave to avoid his escape. It seems from the Rama, however, that this is only prohibited on a rabbinic level. The Rama adds to the Shulchan Aruch’s statement that one who brands his slave to avoid his escape is “exempt,” saying that nonetheless Lechatchilah (initially) one should not engage in this activity.

More contemporary sources:

•     Rav Ezra Basri, a prominent Sephardic Dayan who presides over a State of Israel Beit Din in Jerusalem and the author of Teshuvot Shaarei Ezra and Dinei Mammonot, in Techumin 10:282-287.

•     Rav Baruch Shraga (the Rav of French Hill in Jerusalem) in Techumin 18:110-114.

•     Rav Shraga Shneebalg of London (Teshuvot Shraga HaMeir 8:44 and 45) and Rav Natan Gestetner of Bnei Brak (Teshuvot Lihorot Natan 10:64). These two Rabbanim are Poskim of note and Rabbanim throughout the world cite their works.

•     Rav Shmuel Wosner (Teshuvot Shevet HaLevi 10:137) wrote a brief responsum on this issue as well.

Thank you for all you do,
Mikael Kavian

Reply:  Mikael, Mikael,
I am very impressed by the research you have done. It hurts me to see you work so hard and yet completely miss the target.

Before doing all this, start with the basics, the Gemara, Rashi, Tosafot, Ra"sh, Ra"n, Tur Beit Yosef & Shulchan Aruch, and maybe Ramba"m (although it will usually be brought down by the others).

You would have noticed that in the Shulchan Aruch (and it is much clearer in the Beit Yosef,) it says that the only time we are prohibited to put on a Tattoo is when it is done out of the pain of losing a loved one. Thus it is completely irrelevant in our current era. Tattoos are not done in that way today and permanent makeup is certainly unrelated.

I hope I have not discouraged you from further studying. I am only begging you to stick to the type of research described above, prior to looking at later Seforim.


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