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Author:  Mikael Kavian
E-mail:  not available
Date:  1/17/2006 6:06:00 PM
Subject:  permanent makeup
Message:  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.



Thank you for some clarifications. However, if it is so simple, why does something like this even get forbidden by many poskim?

I understand that for Kevod Habriyot to maybe tattooing eyebrows on the forehead of a woman who had no eyebrows, scar removal (a pigment that matches the color of human skin is injected beneath the scar, allowing that area to appear like the rest of the person’s skin) would be permitted. However, even for this, why not implant eyebrows, since I don’t believe there are problems involved with that.

Just one more question, would you permit your child to get a tattoo?!?!?! Should this be learnt from the goyim since it does not seem to be in line with any of our traditions? I am not trying to be a smart a**, but by saying it is mutar it might cause many Jews to start adopting these ways of the Goyim!

Hazagh Barukh!

Reply:  I can't answer for other people, but it is possible that in the environment and culture that they live in they are not very familiar with the tattoo industry and are not aware of why and when people wear tattoos. If my son wanted to get a tattoo, I would not let him. BUt I wouldn't say it is because of a Law in the Torah about not getting a tattoo, because that law does not apply. On the other hand, if my daughter wanted to get permanent makeup, and my wife approved of the idea, I would allow it. As a matter of fact, I would enjoy the benefits. Suddenly we will be going to weddings on time.   

"adopting ways of Goyim (non-Jews)" is only a problem if it is related to idol worship or if it is Pritzut (sorry, I can't properly translate that this early in the AM). Tattoos are neither, but rather a real silly way to make a mistake that you can't undo too easily. Very often a tattoo is commemorating that "love of your life" whom you met three weeks ago, who is gone in three weeks. The tattoo remains as a testimony to persons stupidity. Even the 70's guys doing drugs and getting Tattoos. Then they join society, put on a suit, and work for Goldman Sachs. The drugs are gone, but the tattoo remains.

If the person likes the tattoo, that is fine with me. Usually they regret it at some point and that is a strong reason not to get a tattoo. Ways of the Goyim and Ketovet KaaKaa does not apply here.


I need to make a correction here. I apologize for my mistake, but many were correct when they complained that the issue of pain for a loss of a loved one refers to Srita.

Tattoos are because they were done for idol worship. Anything that is clearly not done for idol worship would be OK. Such as permanent makeup.

The only thing that would be a possible Issur DeRabanan, would be to Tattoo actual letters, since if done for Idol Worship this would be De'Oraita.

In summation, don't get a tattoo. There are many reasons not to get one, including the fact that it is a non-Jewish type craze.

The only type that is officially prohibited is if it contains letters.

Permanent Makeup is no problem at all.

Sorry for the confusion. I stand by my statement to concentrate our studies at the source rather than attempt to develop and track a consensus between the various recent opinions.

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