Examining Judaism`s Views on Cosmetic Surgery

Beauty is Pain:
Examining Judaism’s Views on
Cosmetic Surgery
Torah Prohibits
Intentional Injury!
•Bereshit 9:6
“One who spills the blood of man will have his blood
spilt by man because man is created in the image of
•Vayikra 24:17
“A man who hits the soul of another man will be put to
•Devarim 25:3
“Forty shall he strike, him, he shall not add; lest he
strike him an additional blow beyond these, and our
brother will be degraded in your eyes. ”
oBereshit 24:22
“And it was, when the camels had finished
drinking, the man took a golden nose ring, its
weight was a beka, and two bracelets on her
arms, ten gold shekels was their weight.”
oShemot 35:22
“The men came with the women; everyone
whose heart motivated him brought bracelets,
nose rings, rings, body ornaments—all sorts of
gold ornaments—every man who raised up an
offering of gold to G-d.”
Prohibition to Self Wound
 Rambam: Hilchot Chovel Vi’Mezik Perek 5 Halacha 1
It if forbidden to injury oneself or another because it goes against a lo
ta’aseh in Devarim 25:3.
 Shulchan Oruch: Choshen Mishpat Siman 420 Si’if 31
“Self-wounding”: even though it is not allowed, one who self-wounds
is exempt (from paying damages); someone who wounds another
person is obligated (to pay damages).
 Baba Kama 91b
The Gemara discusses whether one can harm oneself. The conclusion is
the same as the Shulchan Oruch (above). However, self-injury is only
forbidden if the injury is unnecessary.
• Sheelot U’Tishuvot Tzitz Eliezer: Chelek 11 Siman 41
Rav Waldenburg forbids all cosmetic surgery. He says that elective surgery is
forbidden because we are created bitzelem Elokim. Therefore, cosmetic surgery is
an insult to Hashem because one is changing His work/decree. Rav Waldenburg
cites Taanit 20b, which shares a story of Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Eliezer met a very
ugly person and asked him if all the people from his town are as ugly as he is. The
person responded that Rabbi Eliezer is insulting Hashem by implying that He
made an ugly vessel. Rabbi Eliezer requested forgiveness.
• Sheelot U’Tishuvot Tzitz Eliezer: Chelek 12 Siman 43
Rav Waldenburg states that despite the minimal risk in cosmetic surgery, this
form of risk is still forbidden.
• Shabbas 50b
Can remove a scab in order to alleviate pain, but not to improve appearance
•Tosafot: Shabbas 50b—“Bishvil”
Pain includes embarrassment. He mentions that if one is embarrassed to walk among
people then cosmetic surgery is allowed.
•Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurbach—Minchas Shlomo Tinyana 86:3
“If the plastic surgery is done to prevent suffering and shame caused by a defect in his
looks (for instance a nose which is very abnormal) this would be permitted based on
the Tosafot and the Gemara, since the purpose is to remove a blemish. However if the
only reason is for beauty, this is not permitted.”
•Rav Moshe Feinstein—She’elot U’Tishuvot Igrot Moshe Cheleck Chovel Vi’Mezik
Siman 65-66
There is a prohibition of chavelah, self-injury, when one is wounding oneself in a
degrading manner. However, if one is not doing so in a degrading way, it does not
violate chavelah. He quotes Baba Kama 91b, which describes that Rav Chisda would lift
up his garment when walking through thorn bushes so that his legs would be
scratched, but his clothes would not be hurt. He reasoned that his legs will repair
themselves, but his clothes would not. This source proves that cosmetic surgery is
•Rabbi Chaim Steinmetz: “How Jewish is Body Piercing?”
Self-inflicted injury is taken very seriously in Halacha. Our bodies belong to G-d, and
therefore, any masochistic behavior is prohibited. If body piercings is solely for the
sake of beauty, it may be allowed. However, it is done to associate with a subculture of
masochism and self-destructions, this would be asur, as it goes against the
commandments to not self-wound.
Rabbi Mordechai Yaakov Breish—Cheklas Yaakov:
Choshen Mishpat 31
Rabbi Breish comments on cosmetic surgery in the context of a
woman getting a nose job to improve her chance of finding a
husband. The issue of surgery is the risk and chavala. He says that
the general population undergoes surgery for non-lifethreatening conditions that have very low complication rates. He
quotes Tihillim 116: 6: “Hashem protects the simple; I was
brought low, but He saved me.” Rabbi Breish relates this source
because Hashem watches over the simple in regard to low risk
surgery. Therefore, one may pursue plastic surgery if the general
population finds it to be acceptably safe.
Rav Yovel Sharlo: She’elot U’Tishuvot—Piercings
On earrings and nose rings: “the idea is simple” there
is no straightforward isur on earrings or nose rings. If
one is doing it to follow in bad ways and to associate
with something, then it is not allowed. However, if
one gets piercings because one considers it to be
beautiful, it is allowed. ”
-condemnation of the Torah toward self-injury
-not an ideal procedure
-no one should feel and experience pain /embarrassment
The conclusion seems to point to the necessity of people who are
considering cosmetic surgery to think hard about the reasons for w
he or she wants the procedure. If these rationalizations seem stron
enough to outweigh straightforward Torah sources and are suppor
by poskim, like some mentioned in this presentation, then there see
to be room for cosmetic surgery. As G-d is the ultimate plastic surge
we are all created beautifully and there is no reason to inflict
unnecessary pain.

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