Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sarah| 5763
Ask the Rabbi
Question: There is now an excellent cosmetic system of an eyeliner which lasts for at least three years. It is done by injecting a dye into the skin of the eyebrow. Is this included in the prohibition of tattooing?
Answer: It is forbidden to make a mark on one’s body by means of piercing the skin with a needle and inserting any type of coloring. It is true that there are opinions that only that which is considered “writing,” which the pasuk (Vayikra 19:28) mentions explicitly, is forbidden from the Torah. However, the Ra’avad and Rash Mishantz (on Torat Kohanim, Kedoshim 6) apply the Torah prohibition to any sort of marking, and there are implications of this same approach in several other poskim (see Minchat Chinuch 253; Pitchei Teshuva, YD 180:1; B’Mareh Habazak, II p. 81). Additionally, even those who deny a Torah prohibition in this case seem to agree that there is a rabbinic prohibition.
Harav Ezra Basri (Techumin pp. 282-287) advances an approach that there may not be an absolute rabbinic prohibition on non-writing markings but only a lower level, subjective problem of marit ayin (people may confuse his action with the prohibition), which may not apply in this case (see article). Based on additional leniencies attributed to minority opinions, he allowed a woman who had no eyebrows to undergo the treatment, citing that avoiding the embarrassment of her situation warranted relying on minority opinions. Despite the fact that his analysis leans more toward leniency than that of our mentor, Harav Shaul Yisraeli, Rav Basri, too, does not seem seems to allow the practice for the average woman.
Some Rishonim (Rivan and Ritva on Makkot 21a and Sefer Hachinuch 253) describe the prohibited act of tattooing (k’tovat ka’aka) as something which stays on the body kul hayamim (literally, all the days).Thus, one might claim that an eyeliner which lasts for “only” a few years would be halachically different. However, the Nimukei Yosef (Makkot 21a) describes k’tovet ka’aka as lasting “a long time.” Since no one takes issue on the Nimukei Yosef and one could consider something which lasts three years as permanent and included in kul hayamim, one should not be lenient with any such sub-dermal marking unless it can be classified as lasting “a short time.”
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