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The Torah prohibits, generally, the infliction of a wound on yourself or someone else. See Lev. 19:28. The obvious exception is the commandment to perform a bris millah (circumcision) on a male convert or eight-day-old Jewish male. But from where do we find a justification to pierce a girl's ear or nose? I know that, in Rivka, we have precedent for piercings, but how is that justified against the commandment?

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(1) Are you sure you've got the correct verse? Leviticus 19:28 brings the prohibitions of making a cut( or gouge) in one's flesh for the dead, and of tattooing one's self. (2) How does body piercing constitute "infliction of a wound" anyway? – Tamir Evan Jun 17 '13 at 17:56
In commentaries on self-wounding, that is given as one source in combination with another, Deut. 25:3 regarding the giving of too many lashes. See the Sifri there. – Bruce James Jun 17 '13 at 18:11
"[C]ommentaries on self-wounding" where? which? – Tamir Evan Jun 19 '13 at 15:45
how do we know about Rivka? – juanora Jun 27 '13 at 19:14
@juanora He's probably referring to Gen. 24:47. – Tamir Evan Jan 2 '14 at 18:17

2 Answers 2

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Read Igros Moshe Choshen Mishpat 2:65 and 66 who discusses elective surgery and difference between destructive wounds and none harmful wounds.The tshuvah is very lengthy and goes through the gemara,Tosfos and Rambam.At the end of the tshuvah he brings a gemara in Bechoros 45a which brings a case of a person person who has an extra finger and then removes it ,it is called a mum(deformity) and since the Mishna doesn't say "even though it is incorrect" it is a bit of a proof that in a case of beautification it is allowed.Same would apply to a women that if it is for beautification it would be permissible.See the tshuva inside for the whole back and forth of the sugya.

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Thanks Sam. But since this is your answer, and because there will be readers who do not read Hebrew, please summarize Rav Moshe's ruling and analysis. Out of curiosity, though, it would be interesting if you could address the issue of "how many piercings is too many?" – Bruce James Jun 10 '13 at 19:29
Sry for late response did not have time to expound.the tshuva I brought is about dieting the next tshuva is the one I meant. – sam Jun 12 '13 at 1:33
Didn't Rav Moshe also bring down a gemara about a man who, given the option of having his clothes ripped or his legs cut by walking through thorny bushes, it was permissible to expose his legs to danger in order to save the cloth? As I recall, that was the more relevant Gemara to his argumet, i.e. that one can cause harm to himself if he believes the harm to be in his interest. – Bruce James Jun 12 '13 at 17:55

HaRav Aviner responded to the question of girls getting their ears pierced as follows

It is negligible (Ha-Rav Aharon Lichtenstein – Rosh Yeshiva of Har Etzion, related that his daughter wanted to have her ears pierced, but he had doubts as to whether it is permissible. They agreed to go together to ask Ha-Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, and follow his ruling. Ha-Rav Auerbach did not understand what Ha-Rav Lichtenstein wanted from him, and he said: "What is even your question? By us, boys have a Brit Milah and girls have their ears pierced!" Ve-Alehu Lo Yibol vol. 2, p. 172)

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