I have heard many times that there is a problem with drawing on your skin with ink. Can anyone provide sources on the topic? I would like to know things like what issur this falls under and if there are certain types of ink that are more problematic than others etc.

I saw a related post here: Is getting a "fake" tattoo a violation of halacha? It does not address my question directly though.


  • I think the Chinuch says not to.
    – sam
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 16:52
  • See Bais Shmuel 124:16 on temp marks and Minchas Chinuch 253:1.
    – sam
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 17:01
  • Can you clarify exactly what isn't covered by the linked question?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 23:51
  • @DoubleAA There was mention of ink only in passing with reference to the Minchas Chinuch and it was described as "permanent ink" which seems to me to be undefined. I am also looking for sources which were not given there but have been given here.
    – Gavriel
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 17:51
  • @Gabi I asked what was missing in the question, not the answers. Is there anything in your question not covered in the other question?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 5, 2012 at 5:39

3 Answers 3


It is permitted to draw on one's skin / get a fake tattoo.

The Torah says not to get a tattoo. A tattoo is defined by ink inside an incision in the skin. Ink alone is not a tattoo.

  • 1
    This doesn't prove there's not a separate prohibition
    – b a
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 23:25
  • 1
    @ba What prohibition would there be besides tattooing?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 23:35
  • @DoubleAA Maris ayin. I also heard a rumor (unsourced) that it's not good to write on someone because your body really belongs to G-d, and so you'd be damaging G-d's property.
    – b a
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 23:38
  • 1
    I don't really see how writing is damaging. Are you worth less in the slave market? Is it permanent? Is your body less effective (however you define that)?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 23:41
  • 2
    @ba I think the Shulchan Aruch would've said that there's a potential d'rabbanan if there was one. As for damaging God's property, that should apply to piercings too. Do you think it is wrong for people to pierce their ears?
    – Dov F
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 23:44

The Mishna (Shabbat 12:4) discusses the prohibition of writing on Shabbat. In that context, it says the following:

הכותב על בשרו - חיב. המסרט על בשרו - רבי אליעזר מחיב חטאת ורבי יהושע פוטר

One who writes upon his skin is obligated [to bring a sin offering]. Concerning one who engraves his skin, Rabbi Eliezer obligates him to bring a sin offering but Rabbi Yehoshua exempts him.

In the gemara (Shabbat 104b), the mishna there says that it's the sages (and not Rabbi Yehoshua in particular) who exempt him from bringing a sin offering, but no reason is given. In the Rambam's peirush, he suggests that it's because Rabbi Yehoshua (or "the sages" in the Bavli's version) did not consider engraving on the skin to be a form of writing. If it's not a legitimate form of writing then by doing it on Shabbat one is only transgressing a rabbinic prohibition.

It seems to me that, following this logic, writing on one's skin in ink (which is what the former part of the mishna speaks about) is a legitimate form of writing. One might prohibit it on the basis of mar'it ha'ayin, but I've not seen such a prohibition ever spelt out.


Moroccan Jews use henna in their wedding ceremonies. If this is a halakha, it is only Ashkenazi.

  • 1
    Unless there is a distinction between 1- henna and other inks (color, permanence, ingredients...), 2- The way and context which the ink is applied or a number of other possibilities...
    – Gavriel
    Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 14:18
  • @Gabi fair points. Commented Aug 3, 2012 at 14:22
  • ...or, 3, permissibility and practice. Ping @Gabi.
    – msh210
    Commented Aug 5, 2012 at 5:01
  • @msh210 This would certainly not be the first time that minhag has been cited as halachik precedent on this site or in halachik literature.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 5, 2012 at 8:13

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