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Plastic surgery is a medical procedure with the purpose of alteration or restoring the form of the body. But can everyone change the shape of their body and make it look like they want to?

We know people have been changing the way they look all the way back to ancient times - Egypt and maybe before that. Does the Torah talk about that, the Talmud?

And if the answer is yes, how far can we go and what can we change?

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The background to this discussion is that the Torah doesn't considers a person's body to be his to do what he wants with it. It is an instrument in the service of God.

Here is how the Nishmat Avraham reports on different poskim views on the topic (vol 2 pp. 60ff)

The Tzitz Eliezer forbids one to undergo plastic surgery in the absence of disease or pain when the purpose is only to enhance a part of the body. He writes that it was not for this purpose that the Torah gave permission to heal and one may not allow a surgeon to injure him for this purpose, nor is the surgeon permitted to do so. In addition one may not put himself in danger, however slight, for such a purpose.

On the other hand the Chelkat Yaakov permitted a young girl to undergo plastic surgery to straighten and reduce the size of her nose although she submits to bodily injury.

R Moshe Feinstein, in a similar case of a girl wanting to undergo plastic surgery to make her look more beautiful so she could more easily find a husband, answered positively quoting Rambam who only forbids causing injury when the purpose is to harm, while here it is to beautify her.

R Shlomo Zalman Auerbach writes that if plastic surgery is done to prevent suffering and shame caused by a defect in his looks, it would be permitted since the purpose is to remove a blemish. However if the only reason is beauty it is not permitted.

In most cases therefore the discussion will be to what extent the surgery aims at addressing a blemish which creates mental pain and anguish and whether this is enough to overcome the obstacles above. To answer your question of "how far can we go and what can we change" one really needs to CYLOR.

Further sources

  • sky-diving would be wrong because you risk your life? – Aigle Jan 18 '16 at 19:09
  • @Eagel this is truly a wonderful question. Why don't you ask it? I didn't find it on MY. There are certainly sources that would prevent you from endangering yourself for no good reason (e.g., Dvarim 4:15 "guard your souls" or Dvarim 22:8 "make a guardrail on your roof") but it requires further thinking – mbloch Jan 18 '16 at 19:58
  • See here now for the question on sky-diving – mbloch Jan 19 '16 at 7:15

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