Rivka Had a Nose Ring?


In Parshat Chaye Sara we read that Avraham’s servant gave Rivka a gold nose ring (nezem) and two gold bracelets when he first met her.


Are body piercings permitted in Jewish law?


Since we are created in the image of God it would make sense that we should not permanently deface our bodies. In Devarim 14:1 we read: “You are the children of God. Do not mutilate yourselves.”


On the other hand, in the Mishna in Shabbat 6:5-7 we learn that a woman is permitted to beautify herself (and wear without it being a violation of Shabbat) with wool in her ear…little girls may use thread (to keep the holes in their ears open)… she can hang from the loop a stone, a nut or a coin as long as she does not do the looping on Shabbat.


If piercings were a problem, the Mishna would not have allowed a woman to have piercings at all and certainly wouldn’t have permitted wearing jewelry on Shabbat since it would have been considered carrying.


Piercings are different from tattoos which are prohibited by the Torah since piercings can close up so there is no permanent damage.


Although piercings are permitted there are also social norms to take into account and that may be why in many communities you don’t see a large number of religious women with nose rings, yet many of the religious women wear earrings.


In Rivka’s time, nose rings seem to have been as acceptable as bracelets so it is no surprise that Avraham’s servant in his role as Shadchan (matchmaker) gave Rivka a nose ring along with bracelets. In our society, where the number of women who wear nose rings are in the minority, a young woman who would be offered a nose ring from a matchmaker who most probably be taken aback.