Why Celibacy Is Not a Jewish Value

This practice is rare in Judaism and goes against the commandment to procreate.

In post-biblical literature Jewish opinion stands out clear and simple: Marriage is a duty, and celibacy a sin.

“The world was created to produce life; He created it not a waste, He formed it to be inhabited” (Isaiah 45:18) and “Be fruitful, and multiply” (Genesis 1: 28) are taken as commands. Marriage with a view to that end is a duty incumbent upon every male adult, several Jewish texts say.

In fact, the Talmud stipulates that a husband’s abstention from sexual relations may be taken by the wife as ground for a divorce (Ketubot 6:7), and the Shulchan Aruch says that a single man who is past 20 can be compelled by a rabbinic court to marry (though it makes exceptions for students).

The only known celibate among the rabbis of Talmudic times is Ben Azzai, who preached marriage to others, but did not practice it himself. “My soul is fond of the Law,” he is reported as having said; “The world will be perpetuated by others.” (Yevamot 63b)

Adapted from The Jewish Encyclopedia.

Discover More

Sex and Sexuality 101

Judaism has an overwhelmingly positive attitude toward sex.

Judaism and Pornography

Consumption of adult materials may run afoul of several principles in Jewish law.

New Possibilities in Jewish Sexuality

Judaism may need new categories of sexual relationships in order to adjust to the reality of sex outside marriage.