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Having children (or being "fruitful") is considered the first mitzvah and commandment, and is considered an "obligation" according to Halacha - but are there any rules for those who choose to be celibate?

Of course, celibacy can be recommended during Torah study, but rarely have I seen the lifestyle supported as a "life-long" choice. I have learned that there were Jewish cults and societies throughout the ages which engaged in some kind of monastic life (which might not be considered correct according to Jewish Law). For example, the Essenes, and the Therapeutae Who were the Therapeutae?. But there were also stories in the Torah which showed that life celibacy was taking place. I think the Prophet Jeremiah was celibate, and Samson (at one point) was celibate. Certainly, people go through long periods of celibacy in Yeshiva.

Any thoughts on life-long or long-term celibacy according to Halacha?

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    Wouldn't your first sentence answer the question? Generally, if there is an obligation to do something, and one does not, that is a sin. Jan 6 at 17:42
  • There are obligations that have exceptions. It is an obligation to stand (and not even lean) during prayers. But if one is elderly or ill there are exceptions and it is not considered a sin, right?
    – Digityogi
    Jan 6 at 18:05
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    some Rabbis chose this path like Ben Azai
    – user813801
    Jan 6 at 18:33
  • SA EH 1.1 חייב כל אדם לישא אשה כדי לפרות ולרבות וכל מי שאינו עוסק בפריה ורביה כאילו שופך דמים וממעט את הדמות וגורם לשכינה שתסתלק מישראל: הגה: וכל מי שאין לו אשה שרוי בלא ברכה בלא תורה כו' ולא נקרא אדם וכיון שנשא אשה עונותיו מפקפקים שנאמר מצא אשה מצא טוב ויפק רצון מאת ה' (טור):. It's prohibited to refuse to marry out of special people as Ben azai
    – kouty
    Jan 6 at 19:21
  • Seif 4 מי שחשקה נפשו בתורה כבן עזאי תמיד ונדבק בה כל ימיו ולא נשא אשה -- אין בידו עון, והוא שלא יהא יצרו מתגבר עליו:
    – kouty
    Jan 6 at 19:22
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According to Halacha, it is a positive commandment and would be subject to the rules of forcing someone to fulfill their obligation, like by most positive commandments.

The Shulchan Aruch at the start of Even Haezer states the following of one who wants to practice celibacy:

חייב כל אדם לישא אשה כדי לפרות ולרבות וכל מי שאינו עוסק בפריה ורביה כאלו שופך דמים וממעט את הדמות וגורם לשכינה שתסתלק מישראל: הגה וכל מי שאין לו אשה שרוי בלא ברכה בלא תורה כו' ולא נקרא אדם וכיון שנשא אשה עונותיו מפקפקים שנאמר מצא אשה מצא טוב ויפק רצון מאת ה': (טור)

Every man is obligated to marry a woman in order to be fruitful, and to multiply and anyone who doesn't engage in being fruitful and multiplying is as if he spills blood, and lessens the appearance, and causes the divine presence to depart from Israel. Rem"a: He who does not marry is not allowed to make a blessing or to engage in Torah etc. and he is not called a man, and when he marries a woman, his sins are cast into doubt, as it is said: "One who has found a wife has found goodness and obtains favor in the eyes of God." (Proverbs 18:22)

Further in Halacha 3, he says that Bais Din would force someone to get married and have children, however the Rama says that nowadays we do not do that:

ומי שעברו עליו ך' שנה ואינו רוצה לישא ב"ד כופין אותו לישא כדי לקיים מצות פריה ורביה ומיהו אם עוסק בתורה וטרח בה ומתיירא לישא אשה כדי שלא יטרח במזונו ויתבטל מן התורה מותר להתאחר: הגה ובזמן הזה נהגו שלא לכוף ע"ז

If 20 years go by and he has not taken a wife and he who lets 20 years pass, or he who does not want to marry, the courts can force him to marry in order to fulfill the mitzvah of being fruitful and multiplying. What are the things that might delay marriage? If he is busy with Torah, or if it is too burdensome and he fears to marry a women in order that he is not burdened in his livelihood and he will not fail in Torah it is permitted to delay. Rem"a: In this time, its custom that one does not force in regards to this.

Finally in Halacha 4 he says one who wants to study like Ben Azai may do so:

ומי שחשקה נפשו בתורה כבן עזאי תמיד ונדבק בה כל ימיו ולא נשא אשה אין בידו עון והוא שלא יהא יצרו מתגבר עליו:

He who spends all of his entire life engrossed in Torah study like Ben Azai and did not marry a woman is not considered a sinner, as his urges did not overcome him.

However the Taz says that even then, L'chatchila one should not do so, it is just not considered a sin:

אין בידו עון. פ' מ"מ לכתחלה לא יעשה כן:

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