Right Age to Marry

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  1. Men have an obligation to procreate[1] and an additional obligation to marry even if he has already fulfilled his obligation to procreate[2]. Men may not unnecessarily prolong singlehood[3].
  2. Women are exempt from the obligation to procreate[4] and thus may have no obligation to marry[5].
  3. Although men become obligated to perform mitzvot upon reaching majority (age 13), learning Torah takes priority over marriage until age 18, and thus men have no obligation to marry beforehand[6].
  4. Ideally, one should attain a livelihood before marriage[7].
  5. Ideally, a man should marry before age 20 while continuing to learn Torah; however, if one finds it impossible to do both, due to the financial burden of sustaining a family, learning Torah takes precedence and he may delay marriage past age 20.[8] It is unclear how long such delay may extend:[9] some suggest that one may continue learning until he feels satisfied with the amount of Torah he has learned,[10] while others suggest an absolute limit of age 24.[11]
  6. If an unmarried man finds it impossible to avoid experiencing hirhurim, marriage takes precedence over learning Torah.[12] It is forbidden to fantasize about sinning.[13]
  7. If one truly loves learning Torah to the extent that Ben Azai did[14] and is totally devoted to the Torah, he is not prohibited from delaying marriage indefinitely, provided that his sexual desire does not overcome him;[15] nevertheless, one should not do so.[16] Ben Azai’s example is exceptional; such people are extremely rare.[17]
  8. One may delay marriage until he can find a suitable or compatible wife.[18]

Sources

  1. Yevamos 65b. Shulchan Aruch Even Haezer 1:1 and 1:5 mentions that a man should endeavor to father at least one boy and one girl.
  2. Yevamos 61b; Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 1:8.
  3. Tosefta, Yevamos 8:2.
  4. Yevamos 65b
  5. Tosefta, Yevamos 8:2; Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer, 1:13. However, see Rama (ibid.) and Sanhedrin 76a-76b.
  6. Avos 5:21; Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 1:3; Chelkas Mechokeik, ibid. §2. Cf. Rambam, Hilchos Ishus 15:2.
  7. Sotah 44a; Rambam, Hilchos Dei’os 5:11.
  8. Kiddushin 29b; Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 1:3.
  9. Rosh to Kiddushin 29b.
  10. Levush, Even Haezer 1:4, cited in Aruch Hashulchan, Even Haezer 1:13.
  11. Yam Shel Shlomo, Kiddushin §47, cited in Aruch Hashulchan, Even Haezer 1:13; see Rashi and Rosh to Kiddushin 30a.
  12. Kiddushin 29b; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei’ah 246:2.
  13. Berachos 12b.
  14. See Tosefta Yevamos 8:5; Yevamos 63b; cf. Kesuvos 63b; Sotah 4b.
  15. Shulchan Aruch, Even Haezer 1:4.
  16. Taz EH 1:6.
  17. Rosh to Kiddushin 29b; Ritva to Yevamos 63b.
  18. Yad Dovid, Vol. 3, 15:6 (cited in Frankel’s “Sefer Hamafteach” to Rambam, Hilchos Ishus 15:2).