8/20/2005

A Parsha Query

I’ve always been bothered by this verse:

דברים פרק ז

(יד) בָּרוּךְ תִּהְיֶה מִכָּל הָעַמִּים לֹא יִהְיֶה בְךָ עָקָר וַעֲקָרָה וּבִבְהֶמְתֶּךָ:


“There shall not be amongst you a barren male or female, and so amongst your livestock.”


Here’s my question: Who cares if there are barren males amongst the livestock? Not every male needs to be fertile in order for the flocks to be productive; on the contrary, only the ‘best’ males are used to fertilize the females? Is there any kind of value or ideal if there are no infertile male animals?

I’ve come up with a few possible answers:
1. It’s easier that way. Things can happen without the owner having to make them happen, without having to engage in husbandry. Not much net gain, but less work.
2. The last word is only going back on the word before it. The expanded verse (without contracting by use of conjunctions) would read: There will be no barren males among you. There will be no barren females among you. There will be no barren females among your animals.
3. We’ll have an abundance of fertile males which we’ll be able to sell to non-Jews, who aren’t recipients of this Divine blessing

I’m not enamored with any of these, though they’re all plausible. If I had to choose, I’d take #2.
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