The Spot-Spangled SheepBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
“Well,” said Yaakov, “you know how diligent an employee I’ve been. Your flock has really thrived under my care. But now I’ve got to build up my own family. I’m not asking for a handout; I have a business proposition for you. I’ll keep tending your sheep and goats. Before I start, remove all the spotted and streaked animals, leaving only the solid-colored ones. After that, whatever animals are born spotted or speckled will be mine and the rest will be yours.” This plan pleased Lavan a great deal, since the streaked animals were in the minority to begin with and the number that could be expected to be born from the solid black or white animals was minimal at best. He took all the spotted and spangled animals and placed them in the care of his sons, while Yaakov took charge of the solid-colored animals.
Here’s where things get a little weird. Yaakov peeled the bark off of sticks so that there were white stripes in them. He placed these sticks by the watering troughs so that the animals should look at them when they mated. In some fashion (upon which this author will not speculate), this caused the animals to give birth to spotted and speckled offspring. He separated these so they would not mingle with Lavan’s flocks. Yaakov also only did this with the strong, healthy animals; he allowed the sickly, weak animals to mate and have sickly, weak, solid-colored offspring.
Yaakov became very prosperous. With all of his shepherding profits, he was able to acquire camels, donkeys and servants. Then he heard Lavan’s sons grumbling about his success. Lavan also gave Yaakov the cold shoulder. Yaakov called Rachel and Leah for a family meeting. They were well aware of the way in which their father had jerked their husband around over the years. Yaakov told them that an angel had told him that it was time to return to Israel. Rachel and Leah had no problem with this, as Lavan didn’t treat them much better than he did Yaakov. They agreed completely in this course of action and they supported Yaakov in pursuing it.