"Jacob then took himself moist sticks of aspen, hazel, and chestnut, and peeled white stripes in them by baring the white of the sticks." (Gen. 30:37)

"Aspen, hazel, and chestnut…": The blending of these colors alludes to the attribute of Jacob, which is tiferet (harmony and beauty). (Sefer HaMa'amarim 5732, p. 124; cf. Zohar I:161a ff)

"He peeled white streaks…": Although Jacob's sticks were both red and white, he peeled additional white streaks to give supremacy to white, which signifies chesed ("kindness"). This is because in order to harmonize kindness and severity, precedence must be given to kindness. (Sefer HaMa'amarim 5721, p. 312)

The animals went in heat in the presence of the sticks, and the young that the animals then produced were ankle-ringed, speckled, and blotched. (Gen. 30:37)

Through his activities with the sticks, Jacob elicited the same spiritual energies that we elicit through wearing tefillin.

The aspen sticks embodied chochma, the hazel sticks embodied bina, and the chestnut sticks embodied daat. By placing these sticks in the watering troughs, he drew divine intellect into the emotions. This is exactly what we accomplish by wearing tefillin. (Zohar I:161a ff, Sitrei Torah; Mikdash Melech ad loc.)

Since the Torah had not yet been given, the physical world was not yet a vessel for holiness. Therefore, the sticks were merely a tool Jacob used to access these spiritual energies, but they did not themselves become holy. When he was through with them, they remained simple sticks. (Likutei Sichot, vol. 1, p. 72)

During the mating season of the flocks, I looked up and beheld in a dream that the bucks mounting [the she-goats] were ankle-ringed, speckled and mottled. (Gen. 31:10) Jacob was drawing divine consciousness into physical reality…

In these verses, Jacob's flock is described as being "ankle-ringed, speckled, and mottled", while earlier they were described as being "ankle-ringed, speckled, and blotched". The distinction is that before, the Torah described the natural ways Jacob used to influence the animals' coloring (i.e., by placing speckled rods in the troughs - see Gen. (30:37-42)), while here, in Jacob's dream, he describes a miraculous process which had a similar effect: the angels took spotted animals from the Laban's flocks and put them in Jacob's. (Rashi, as explained in Likutei Sichot, vol. 35, pp. 131-133)

As explained above, in his dealings with Laban, Jacob was drawing divine consciousness into physical reality. He did this in two ways, because there are two types of G‑dly energy that create and power the world:

1. G‑dly energy that tailors itself to the limitations of physical reality, i.e. what we know as "nature";

2. G‑dly energy that transcends the natural order and is revealed in the form of miracles. (Cf. Akeidat Yitzchak, gate 38)

Jacob employed both natural and supernatural means in coloring the animals in order to elicit both G‑dly energies.

The reason the naturally-bred animals are referred to as "blotched" while the supernaturally-bred animals are referred to as "mottled" is as follows: Rashi describes "mottled" as being encompassed by a white band formed by white blotches that run into each other. The blotches on the simply "blotched" animals, in contrast, were not connected. That the blotches on the 'mottled' animals formed one continuous band alludes to G‑d's encompassing, transcendent creative energy…

The fact that the blotches on the "mottled" animals formed one continuous band alludes to G‑d's encompassing, transcendent creative energy ("sovev kol almin"), in contrast to the discrete blotches that allude to G‑d's limited creative energy ("memalei kol almin"), which tailors itself to every aspect of Creation individually. (Likutei Sichot, vol. 35, p. 131-136)

In Kabbala, the "ankle-ringed, speckled, and mottled" animals Jacob appropriated from Laban's flocks signify the three stages in the evolution of reality out of G‑d's oneness into a world of multiplicity. Laban, whose name means "white" (in Hebrew, "lavan") alludes to the "supernal whiteness" ("Loven Ha-elyon"), or non-composite uniformity of G‑d's simple essence.

The "ankle-ringed" (Akudim) animals refer to the first, embryonic stage of Creation, in which the ten sefirot shared one "vessel" or context, much as the limbs of an embryo are undifferentiated.

The "speckled" (Nikudim) animals refer to the next stage of Creation, in which the ten sefirot each possess their own vessel but, like immature youths, are too self-absorbed to tolerate each other.

The "mottled" (Berudim) animals refer to the final stage of Creation, in which the ten sefirot metamorphose into "profiles" (partzufim) or human-like figures, capable of interacting with each other. (Sefer HaMa'amarim 5720, p. 101; sources cited there and in Likutei Sichot, vol. 35, p. 133 ff)

Click here for an introduction to the Stages of Creation in the Ari's teachings.


Adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky
Copyright 2001 Chabad of California / http://www.LAchumash.org