AngelsYaakov had a unique strength: unlike anyone else in the Torah (or in all of history), Yaakov saw angels, recognized them immediately for what they were, and – in the case of the angels he met and dispatched when returning to Esau – was even able to order them around. As Simcha Baer explains ( http://tinyurl.com/yjdce52 ) when Yaakov wrestles with an angel and prevails, the angel specifically concedes that Yaakov has the authority to reprogram angels, and use them as his messengers.
Yaakov’s skill required more than mere authority and discernment. It required an intimate understanding of how angels function. We know that high order angels can resemble humans – but we also know that every living thing on earth, down to a single blade of grass, has its own angel. These would be less sophisticated – the Midrash tells us that such an angel’s job is to tell the blade of grass to grow!
When we consider Yaakov’s angel-talent, it explains one of the great mysteries in the Torah: how, starting with “pure” sheep and goats, Yaakov managed their procreation so they would give deliver generations of goats that were spotted, speckled, and streaked.
Yaakov stripped the exterior bark away from the living branches of almond, poplar, and plane trees, and put them in water (perhaps to keep them alive, and perhaps because water is a symbol of fecundity in general), so that the animals would be looking at the rods when they drank and when they procreated.
We believe that thoughts are important: that the very essence of a child can be defined in part by what the parents were considering during conception.
Consider that Yaakov, master of angels as he was, was merely exposing the angel underneath the exterior surface of the tree bark, so that it would be seen (and considered) by the angel assigned to the animal. And voila! The resulting offspring, resemble the tree bark themselves.
After all, we have: