Jacob sheep Molly and Leah. (photo by Mustard Seed Imaging)
Chabad Rabbi Falik Schtroks of the Centre for Judaism of the Lower Fraser Valley delivered a lecture on the meaning of the Jacob sheep in conjunction with parashat Veyetzei during a visit to the flock in Langley on Sunday, Nov. 15. He was accompanied by his students and invited guests.
The rabbi explained how the sheep look just as they are described in the Tanach: they have spotted ankle bands (akudim), spotted and speckled patterns (nikud), patches (tiluyim) and bands (broodim), all of which are mentioned in the Bible.
“It is very likely that the animal we are looking at is the Jacob sheep, as there are no other sheep in the world that have all these characteristics. If I would have ever imagined Jacob’s flock, I wouldn’t have imagined them any different than the flock in your field,” he said.
In his lecture, Schtroks taught that the patterns of the sheep have relevance for day-to-day living by comparing the patterns to the progression of human civilization, as well as to personal growth. The ankle bands represent the incubation phase or childhood. The speckles represent individualism, but the blotches represent our growth in this world, which allows us to recognize and include others. The goal is for the blotches to “bleed” into each other to form a band, for individuals to live in harmony with the outside world.
“It is not very often that one can be down to earth, mingling with sheep, and find there vivid clarity of mystical teachings. What is usually an obscure narrative comes bursting into life,” said Schtroks.
The rabbi was very excited to observe the sheep’s behavior. The sheep operate as a collective, he noted. If one sheep were to go missing, it would cause mass distress in the flock. “Take a look at how these sheep behave only as part of a herd and none act truly independently … it is comparable to the Jewish people who are compared to one flock.”
He continued, “Seeing the Jacob sheep as they have survived until this day, as an heirloom breed with the biblically described characteristics, seems to parallel the miracle of the Jewish people and their survival – despite all odds – for the duration of the past 4,000 years.”
Schtroks said he hoped that the sheep’s transition to life in Israel would be easy. The flock’s “shepherds,” Gil and Jenna Lewinsky have been lobbying the Israeli government to allow their Jacob sheep to return to the Golan Heights. The couple would like to establish a heritage park where this endangered breed of four-horned and speckled, spotted and ankle-banded sheep can be preserved, and put to their biblical and original use.
Rabbi Amram Vaknin, the rabbinical mystic from Ashdod, Israel, endorsed the Lewinskys’ Jacob sheep in October, telling Friends of the Jacob Sheep, later reported to Breaking Israel News, that the sheep do not belong in Canada but rather “in the land of Israel.” He told the news outlet and the couple that it is permissible for the sheep to return as long as the shepherds are G-d fearing.
Following the rabbinical endorsements, the Lewinskys are optimistic about the prospect of negotiating for the return of the Jacob sheep and feel that their flock will bring a tremendous blessing to the nation of Israel. “It’s the spiritual wealth of Jacob and the national animal of the Jewish people according to the Tanach,” they said.