What happened when Yaakov placed the various peeled sticks in the troughs of water when the sheep and goats came to drink?
Rashi #1: When the females saw the sticks, they were startled and recoiled, 1 and the males in back of them mated with them. 2 They conceived babies similar to what they saw (white spots and blotches). 3
Rashi #2: A miracle occurred and the water turned into semen, and they conceived without any contact with a male. 4
Gur Aryeh: One who suddenly sees a strange matter, recoils.
Rashbam - the word "va'Yechamnah" (and they became hot)" is in both masculine and feminine tense. Tosfos ha'Shalem (4) - this teaches that the females were heated through the males.
In verse 30:39, Rashbam points out that "va'Yechemu" is totally masculine. Perhaps he explains that both opinions in the Midrash are true - some females became pregnant through males, and others through water alone (PF).
Did Yaakov use the sticks with markings for the sheep as well (or only for the goats)?
Gur Aryeh (to 30:32): Refer to 30:32:3.1. According to the approach that the speckled lambs would belong to Yaakov, he used the sticks for the sheep as well. If they would not belong to Yaakov, he must have used them only for the goats. 1
Why does it say "l'Nochach ha'Tzon"?
Malbim: The color of other animals would make an impression on flock animals, but the sticks would not. The animals came to drink from both sides of the trough. 1 The sticks were in the middle, and it seemed to the animals that the colors on the sticks are on the animals on the other side.
Malbim understands that the sheep would stand on both opposite sides of the trough. Rashi, however, explains it as referring to earlier in the verse, "... that is where Yaakov displayed the sticks, opposite the sheep." (CS)
QUESTIONS ON RASHI
Rashi writes: "'He displayed' (va'Yatzeg) - He stuck them [into the ground] upright." How is this derived?
Gur Aryeh: 'Hatzagah,' on display, means to be free-standing without external support. For sticks to stand up freely, they must be inserted unto the ground.
Rashi writes: "Rehatim - the running steams of water...." What is the derivation?
Gur Aryeh: In Aramaic, the verb 'Rahat' means 'to run.'
Rashi writes: "... in the pools made in the ground, to water the flock there." What is Rashi adding?
Gur Aryeh: The verse gives us two descriptions - "Rehatim" (running streams), and "Shikasos" (for drinking) from the word 'Mashkeh.' The function these streams served was to give the sheep to drink.
Rashi writes: "[The verse should be explained in the following order,] 'In the running streams, where the sheep would come to drink; that is where he displayed the sticks, opposite the sheep.'" How else might I have explained it?
Gur Aryeh: When reading the verse in order, I might explain, 'He put them in the streams that the sheep would come and drink from.' But then why mention their 'coming,' the main thing is where they drink! Rather, we place it earlier in the verse - he placed the sticks... so that when the sheep would come to drink, they would jump backwards in surprise, etc.
Rashi writes: "They would enter heat - The animal would jump backwards in surprise, mate, and the offspring would look like [the sticks]." Why doesn't Rashi explain in the simple sense?
Gur Aryeh: By nature, water cools down an animal; it does not heat it up!
Rashi writes: "R. Hoshaya says, the water would become seed in their innards; they did not need a male." What is his source?