Toldos: Lentil Pottage

What did Esav mean when he said “Behold, I am going to die; so why do I need this birthright?”

Did he really think that he would die unless he got the lentil soup? Was he justifying selling his birthright as pikuach nefesh? Was this hyperbole to rationalize satisfying his animal impulses? What did he mean?

In “Parshat Toldot, What is So Important about the Soup,” Rabbi Fox, OU Torah lists a some other explanations.

Rashi: The birthright involved priestly service, and violations of restrictions on service were punishable by death.
Esav’s reasoning: If I will die from inevitably violating those restrictions, what good does the birthright do me?

Nachmanides: Because of his violent lifestyle, Esav believes that he is destined to die, possibly before he can inherit the birthright.
Esav’s reasoning: If I die before Yitzchak, what good is the birthright to me?

Targum Yerushalmi: Esav did not believe in the afterlife and the resurrection of the dead. He was only interested in the material “here and now” world, not the eternal and spiritual.
Esav’s reasoning: if divine service through the birthright only provides reward in the world to come, and only this world exists for me, what good is the birthright to me?

Rabbi Weisz points out that Esav’s descendants do believe in the world to come, but believe that man is born into a state of sin and depend on divine salvation. He suggests that Esav’s statement about death might have been an allusion to Edom’s notion of original sin.

According to the Midrash, this was the day that Avraham died, and Yaacov was making lentils as mourner’s food (The roundness of lentils symbolizes the circle of life).

Esav’s reasoning: Sin leads to death. Because of Adam’s sin, man must die. Even a person as free from sin as Avraham is not spared death. What is the good of divine service through the birthright if it will not spare me from death?

Lentil Pottage
olive oil
large onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
red pepper, chopped
14.5 ounce can tomatoes
2 cups broth or seasoned water
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbl. paprika
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika (optional)
1/8 tsp. pepper
10 ounce can chick peas, plus liquid from can

Saute vegetables in olive oil until tender. Add spices and cook a minute. Add rest of ingredients and cook until everything is tender. Puree. The final color will be orange, not red.

And here the old favorite that it is based upon:

Good Housekeeping’s Red Lentil Soup

1Tbl. olive oil, or enough for sauteing the vegetables
4 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
2 cups broth (or well seasoned water)
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
1/4 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or more to taste
5 ounces baby spinach

In a soup pot, saute carrots and onion in the olive oil until lightly browned and tender. Add cumin and cook for a minute.
Add the tomatoes, broth, lentils, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat and simmer 8 to 10 minutes, or until lentils are tender. Stir in the spinach.

Bonus: Lentil Soup and Red Lentil Dal from Granoladox

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3 Responses to “Toldos: Lentil Pottage”

  1. Leora Says:

    Oh, these both sound nice! I forgot this was lentil week for the parsha. Maybe I should concentrate on next week.

    I like the spinach at the end of the red lentil soup.

  2. Tali Simon @ More Quiche, Please Says:

    I wanted to do something with lentils, but we were away for Shabbos, and somehow hostess gifts always end up as cookies. Next year!

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