In this week’s parsha, Toldot, we learn that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob for red lentil soup. He was famished from working all day and he needed food so Jacob tricked Esau into selling his birthright for a hot meal. We also learn that Esau was a hunter and Jacob a learned young man. Another way of looking at this is that Esau was yang and Jacob was yin. Yang represents physical strength and yin mental strength. Esau was easily tricked because he needed his physical strength to survive, while Jacob could be patient in order to achieve dominance through his wits. Jacob probably knew that lentil soup can make a person feel fuller in a shorter amount of time and used that to his advantage. I am assuming that Esau also knew that lentils made him feel stronger. So what is in lentils that makes them so good for us?
Lentils are legumes and they are packed with folate. Folate is an important nutrient because it may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and osteoporosis. It also helps promote healthy red blood cells to prevent anemia. Most commonly, folate is put in women’s prenatal vitamins to prevent neural tube defects in developing babies. One cup of lentils contains 89.5 percent of the recommended daily intake of folate.
Legumes get some negative attention because they make people gassy. Lentils are no exception because they contain soluble fiber, which slows down digestion, keeping a person fuller longer but also causing gas. Lentils also contain insoluble fiber, which allow a person to be more regular. In general, fiber helps us clean out our colons the natural way. A cup of lentils contains 62.5 percent of our recommended daily intake of fiber. The trick to avoid passing gas from lentils it is important to soak the lentils in warm water at room temperature for at least 48 hours before cooking and eating them. This process will allow the lentil to sprout, which will make it more digestible. Sprouting also increases the vitamin and mineral content of a lentil.
Lentils also contain iron, protein, zinc, and vitamin B6. A cup of lentils is basically a little multivitamin that doesn’t taste like a fake fruit and isn’t hard to swallow. The iron in lentils can help replenish energy especially after a long day, so it is understandable that Esau craved the lentil soup after a long day of hunting. Also, because they contain protein, Esau was able to stay fuller longer and build muscle. From lentil soup, Esau was able to get everything he needed to stay strong.
Esau and Jacob were a yin and yang symbol during delivery. Jacob held onto Esau’s leg perfectly intertwining yin and yang. Their differences led them to needing different things to survive. Esau needed strength and Jacob needed to lead the Jewish people. Lentils were a way for both of them to get what they needed. I understand; I would give up my birthright (as the younger and cuter sibling) for some of my cousin’s tomato-lentil soup.