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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Celebrating Lentils

Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished.

וַיֹּ֨אמֶר עֵשָׂ֜ו אֶֽל־יַעֲקֹ֗ב הַלְעִיטֵ֤נִי נָא֙ מִן־הָאָדֹ֤ם הָאָדֹם֙ הַזֶּ֔ה כִּ֥י עָיֵ֖ף אָנֹ֑כִי עַל־כֵּ֥ן קָרָֽא־שְׁמ֖וֹ אֱדֽוֹם׃ And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished”—which is why he was named Edom.

וַיֹּ֖אמֶר יַעֲקֹ֑ב מִכְרָ֥ה כַיּ֛וֹם אֶת־בְּכֹֽרָתְךָ֖ לִֽי׃ Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.”

Genesis 25:30-31 from Sefaria

This must be the week to celebrate lentils. After all, it is central to Parshat Toldot! In this parsha Eisav is beyond hungry and demands some lentil soup NOW! He can't wait and because of God's plan or his lack of patience and excellent appetite, he changed history.

Imagine that, lentils changing the course of history. It's remarkable how the small things in life can change the trajectory of a story and stand between a person and her destiny. Let's take a little look at lentils and delight in their diversity, their taste and in their teeny tiny grandeur!

THE SPRUCE EATS, writes in their blog:

The lowly lentil, a type of legume, has been sustaining man for thousands of years. However, some once considered lentils as poor man's food and refused to eat them because they are so inexpensive. Although they may be cheap, lentils are very nutritious, filling, and more importantly, arguably the most flavorful of all the legumes.

Lentils, botanically-known as Lens culinaris esculenta, grow in pods that contain either one or two lentil seeds. Sometimes smaller than the tip of a pencil eraser, lentils can be round, oval, or heart-shaped disks. Known as dal or dahl in India, lentils are dried after harvesting and may be sold whole or split into halves, with the brown and green varieties being the best at retaining their shape after cooking. When halved, dried lentils resemble their split pea cousins.

Lentil Food Value: Lentils are an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They’re also a great source of plant-based protein and fiber. (Taken from

Lentil History

Thought to have originated in the Near East or Mediterranean area, lentils have been a source of sustenance for our ancestors since prehistoric times. They are the oldest pulse crop known to man and one of the earliest domesticated crops. The word lentil comes from the Latin lens, and indeed, this bean cousin is shaped like the double convex optic lens that took its name from the lentil. Lentil artifacts have been found on archeological digs on the banks of the Euphrates River dating back to 8,000 B.C. and there is evidence of the Egyptians, Romans, and Hebrews eating this legume. Lentils are also mentioned several times in the Bible; one example is in the book of Genesis and the story of Esau, who gave up his birthright for a bowl of crimson lentils and a loaf of bread.

So, what are some great recipes that Jacob may have been cooking?

Tori Avey writes in her food history blog about her research into the diet of the ancient Hebrews and provides this interesting recipe for Jacob's lentil stew.

My favorite type of lentils are red lentils. They cook up quickly and are so versatile. I add them to soup to thicken it or make a quick dahl with onions, garlic and ginger which are the magical spice trio! I'll quickly cook up a small amount for breakfast to eat with plain yogurt (so delicious!)

Here are a few red lentil recipes that you might like!

What do you cook with lentils? I'd love to hear!

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