Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Akin Gump: Can a Reference to Lentil Soup by a Racist be Considered Anti-Semitic?

The short answer is yes!

Call me crazy but I was somewhat suspicious, in early April 1990, about the vague Jewish, or antisemitic, overtones of my supervisor Chris Robertson and Greg Courtney walking past my desk, while I was an employee at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and talking in a kind of histrionic way about lentil soup. Chris Robertson was returning from the luncheonette on the lobby level with a cup of lentil soup. It reminds me of the time, on the afternoon of October 23, 1991, when Greg Courtney was walking past my desk and telling a story about the man with the "black skull cap," following my complaint of job harassment to Earl Segal.

What is Jewish about lentil soup?

"Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am famished."--Genesis 25:30

By Tamar Fox

In Parashat Toldot we read the story of Esau selling his birthright to Jacob for some delicious lentil stew. One day, Jacob prepares a stew while Esau is out hunting in the fields. Esau returns from his long day of hunting and demands some of what he calls ha-adom ha-adom hazeh or "that red stuff," but Jacob won't give it to his brother unless Esau agrees to give up his birthright. Esau forfeits his birthright, and the text tells us, "Jacob then gave Esau bread and lentil stew; he ate and drank and he rose and went away. Thus did Esau spurn the birthright." (25:34)

This is an important point in the Torah because it shows Jacob beginning to take some agency over his future, and the future of the Jewish people. The episode also teaches about the importance of food and hunger. When people are as famished as Esau was after his day of work, they will do anything, give up anything, in order to eat.

To commemorate this story and its lessons, it is my family's custom to make a big pot of lentil soup on the Shabbat of Parashat Toldot. This recipe is excellent, but don't go selling your birthright to get it--you can make it yourself very easily.

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