Monday, April 08, 2013

Eat this red lentil stew; it will put color in your cheeks!

In a comment on a recent post, a commenter pointed me to an interesting explanation of Seforno, and sought some clarification:
How to understand Sforno comment on Genesis 25.30 And Esau said to Jacob, "Pour into [me] some of this red, red [pottage], for I am faint"; he was therefore named Edom. It says, that he was named "red", because eat red food. Does food affect human color?
The pasuk in parashat Toledot reads:
ל  וַיֹּאמֶר עֵשָׂו אֶל-יַעֲקֹב, הַלְעִיטֵנִי נָא מִן-הָאָדֹם הָאָדֹם הַזֶּה--כִּי עָיֵף, אָנֹכִי; עַל-כֵּן קָרָא-שְׁמוֹ, אֱדוֹם.30 And Esau said to Jacob: 'Let me swallow, I pray thee, some of this red, red pottage; for I am faint.' Therefore was his name called Edom.

And Seforno says on this:
פסוק לעַל כֵּן קָרָא שְׁמו אֱדום. כְּשֶׁרָאוּ שֶׁכָּל כָּךְ הִתְמַכֵּר לִמְלַאכְתּו הַנִּפְסֶדֶת אֲשֶׁר לא כְּתורַת הָאָדָם, עַד שֶׁלּא הִכִּיר בַּנָּזִיד כִּי אִם צִבְעו, קָרְאוּ אותו "אֱדום"! לְשׁון צִוּוּי, כְּלומַר: הִתְאַדֵּם! וֶהֱיֵה צָבוּעַ אָדם בְּהַלְעָטַת הָאָדם.
I think I understand this comment, but it gets a little unclear towards the end. Here is how I would translate it:

"Therefore was his named called Edom: When they saw that he was so sold over to his indecent work such that he was not in the manner of man, such that he was only able recognize the color of the stew [rather than that it was stew], that called him 'Edom!', in the language of command [an imperative]. That is to say, turn red! And your color will be red in the [matter of the] pouring of the red."

I do not think that Rav Ovadia Seforno was saying that his color would medically change as a result of the eating of the stew. He studied medicine and, while it is possible that medieval medicine might maintain that red foods turn a person red, I don't think that the words of Seforno's commentary merit that explanation. This is what people are telling him to turn, as a result of the red food.

I think he was saying that, while mocking him, people were instructing him to turn red. Perhaps to blush in embarrassment.

What do you think?

(Of course, there still stands the other parallel source for Edom identification, that he was already born ruddy:

כה  וַיֵּצֵא הָרִאשׁוֹן אַדְמוֹנִי, כֻּלּוֹ כְּאַדֶּרֶת שֵׂעָר; וַיִּקְרְאוּ שְׁמוֹ, עֵשָׂו.



YAW said...

"while it is possible that medieval medicine might maintain that red foods turn a person red"

That's not medieval medicine, it's a fact:

I don't know (or care) what the seforno thought the peshat was, or if people thought a single serving could do it, but it's a fact that a person who eats a large amount of orange/red vegetables will change color.

SPACE said...

All this thing about selling rights is very mysterious, so I'm asking various details. Thanks for your effort!

joshwaxman said...


Thanks! I don't know how I forgot about this; it is one of my favorite Scrubs episodes.


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