Friday, August 17, 2018

Vegetable lambs and vegetable people in the Yerushalmi?

ATLAS OBSCURA has a curious article that cites a strange story purportedly found in the Palestinian (Jerusalem) Talmud: For Centuries, People Thought Lambs Grew on Trees. The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary puzzled scientists and philosophers (Abbey Perreault).
According to Henry Lee, a 19th-century naturalist who wrote rather extensively on the vegetable lamb, the woolly plant first appeared in literature around 436 A.D., in the Jewish text, Talmud Hierosolimitanum. According to Lee, Rabbi Jochanan included a passage detailing the plant-animal that is “in form like a lamb, and from its navel grew a stem or root by which this zoophyte … was fixed … like a gourd, to the soil below the surface of the ground.”

Lee's Vegetable Lamb. Public domain. Click on the image for a larger version.

And it gets weirder:
But there was a more sinister version of the narrative. Lee includes a passage from Rabbi Simeon, who hints that the zoophyte was not a lamb-plant hybrid, but rather a human-plant hybrid. He claims that, according to the Jerusalem Talmud, the ‘Jadua,’ was a plant found in the mountains that grows “just as gourds and melons,” but in the form of a human—with a face, body, hands, and feet. Similar to the vegetable lamb, it was connected at the navel to the stem, which, if cut, would cause the Jadua’s demise. “No creature can approach within the tether of the stem, for it seizes and kills them,” he wrote. ...
The article gives no specific reference in the Talmud. Mr. Lee's book is available on Google Play (see link in the quote), but I am disinclined to pay money to read it, especially since I have no confidence that he gave a reference either.

So, my readers who have expertise in the Yerushalmi, is this a real thing? (Not the vegetable creatures, the Talmudic reference.) If so, would someone please send me the reference?

UPDATE (23 August): Reader Alan Messner kindly e-mails the following:
There is a source, although it is rather speculation about the meaning of words in the Mishna and Yerushalmi. Kilayim 8:5 and the following Yerushalmi associated with this Mishna (73b and 74a) list animals that are either categorized as wild or domesticated. These classifications are needed to differentiate between laws that are different between the 2 groups. The Mishna says the ‘Adnei HaSadeh’ is wild. Rabbi Yosi says that a dead one imparts ‘tumah’ (ritual uncleanliness) like a dead human. According to the logic of it, and most commentaries say that it is a gorilla or orangutan. Some Medieval commentaries speculate (likely based local legend) that it can be a creature that fits the description that you described.
Thanks for that!

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