There is a race older than us, created before Adam and before Eve (1). They are said to be extinct, drowned in the great flood. But there are rumors that they survived (2) and live in the forests and the low hill country, out of our sight. You know you’re entering their territory when you cross from fresh to trampled grass or pine needles and see small animal bones and fruit rinds scattered where none had been before. And, according to the rumors, they’re delicious. A bit like broccoli.
Adne ha-Sadeh. Man of the fields. Wild animal. Ally. Diviner. Vegetable Entrée.
Without a doubt the adne ha-sadeh is one of the stranger creatures in the Jewish tradition. Since first learning about them, I have become a big fan (hence my Twitter handle @adnesadeh.) The name “adne ha-sadeh” translates as “man of the fields.” In some Jewish sources it alternately called the yadu’a (4) or the yidaaoni (5).
The adne ha-sadeh has human features but is actually an omnivorous plant connected to its roots via a long vine. It’s strong and wild, capable of chasing, catching and eating small animals and birds as well as scaling trees for fruit and nuts. Any individual adne ha-sedah’s range is limited. Out of necessity it always stays within the length of its vine, though in some cases older adne ha-sedah have vines almost a mile long. Longer vines are advantageous because they offer a wider hunting and foraging range, but long vines require greater skill and care because of the risk of getting the vine tangled. They’re thought to prefer Mediterranean and temperate climates.
Here’s one of the classic descriptions, from the Sefer HaChinukh (Book of Education, c.1255 – c.1285 CE). (6)
And [regarding] this animal…. I have seen in a book from the Geonim (early post-Talmudic authorities) that it grows with a large cord that comes out of the ground, similar to the cord of squash and pumpkins, its form is like the form of a man in everything – in the face, the body, the hands and the feet – and it is connected to the cord from its navel. And no creature can approach for the cord’s length, since it grazes around it like the length of the cord, and it devours all that it can reach. And when they come to hunt it, they shoot arrows into its cord, until it is separated, and [then] it dies immediately.Sefer HaChinukh 514:1 (6)
From a Jewish monster hunting perspective, adne ha-sadeh are wild animals (wild vegetables?) and should generally be left alone (7). Unlike sheydim (demons) or estries (vampires), adne ha-sadeh are not a threat to Jews either physically or spiritually as long as we stay to our towns and roads and out of the wilds. Not only are adne ha-sadeh not a threat, but they are generally seen in a positive light by our sages. Rashi, for examples, makes this point in his commentary on the book of Job.
Job 23: But you have a treaty with the stones of the field, and the beasts of the field made peace with you.
Rashi’s commentary: “and the beasts of the field: In the language of the Mishnah in Torath Kohanim, they are called “adne ha-sadeh.”Job 23, followed by Rashi’s commentary (8)
That’s a pretty big deal. Job chapter 5 opens with “Now call; will anyone answer you? To which of the holy ones will you turn?” Clearly, the expected answer is God, but jump down 23 verses and the adne ha-sadeh is added to the list, right after stones. Ok, coming after rocks isn’t super confidence inspiring, but it’s pretty awesome that wild vegetable people made the list at all. (9)
So how did the adne ha-sadeh earn this stature? By attacking pre-Exodus Egyptians during the 10 plagues! Exodus 8:17 describes God warning that wild animals will attack if the Hebrews are not released. But read the wording carefully (as Jewish sages and Jewish monster hunters do):
For if you do not send out My people, behold, I will send against you and your servants, and your nation, and your houses, swarms of wild animals. The houses of Egypt will be full of the wild animals, and so too the ground upon which they stand.Exodus 8:17 Metsudah Chumash translation (10)
The common understanding of “the ground upon which they stand” is that it means the same thing as “the houses of Egypt”, i.e. an Egyptian will be attacked anywhere he or she goes. The Vilna Gaon, though, disagrees (11). He explains that phrase “and so too the ground upon which they stand” refers to adne ha-sadeh, who are anchored to the ground (12). Can you imagine being an Egyptian, walking outside your home only to find your gourd patch standing up on two feet and ready to fight? Now imagine this on a national scale. Yikes!
MONSTER HUNTER PRO TIPS
1. Adne ha-sadeh are not a threat outside their tethered range and should generally be avoided. But, if necessary, cutting its vine is always fatal. And delicious.
2. Adne ha-sadeh are tough fighters and good allies. Cultivating a community of adne ha-sadeh in wilds outside your community can be a prudent defensive move.
3. Protecting your local adne ha-sadeh populations from poaching will limit necromantic activity in your area.
While adne ha-sadeh are given respect for their service, they are also under threat. Loss of habitat and encroaching civilization is taking their toll, as with all wildlife. The adne ha-sadeh, though, has two additional challenges. First, they are considered a bit of a delicacy. There are multiple stories in the Jewish tradition of people being rather surprised to be served something that looks a bit cannibalistic but is actually a vegetable. For example, the Ma’aseh Book, a 15th century collection of instructional stories and tales, tells of a rabbi named Meir who was sent from Germany to Spain to visit and question a potentially heretical Rabbi Moses Maimuni (13). R. Meir visited R. Moses three times. On the second visit, he was served a surprising meal.
Then [R. Meir] went to R. Moses door and again knocked on his door, for it was getting dark. He was admitted at once, as it was time for the evening meal. The servant brought food to the table, which looked like human hands. R. Meir refused to touch it, saying that he felt unwell…Ma’aseh Book 215 (14)
On the third visit R. Moses explained that the hands were just vegetables (i.e. adne ha-sadeh) and quite delicious. R. Moses was making a point about something important, but whatever the point was….R. Meir didn’t quite get it. He was still getting over being served what looked like human hands on a plate. He confirmed to his community, though, that R. Moses was not a heretic.
The second major threat to adne ha-sadeh is poaching. Like the rhino, which is poached just for its horn, certain adne ha-sadeh bones are valuable because it is believed that they can be used in divination (foretelling the future) and necromancy (speaking to the dead) (6). The Torah is very strict about banning both. Leviticus 19:31, for example, addresses necromancy. The Sefer HaChinukh, and other sources, make the connection to the adne ha-sadeh. (6)
Do not turn to ghosts and do not inquire of familiar spirits, to be defiled by them: I the LORD am your God.Leviticus 19:31 (15)
And this matter is that the sorcerer puts a bone from an animal, the name of which is yidoaa (i.e. adne ha-sadeh), into his mouth, and that bone speaks through magic.Sefer HaChinukh 514:1 (6)
Because of this, protecting the adne ha-sadeh is a great way to make sure that necromancers are missing key ingredients that they need to do their nastiness. It’s actually a shame about this association. Other Jewish sources, such as the Mishnah Torah, assert that necromancers use bird bones (16). It’s not clear if there are two different necromantic practices or if the adne ha-sadeh has been unfortunately mis-identified as an ingredient. But either way, they are in high demand.
Notes and References
(1) I’ve run across the idea that the Adne ha-Sadeh is older than Adam in a number of secondary sources, but haven’t found a primary Jewish source yet. Howard Schwartz, in Tree of Souls, points to Midrash Tanhuma, but I haven’t found the specific passage yet. Midrash Tanhuma: https://www.sefaria.org/Midrash_Tanchuma?lang=en Tree of Souls: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/tree-of-souls-9780195327137?cc=us&lang=en&
(2) After all, Noah did not need to take the seeds of all plants with him on the ark.
(3) My art is pretty poor, but I couldn’t find anything copyright friendly and I’d rather not swipe artists’ work. Someday I’m going to commission a friendly artist to do some real work. I can dream. For a fun rendering see The Book of Creatures https://abookofcreatures.com/2016/01/18/yedua/. For a more “I’m about to eat your face off” version, see https://imgur.com/gallery/RCUk1
(4) The adne ha-sedah is referred to as yadua in Siftei Chakhamim (on Leviticus 19:31) https://www.sefaria.org/Siftei_Chakhamim%2C_Leviticus.19.31?ven=Sifsei_Chachomim_Chumash,_Metsudah_Publications,_2009&lang=bi
(5) The adne ha-sedah is referred to as yidaaoni in Sefer HaChinukh 514.1 https://www.sefaria.org/Sefer_HaChinukh.514.1?lang=en&with=all&lang2=en
(6) This is the Sefer HaChinukh description (see 5, above). The Sefer ha-Hinukh (Book of Education), was published anonymously in 13th century Spain. It discusses the 613 commandments of the Torah, as enumerated previously by Maimonides.
(7) Midrah Kilayim talks about wild animals, including the adne ha-sadeh, and how to deal with the ritual impurities that come from interacting with them. https://www.sefaria.org/Mishnah_Kilayim.8.5?lang=en
(8) Job 23. I’m referencing the Chabad website, because they offer the Rashi commentary inline. Make sure you hit the “show Rashi’s commentary” button https://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16407/showrashi/true/jewish/Chapter-5.htm
(9) We’ll talk about our treaty with the stones of the field in an upcoming post when we talk about golems.
(10) Metsudah Chumash https://www.sefaria.org/Exodus.8.17?ven=Metsudah_Chumash,_Metsudah_Publications,_2009&lang=en&aliyot=0
(11) The Vilna Gaon is Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman, April 23, 1720 – Vilnius October 9, 1797. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vilna_Gaon
(12) Natan Slifkin describes the Vilna Goan’s linking of adne ha-sadeh to the plague of wild animals in his book “Sacred Monsters” but doesn’t provide his source. https://www.biblicalnaturalhistory.org/product/sacred-monsters/
(13) Nope. He wasn’t heretical. R. Moses is also known as Maimonides or the RAMBAM, one of the great sages.
(14) Ma’aseh Book. Gaster translation. https://www.amazon.com/MaAseh-Book-Jewish-Tales-Legends/dp/0827601891
(15) Leviticus. Tanakh: The Holy Scriptures. Jewish Publication Society translation. https://www.sefaria.org/Leviticus.19.31?lang=en&with=Halakhah&lang2=en