Posts Tagged ‘pardes’

When is the ‘hidden meaning’ of the scriptures taken too far?

This Jewish method gets its name from the first letter of each ‘level of interpretation’. The Jewish Encyclopaedia notes that the “Christian mode of exegesis (which was well known to the Spanish Jews) probably served as a model; in this the fourfold sense (historical or literal, tropological or moral, allegorical, and anagogical) had long since been formulated”.

Peshat (פְּשָׁט) — “plain” (“simple”) or the direct meaning[1].
Remez (רֶמֶז) — “hints” or the deep (allegoric: hidden or symbolic) meaning beyond just the literal sense.
Derash (דְּרַשׁ) — from Hebrew darash: “inquire” (“seek”) — the comparative (midrashic) meaning, as given through similar occurrences.
Sod (סוֹד) (pronounced with a long O as in ‘bone’) — “secret” (“mystery”) or the mystical meaning, as given through inspiration or revelation.

Each type of Pardes interpretation examines the extended meaning of a text. As a general rule, the extended meaning never contradicts the base meaning. The Peshat means the plain or contextual meaning of the text. Remez is the allegorical meaning. Derash includes the metaphorical meaning, and Sod represents the hidden meaning. There is often considerable overlap, for example when legal understandings of a verse are influenced by mystical interpretations or when a “hint” is determined by comparing a word with other instances of the same word.

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