Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Pardes is a Hebrew word which is generally translated as garden, or orchard. However, Pardes is also an acronym which has a specific meaning in the area of Parshanut (exegesis). It refers to the idea that a pasuk can be explained on four different and distinct levels. Here is a general overview of these four levels of meaning:

·         Pshat - Literal Meaning

·         Remez - Hinted Mystical Meaning

·         Drash - Midrashic (Homiletical) Meaning

·         Sod - Secret (Mystical) Meaning

Kabbalists generally change the order Remez and Drash, and thus Pardes becomes Padres. (Not to be confused with a baseball team that is located in southern California.) The Parshanut moves from the most literal explanation of a pasuk, to a mystical secret (like tzimzum) which is almost completely divorced from the meaning of the pasuk. An oversimplification of the Padres model of parshanut is that a pasuk can be analyzed in four ways:

·         Pshat - What the pasuk actually says or means.

·         Drash - A moral lesson that can be learned from a single pasuk or a group of pesukim.

·         Remez - A mystical lesson that can be learned from the Gematria of a single word or a group of words.

·         Sod - A mystical concept that is based on one word, or even one letter.

As we continue to explore the concept of Padres in future posts, there will be a number of examples of the parshanut of Padres in action.

Photo Credit © Adrian van Leen for CC:PublicDomain


  1. What is the story with the four Rabbinical student walking into the Pardes? What are we to learn from it?

  2. What is the story of the 4 who went into Pardes and what are we to learn from it?
    Naomi H. Rosenblatt

  3. The famous aggadata that Naomi mentions can be found in Massechet Chagiga 14b. It is impossible to give a definitive answer to what we should learn from the ארבע נכנס לפרדס "story". Is it a historical story, or is it an allegory? (BTW - they were full fledged Rabbis, not students.) The easiest answer is that these are four different consequences of studying too much Kabbalah and esoteric knowledge. Only R. Akiva was able to study the material "unharmed".
    I certainly think that this aggadata is worthy on analysis in future blog posts.