Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Preparation for Pardes


This lovely blog is now going to discuss the concept of Pardes. Pardes is an acronym which refers to four layers of Biblical exegesis and/or hermeneutics. I foolishly thought that I could briefly discuss this idea in a CAT. I have now realized that it will take me a number of posts to do a modicum of justice to the idea of Pardes.

I started doing some research for this post, in order to provide my reader (no, that is not a typo) with a clear and accurate description of the Kabbalistic explanation of Pardes. Thus, I turned to everyone’s favorite research team: Google and the Internet. Well, shiver me timbers there’s a lot of different kinds o’ definitions of Pardes out there.

Adventures in Internet Research

First I found a nice website decorated with Jewish stars. The site discussed examples of using the hermeneutics of Pardes to explain pesukim. However, occasional references to the Christian Bible began to make me suspect that this site was not 100% Glatt Kosher. As I read on a little more, I was informed that Jesus could solve all of my problems. I suddenly realized that I was on a Jews for Jesus website. After a short yelp, I returned to the Google search page to try and avoid repeating this research mistake.

Next I found a nice book written by Prof. Michael Fishbane (Faculty of the University of Chicago) called The Garments of Torah - Essays in Biblical Hermeneutics. Lo and behold - there was a preview of the book on Google Books. (Google Book tangent - if you do not have a Google account, then you are missing out on a great Internet resource. Google books has thousand of books that can be read online, and they are even searchable!) Unfortunately, despite the fact that the title was in English - the book was actually written in an obscure incomprehensible dialect of English called: Academese. I like to think that I have an above average vocabulary, but each sentence had at least 4 or 5 words that needed a dictionary! Can someone please tell me what an organon is? (Even Microsoft Word thinks that the word is misspelled) Clearly this book was not going to help give me a clear definition of Pardes. I am sharing these Internet adventures with you so that you have been warned about the difficulties of doing Internet research about Pardes.

An Admission and a Disclaimer

All of this is to say that as I begin to talk about Kabbalah and Pardes, I am forced to admit that I may not know what I am talking about. I am reminded of an episode that happened to me, when I was in college at University of Chicago. I took a course about Philosophies of Religion. In the first class the Professor began talking about Kant and Hegel, and then said: “Every time that I talk about Kant and Hegel, I have the distinct feeling that I have no idea what I am talking about.” Now we are ready to begin discussing Pardes, but don’t claim that you were not forewarned.

Photo Credit © Michael Jastremski for openphoto.net CC:Attribution-ShareAlike


  1. Organon? Sure! Umm, maybe I'll look it up on Google. Type "define" and the word, and voila:

    Definitions of organon on the Web:

    * a system of principles for philosophic or scientific investigations; an instrument for acquiring knowledge

    * The Organon is the name given by Aristotle's followers, the Peripatetics, to the standard collection of his six works on logic. The works are Categories, Prior Analytics, De Interpretatione, Posterior Analytics, Sophistical Refutations, and Topics.

    * A set of principles that are used in science or philosophy; The name given by Aristotle's followers to his six works on logic

    * The Organon of Medicine, by Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy. This book describes the principles and practice of homeopathy. ...

  2. I never actually doubted that it was a word. But if MS Word thinks that organon is misspelled, then I think that it should only be used with great delicacy and deliberation.