Orach Chayim Index | Pardes


Levels of Meaning in Holy Scripture PaRDeS


The fourfold method of textual interpretation [hermeneutics] in Judaism is implicit in the Mishnah, the Baraitot [the external tractates] and the Talmud. The four levels of interpretation are:


  • Peshat = Literal meaning; the contextual, philological level
  • Remez = Allegorical meaning; cross-reference to other texts; rational or philosophical level
  • Derash = Moral or homiletic meaning; aggadic level; midrashic [= interpretation via derash] level
  • Sod = Mystical or anagogic meaning


The initial letters of these four words form the acronym 'PaRDeS' = garden or walled garden or through the wonders of transliterative translation, Paradise. The wall around the garden is what Kabbalists have referred to as the 'malbush' or 'garments' of the text, almost always in reference to the Torah. These four levels of meaning are directly linked to the four universes of creation, the so-called ABYA:
  • Peshat, the literal meaning, is related to the World of Assiah, the World of Actions, in which we live.
  • Remez, the allegorical meaning, is related to the World of Yetzirah, the World of Formation, the angelic realm.
  • Derash, the moral or homiletic meaning, is related to the World of Briah, the World of Creation, the archangelic realm.
  • Sod, the mystical meaning, is related to the World of Atzilut, the World of Archetypes or Emanations, the realm of the Divine Names.