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
World of Actions, in which we live.
- Remez, the allegorical meaning, is related to the World of
the World of Formation, the angelic realm.
- Derash, the moral or homiletic meaning, is related to the World
the World of Creation, the archangelic realm.
- Sod, the mystical meaning, is related to the World of
the World of Archetypes or Emanations, the realm of the Divine Names.