Brian Levitan wrote:
Could you please give a simple explanation with examples, of the levels of textual interpretation, referred to as PARDES. ( Pshat, Remez, Drush, Sod.)
Dear Brian Levitan,
Let's take the first verse of the Torah as our example:
1. Pshat - simplest meaning, based on the text and context. Rashi explains that pshat of the verse as follows: "In the beginning of God's creation of the heaven and the earth, the earth was desolate and void." This is based on a linguistic analysis of the word "Bereshit," which does not mean "In the beginning", but "In the beginning of..."
2. Remez - "hint." The Gaon of Vilna taught that all commands of the Torah are hinted at in the first word of the Torah. For instance, Pidyon Haben - redemption of the first-born - is alluded to by an acronym of the letters of Bereshit, which spell "ben rishon acharei shloshim yom tifdeh" - the first son you shall redeem after thirty days.
3. Drush - contextual and non-contextual, moral and philosophical explanations. Rashi states that there is a philosophical idea alluded to in the word "Bereshit." The world was created for the sake of Torah which is called "reshit," and for the Jewish people who are also referred to as "reshit." Both are "firsts" in terms of their centrality in the purpose of Creation.
4. Sod - hidden or secret meaning. Mishna: "The world was created with ten statements." Gemara: "But when you count them there are only nine statements! Bereshit (In the beginning) is also a statement." The statement of "Bereshit" was the creation of time, which is a dimension of the physical world. One of the names of G-d is "Hamakom" - "The Place" - as the Midrash explains that "He is the place of the world, the world is not His place." This concept is based on the idea that the physical world would not exist if not for G-d willing it to exist at every moment. Therefore G-d is the "Place" of the world, meaning the framework of reality in which everything exists, and He provides the possibility of existence to all of Creation. The dimension of Time and the laws of nature were created during the six days of Creation. The Sforno, The Gaon of Vilna, the Maharal, and Maimonides, all basing themselves on the Talmud, state that the hidden meaning of the word "In the Beginning" - Bereshit - is the creation of what we today call "the space-time continuum."
- Ethics of the Fathers 5:1; Babylonian Talmud Tractate Megillah 21b
- Gaon of Vilna in Aderet Eliyahu, Bereshit 1:1; Maharal of Prague
- Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin, Nefesh Hachaim
- Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed 2:30 (13th Century)