These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

PARDES-Orchard of Interpretation

Posted on October 26, 2009 by dbrill

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So when I came to Pardes, I wanted to know what the word itself actually meant. I googled it and found that Pardes literally translates as “orchard.” Huh?  Now I know this is a nice image but what does it have to do with studying Torah? Apparently quite a lot.

Text study in general can seem a bit chaotic at times. From Tanakh to Gemara to Midrashim, there’s plenty to learn and much to be confused about. Sometimes you can see G-d in every last detail, and other times you’re falling down the rabbit hole. This complex and beautiful process of discovering G-d in the body of Jewish text is illustrated with the midrashic metaphor of entering Pardes, the orchard of knowledge. It can be a scary place inside Pardes, but luckily, we have some tools at our disposal.

Pardes also stands for PaRDeS. No I did not just spaz out on my keyboard. Let me break it down for you. The P is for Peshat or the contextual meaning. Our teacher DLK used the example: “Hannah walked her dog”. The peshat is literally Hannah walking her dog. The R is for Remez which is ‘hints’ or the allegorical meaning i.e. Hannah likes walking her dog because its fun and brings her joy. The D is for Drash (midrash) which is the metaphorical interpretation. Hannah’s walking her dog represents the struggle for balance in our lives between structure and fun. Finally S is for Sod which means ‘secrets’. These are the deep mystical truths behind each passage. Hannah walking her dog illustrates the harmony of love and chaos which can repair damage in the fabric of the universe and return us to the essence of Creation. So we use PaRDeS to navigate through the orchard of truth. And our terrific teachers guide us through this journey so we leave with knowledge and clarity and more questions as well.

Daniel Brill