Pardes (פרדס) is the Hebrew word for Paradise. In addition, early rabbinic tradition uses the word as an acronym of the four ways of interpreting scripture. These four ways are:

  1. Peshat (פשט) — the simple or superficial understanding of the text.
  2. Remez (רמז) — making connexions between this text and others that explicate its meaning.
  3. Derash (דרש) — the binding interpretation of the text: what I must do to fulfil this commandment.
  4. Sôd (סוד) — the mystical interpretation of the text.

To read a biblical text and understand it at these four levels is considered to be the hermeneutical equivalent to walking in the most beautiful of gardens, even Paradise itself.

I wonder how many there are who read the scripture and stop at the peshat meaning of text. Perhaps pardes is the way out of textual fundamentalism in religion.

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