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