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Pardes (legend)

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Pardes (Hebrew: פרדס orchard) is the subject of a Jewish aggadah ("legend") about four rabbis of the Mishnaic period (first century CE) who visited the Orchard (that is, Paradise):

Four men entered pardesBen Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher (Elisha ben Abuyah)[1], and Akiba. Ben Azzai looked and died; Ben Zoma looked and went mad; Acher destroyed the plants; Akiba entered in peace and departed in peace.[2]

The Tosafot, medieval commentaries on the Talmud, say that the four sages "did not go up literally, but it appeared to them as if they went up."[3] On the other hand, Rabbi Louis Ginzberg, writes in the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901-1906) that the journey to paradise "is to be taken literally and not allegorically".[4]

Etymology

The Hebrew word pardes itself is of Persian origin. Persian is also the source of the English word paradise, which entered English via Latin and Greek.

References

  1. Later, Elisha came to be considered heretical by his fellow Tannaim and the rabbis of the Talmud referred to him as Acher (אחר"The Other One").
  2. Babylonian Talmud Hagigah 14b, Jerusalem Talmud Hagigah 2:1. Both available online in Aramaic: Babylonian Talmud, Jerusalem Talmud. This translation based on Braude, Ginzberg, Rodkinson, and Streane.
  3. A. W. Streane, A Translation of the Treatise Chagigah from the Babylonian Talmud (Cambridge University Press, 1891). p. 83.
  4. Louis Ginzberg, "Elisha ben Abuyah", Jewish Encyclopedia, 1901-1906.


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