Jewish Method of Study

I. Introduction

In this study I would like to examine one of the Jewish methods for Torah (Bible) interpretation. The Sages indicate that there are seventy levels of Torah interpretation which are built according to the acronym: PaRDeS. Another way of referring to the levels of PaRDeS is as the Seventy Faces of Torah[1]. The concept of a face is something that reveals on the outside that which is hidden on the inside. The number seventy is called the number of wisdom.

פרדס – PaRDeS is the Hebrew word for orchard. Pardes is actually a roshei teivot (literally, “heads of words”), an acronym for the words:

פשאת

Pshat » simple understanding

רמס

Remez » hinted meaning

דרש

Drush » allegorical explanation

סוד

Sod » esoteric understanding

To understand the concept of PaRDeS in this world, HaShem gave us a picture by way of His Temple. The Holy of Holies in the Temple was separated from the rest of the Sanctuary by a curtain. The walls of the Sanctuary building separated it from the rest of the TempleMount. The Temple Mount was separated from the rest of the holy city of Jerusalem by the kotel – the wall surrounding it on all sides. Jerusalem was separated from the rest of the country by its enveloping city walls. Thus, to reach the Holy of Holies, one had to enter the city gates; gain access to the Temple courtyard; have the right of entry into the Sanctuary and be the most privileged of privileged to pass beyond the curtain before the Holy of Holies.

פ – PSHAT – “simple” the plain meaning of (e.g.) a Torah passage. Rashi’s commentary was written at this level. Pshat is not the literal meaning of a verse but the accepted traditional interpretation to the literal meaning of the verse. For example, when the Torah says ‘an eye for an eye’, the Pshat is monetary compensation and not the literal ‘eye for an eye’

Peshat of the Torah text is akin to entering through the city gates of Jerusalem.

Pshat is the 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…”

ר – REMEZ – “hint” the interpretation of Scripture at the level of allusive implication. Gematria is a form of remez. Many of the explanations in the Talmud are based on rather obvious hints in the Torah such as extra words, extra letters, missing letters, missing words, big letters, little letters, and the spacing between words and letters.

Remez of the Torah text is comparable to gaining access to the Temple Mount.

Remez is the “hint.” The Gaon of Vilna[2] 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.

One of the paths of Remez is that of Gematria, the search for meaning by evaluating the numerical equivalents of Hebrew words and verses by using the number values of the letters of the Aleph Bet (Aleph = 1, Bet = 2, …etc.).[3]

ד – DERASH – “search” the non-literal, homiletic interpretation of Torah (moralistic meaning), as in the Midrash, or Talmudic, aggadot. This level of understanding is based on a detailed logical analysis of Talmudic rules of logic. “The word ‘derash’ means ‘investigation,’ implying a level understanding arrived at only after one has delved beyond the black and white letters and words. This is an exegetical level of understanding. There are two types:

Through derash of the Torah text we find ourselves within the holy Sanctuary.

Drash is the 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.

1. Midrash Halacha – Scriptural sources for Jewish Laws.

2. Midrash Aggada – blend of history, parables, and poetry.

ס – SOD – “secret“ is the Kabbalistic or mystical, super rational dimension illuminated by the teachings of the Kaballah. Normally, the mystical understandings are studied at night.

Only the privileged of privileged may possess sod of the Torah text and the key to the Holy of Holies itself.

Sod is the hidden or secret meaning. Mishna: “The world was created with ten statements.” Gemara[4]: “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 HaShem 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 HaShem willing it to exist at every moment. Therefore HaShem 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 lawsof nature were created during the six days of Creation. The Sforno, The Gaon of Vilna[5], the Maharal, and Maimonides,[6] all basing themselves on the Talmud, state that the hidden meaning of the word “In the Beginning” – בראשת – Bereshit – is the creation of what we today call “the space-time continuum.”

“The apprehension begins from the hidden Torah, and only afterwards does one apprehend the remaining portions of the Torah, and only in the end does one apprehend the revealed Torah.”[7].

The Vilna Gaon said something odd regarding the sod level. How can it be that I start with the secret level in order to understand the straightforward level?

In order to answer this question, we first need to better understand what we mean here when we use the term pshat, and the term sod (secret), with regard to the Torah. It can be understood by using an analogy. When I see two people talking together, there are two conditions necessary for what they are speaking about to be considered as a secret (sod) from me firstly, that I don’t hear or understand what they are saying, and secondly, the I feel that they are talking about me, or something which is pertinent to me. The first condition is obviously needed if I heard and understood what they were saying, it would not be hidden from me, and thus not a sod to me. The second condition is necessary because when we talk about the hidden part of the Torah, its secrets, we are referring only to that which the Torah talks about which is relevant to us. And, thus we have a solution to this problem

When is the Torah hidden from us? When we don’t know how it relates, and is relevant to us. Thus, when we first see the Torah, it seems to be a number of nice stories, along with commandments and guidance for our behavior. But we don’t see how it is relevant to us. So, while we may read it, we don’t really “hear” it. When we come to the realization, in any particular portion, or the Torah as a whole, that we don’t see how the Torah is talking about us, then we have apprehended the “Hidden Torah”. Now when this realization causes a person to feel truly what he is missing, so he acquires a lack, a deficiency, or a need and he is able to make a true prayer to HaShem to help him to fill this lack and longing that he feels. When HaShem answers his prayer, and he apprehends and realizes how the Torah is talking specifically about him, then he has apprehended the pshat (revealed) aspect of the Torah.

Thus, there is no difficulty with what the Gr”a says that the apprehension of the Torah begins with “sod” and ends with “pshat”.

Without the Sod level, the simple meaning is incomplete and, if it is represented as the whole and complete meaning, then it is in error.

The following is the only reference to Pardes, orchard (and the source of the word “Paradise”), at least in this sense, in the Talmud. Though it is not explained here, from the results we can see that it means something special:

Chagigah 14b The rabbis taught: Four entered Pardes: Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher, and Rebi Akiva. Rebi Akiva told them, “When you arrive at the Stones of Pure Marble, don’t say, ‘Water, water,’ because it says, ‘He who speaks falsehood will not be established before My eyes’ (Tehillim 101:7).” Ben Azzai gazed at the Divine Presence and died, and with respect to him it says, “Difficult in the eyes of God is the death of His pious ones” (Tehillim 116:15). Ben Zoma gazed and went mad, to him the following verse may be applied: “Have you found honey? Eat as much as is sufficient for you, so that you do not consume too much and have to vomit it . . .” (Mishlei 25:16). Acher “cut off his plantings” (i.e., he became a heretic). Rebi Akiva entered in peace and departed in peace.

It says in the Zohar[8] further regarding the four who entered Pardes, that it had been their intention to rectify the sin of Adam HaRishon, to meditate and ascend from level to level until the Torah of Atzilut at the root of all positive and pegative mitzvot.

Secrets within Secrets

As is widely known, there are four levels of Scriptural interpretation – pshat, remez, Derash and sod. The following teaching regarding these four levels has been passed down to us by the Chassidim, the pious ones, of an earlier generation in the name of the Tzemach Tzedek:

“Each of the four levels of interpretation incorporates all of the other levels.

Within the level of sod, for example, there is the pshat within sod, the remez within sod, the Derash within sod, and the sod within sod.

The pshat within sod was revealed by Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

The remez within sod was revealed by the Arizal.

The Derash within sod was revealed by the Baal Shem Tov.

The sod within sod will be revealed by Mashiach.”

When we labor in the study of Torah it is like a man who labors in an orchard (PaRDeS):

Midrash Rabbah – Bereshit (Genesis) IX:9 9. R. Ze’ira said: BEHOLD, IT WAS VERY GOOD refers to Paradise; AND BEHOLD, IT WAS VERY GOOD, to Gehenna. Is then the Gehenna very good? How remarkable! This, however, may be compared to a king who had an orchard, into which he brought workers. He built a treasure house by its entrance and said: ‘Whoever will labour conscientiously in the work of the orchard may enter the treasure house, but he who will not show himself worthy in the work of the orchard may not enter the treasure house.’ Thus for him who treasures up religious acts and good deeds, behold there is Paradise; while for him who does not lay up religious acts and good deeds, behold there is Gehenna.

Midrash Rabbah – Shemot (Exodus) II:2 R. Jannai said: Although His Presence is in heaven, yet ‘His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men’. God was here like a King who had an orchard, wherein he built a tall tower and commanded that workmen should be engaged to do his work there. The King said that the one who was proficient in his work would receive full reward, but one who was indolent in his work would be handed over to the Governments.[9] This King is the King of kings, and the orchard is the world in which God has placed Israel to keep the Torah; He also stipulated with them that he who keeps the Torah has the entry to Paradise, but he who does not keep it is faced with Gehinnom. Thus with God; though He seems to have removed His Presence from the Temple, yet ‘His eyes behold, His eyelids try, the children of men’. And whom does He try? The righteous, as it says: The Lord trieth the righteous (ib. 5). By what does He try him? By tending flocks. He tried David through sheep and found him to be a good shepherd, as it is said: He chose David also His servant and took him from the sheepfolds (ib. LXXVII, 70). Why ‘from the sheepfolds’, when the word is the same as and the rain… was restrained? (Gen. VIII, 2). Because he used to stop the bigger sheep

This next section is an editited portion originally written by Rabbi Pinchas Winston.

Another way of looking at these four levels is as layers, concentric spheres that overlap each other like layers of an onion. Pshat represents the most outer, obvious layer while sod represents the most hidden, inner, and essential layer. In fact, sod, being the most inner layer is said to be enclothed by drush, which is enclothed by remez, all of which are enclothed by the most outer layer, pshat.

For example, the first word of the Torah is “Bereshit”, which is generally translated as, “in the beginning”. This is the simplest explanation of this word, and therefore it is the pshat of this word.

However, as Rashi points out, the form of the word is actually grammatically incorrect. If one wants to say, “in the beginning,” he should instead write, “b’rishonah.” Now, since Torah is the word of God, dictated to Moshe Rabbeinu letter-by-letter, word-by-word, and therefore perfect, the fact that this word was not spelled grammatically correct, Rashi explains, HINTS to a deeper level of meaning for this first word of the Torah.

Thus, Rashi explains, the word “Bereshit” can actually be read as two words: “reshit” with the letter “bait”. Thus, on the level of remez, the first word of the Torah no longer only means “in the beginning,” but can also translate as, “for reshit,” which, as Rashi proves, is an allusion to Torah and the Jewish people. On this level of explanation, the posuk would read:

For the sake of Torah and the Jewish people, God made heaven and earth.

However, beyond this, there is nothing more unusual about the word to suggest to the physical eye even deeper layers of understanding. To go beyond the level of pshat and remez is a matter for the mind’s eye, and usually a function of a known tradition passed down fromgeneration to generation. This is the level of drush.

Continuing with our example, we know from the Torah that the world was created in six days, and that all the matter for the six days of creation came into being, at least in potential, the moment God said, “Bereshit”. And, not just for the six days of creation, but for the six millennia that followed as well, like a script that is written and completed in advance of the play. The question is, is there an allusion to this idea in the word itself?

The answer emerges when the word “Bereshit” is once again divided into two parts, but this time between the first three and the last three letters of the word. This yields two smaller word: “bara” and “shit”, which mean, “He created six,” “shit” being the Aramaic form of the word, “shaish,” which means “six.”

Thus, exegetically, the first word of the Torah reveals a very important philosophical fact: when God made the world ex nihilo on day one of creation, He created the potential for anything and everything that would ever exist in creation at that first moment. Nothing, in history, therefore, can ever be considered random.

What about the level of sod? What Kabbalistic teaching emerges from the word bereshit that reveals to us a secret about creation?

On this level of explanation, the word bereshit is once again divided into two as on the level of drush. However, this time the word “shit” alludes not only to the six days of creation and the subsequent six millennia, but also to the six sefirot of Chesed through Yesod, spiritual emanations into which God encoded the script for 6000 years of history:

. . . This is why so much time must transpire from the time of creation until the time of the tikun (i.e., Mashiach’s coming): all the forces of Gevurot are rooted in the six sefirot — Chesed, Gevurah, Tifferet, Netzach, Hod, Yesod — which are the six days of creation, and also the six thousand years of history that the world will exist. And within them (the six Sefirot) are the roots of all that will happen from the six days of creation until the Final Rectification[10].

The significance of this information may not be obvious to one unfamiliar with the Sefirot. However, for our purposes, it is enough to know that within one word, there are four layers of meaning, each one true, but each one more specific and revealing than the previous one. And, even though one level may allude to a deeper level of explanation than itself, that deeper level is only revealed once the “clothing” of the previous level has been “removed,” which is necessary if one wants to get to the essence of an idea.

II. Mashiach In Torah

Our Mashiach, His Majesty King Yeshua, indicated that the scriptures speak of Him. He performed a crucial Messianic role when He opened the scriptures to reveal Himself in them:

Luqas (Luke) 24:18-27 One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Yeshua of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning But didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Mashiach have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Yochanan (John) 5:36-40 “I have testimony weightier than that of Yochanan (John). For the very work that the Father has given me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent me. And the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form, Nor does his word dwell in you, for you do not believe the one he sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, Yet you refuse to come to me to have life.

It seems clear: If you can’t see that every scripture speaks about His Majesty King Yeshua, our Mashiach, then we have failed to grasp the message of scripture. Every letter, every space, every crown, every word, and every verse tells the story of Mashiach. If we don’t see this, then we have not studied the scriptures.

This study will begin to look at the ways that Torah testifies about His Majesty, King Yeshua, the Mashiach ben Yoseph.

III. PaRDeS in the Nazarean Codicil

There is some evidence to suggest that the first four books of the Nazarean Codicil are formulated according to the four PaRDeS interpretations:

Peshat Marcus / Marqos (Mark)

Remez Luqas / Luqas (Luke) and II Luqas (Acts)

Derash Matityahu / Matityahu (Matthew)

Sod Yochanan / Yochanan (John) and The Revelation

It should not be surprising to discover that the Nazarean Codicil would follow the Jewish way of interpretation. After all, His Majesty, King Yeshua was Jewish. All of the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles were all Jewish. It stands to reason that they would write according to the Jewish style of HaShem.

Psalm 2:1-8 is a mission statement for Mashiach along with Romans 9, 10, 11:

Tehillim (Psalms) 2:1-8 Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against HaShem and against his Anointed One. “Let us break their chains,” they say, “and throw off their fetters.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will proclaim the decree of HaShem: He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.

IV. Hidden Things

The fascinating data which is concealed in the various levels of Torah study is often alluded to in Scriptures. In this section we will examine some of the references

Israel to be used for signs and symbols

Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 8:18-19 Here am I, and the children HaShem has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from HaShem Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion. When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 28:45-47 All these curses will come upon you. They will pursue you and overtake you until you are destroyed, because you did not obey HaShem your God and observe the commands and decrees he gave you. They will be a sign and a wonder to you and your descendants forever. Because you did not serve HaShem your God joyfully and gladly in the time of prosperity,

Some signs will be sealed till the time of the end:

Daniel 12:4 But you, Daniel, close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”

The sign of Jonah

Matityahu (Matthew) 12:39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.

Luqas (Luke) 11:29 As the crowds increased, Yeshua said, “This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.

The sign of Mashiach’s coming and the end of the age:

Matityahu (Matthew) 24:3 As Yeshua was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”

The Pharisees ask for a sign:

Marqos (Mark) 8:11-13 The Pharisees came and began to question Yeshua. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.” Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.

The Child sign:

Luqas (Luke) 2:12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Sign from heaven:

Luqas (Luke) 11:16 Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

Jews ask for a sign:

Yochanan (John) 2:18 Then the Jews demanded of him, “What miraculous sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

The crowd seeks a sign:

Yochanan (John) 6:30 So they asked him, “What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do?

Hidden things revealed:

Matityahu (Matthew) 11:25 At that time Yeshua said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.

Luqas (Luke) 10:21 At that time Yeshua, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.

Things hidden since creation:

Matityahu (Matthew) 13:35 So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”

Tehillim (Psalms) 78:2 I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter hidden things, things from of old–

Romans 16:25-27 Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Yeshua Mashiach, according to the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, But now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him– To the only wise God be glory forever through Yeshua Mashiach! Amen.

Hidden things fulfilled:

Luqas (Luke) 18:31-34 Yeshua took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

Blinded unbelievers:

II Corinthians 4:2-4 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Mashiach, who is the image of God.

The secret things of God:

1 Corinthians 4:1 So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Mashiach and as those entrusted with the secret things of God.

1 Corinthians 2:6-8 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

Milk vs. Solid food:

1 Corinthians 3:1-2 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Mashiach. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

Mystery made known:

Ephesians 1:9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Mashiach,

Ephesians 3:9 And to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.

Colossians 1:26-27 The mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Mashiach in you, the hope of glory.

Colossians 2:1-3 I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Mashiach, In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

The hidden manna:

Revelation 2:17 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

In the Nazarean Codicil we find further allusion to the hidden things when Mashiach said the following:

Matityahu (Matthew) 8:4 Then Yeshua said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

Mashiach commanded others, many times, not to reveal some information. He also clearly revealed that some information was not for everyone:

Matityahu (Matthew) 8:4, Matityahu 9:30, Matityahu 11:25, Matityahu 12:16, Matityahu 13:11, Matityahu 16:20, Matityahu 17:9, Marqos (Mark) 1:44, Marqos 5:43, Marqos 7:36, Marqos 8:30, Marqos 9:9, Luqas (Luke) 5:14, Luqas 8:10, Luqas 8:56, Luqas 9:21, Luqas (Luke) 10:21, II Luqas (Acts) 23:22

V. Some Rules Used to Find Remez

Remez is a method of textual interpretation long used by Jewish students. The student’s mind is set in the mode of “search”. He needs to look for “…a hint, a symbol, or something hidden” in a specific word or passage, that is connective in types. Does a word or phrase really have a second meaning different from it’s literal meaning? The following rules are some that the reader will draw on as he searches and finds remez:

1. Look to Israel as the signs and symbols. Yeshayahu (Isaiah) 8:18; Devarim (Deuteronomy) 28:46. Such functions as history, holy days, Temple construction, objects, and the like.

2. Look for a redeemer (Mashiach) as well as anti-Mashiach types.

3. Examine numbers as symbols to convey more information.

4. Examine words used as metaphors, e.g., bread as Bread of Life, water as Living Water.

5. Determine the Hebrew meaning of
3

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