In this life, what do you consider to be the most precious thing we can receive from our Creator? Many believe it is His Word, the Bible, or His Torah, His instructions, depending on your choice of descriptive words. For the believer in Mashiach, we receive this Word or logos in Greek as a spiritual impartation, changing our fallen nature into something higher and eternal via the new birth. We also believe we gain entrance to this world of truth via the Ruach or Holy Spirit. For many this settles the matter. But I would that life were so simple. Upon digging deeper into the roots and growths of this “truth”, it becomes readily apparent that if too many cooks spoil the pot, then too many gardeners planting all over the place have the same effect. Using the garden analogy, it can be a daunting task to try and make this Word orderly, coherent, understandable and tame especially for linear minds. Not to mention trying to weed out or eliminate thorns from this vineyard.
For the one who would like to begin taming this overgrown garden of competing theologies with its myriads of texts the other “good news” is …there is help!
From one wise sage I quote: (The saint’s) “… labor in Torah needs to be, Pardes, and do not think that they will reveal to him secrets of Torah when he is empty of knowledge, as it is written, Elohim gives wisdom to the wise. “Torah Sage
Our older brother Judah has long had exegesis techniques that keep things neat and tidy. Our prophets, sages and biblical writers have developed rules of engagement for these “flowers of truth” so weeds don’t get out of hand. The newbie also can get so overwhelmed he does not know where to start in the task of maintaining his little piece of paradise. This system is called PARDES and is the primary textural exegesis (critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture) used in scripture.
In Greek and Hebrew the word “pardes” means enclosure, park, garden or paradise and refers to the Garden of Eden. In the new Testament you can find the word used 3 times. It is where Paul goes in a vision when he is “taken up into paradise, where he heard things too wonderful to tell.” (2 Cor. 12:4) It is where in Rev 2:7 …..
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise (garden) of El.”Rev 2:7
Lastly, it is where Yahshua tells the thief he will be going after his conversion on the cross. In the Old Testament the word for garden is “gan” and we get a little more information because together with its root word it means a fenced or enclosed garden. Its first usage is Gen 2:8 where we are told ….
“The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.”Gen 2:8
In Chapters 2-3 of Genesis we are given some of the most important information about the most important garden in all of human history. These verses are perfect examples of why we need a little help. Already we have a garden that is in heaven and on earth!
But surprise, surprise, there is another reason the sages use this word. It is a very clever acronym for their system of biblical interpretation. Drop the vowels and you have PRDS. Each letter now has a specific file cabinet.
In this 4-fold Midrashic system each level goes deeper and is more encrypted than the one before it. Now all the interesting nuances, allegorical and parabolic language along with archeological findings have places to go. Now we can avoid confusion, stay sane and in harmony with one another. We just need an awesome secretary. I would like to suggest that is one of the primary roles of the Ruach….. to tell us where things go.
P is for Pashat. Which is literal meaning….this is the happy place for fundamentalists. Yes there is a plain meaning we can all agree on. This is where a tree is a tree, a river a river and a ROSE IS A ROSE. Everything our natural senses are telling us with no monkey business or, Yah forbid, some kind of “gnostic” hidden agenda here. This is where all your names, places, people and things go. This is the classification spot for everything, even the parts we believe are true that are lost to history. Actually the Rabbi’s will tell us that this is the most important level. It keeps us all tethered to the same reality. Yet even here you have issues in the game of “what is truth”. Because while it can be documented beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was a historical figure called Jesus who was called “King of the Jews” quite obviously that is not a unaminous given in its literal meaning. Still this is the best place for “the literalists” among us.
R – Next is R which stands for Remez which is where we begin to see our first hint that things are not always what they seem. There is a hint that reality as we want to define it is fraying at the edges. In Gen 3 in this famous garden serpents talk, you can eat fruit that from one player in the story opens your eyes and to another it makes you die. The Lord God, Yahweh Elohim, can be heard walking in this garden and He talks directly to those in it. So now we definitely have “hints” and peculiarities that force us to acknowledge that there is more going on below the surface. Literary writers love this tool….you can build all sorts of tension and depth into a good story. You can start to imply things to get your reader ready for some deeper applications. Language is such a wonderful thing! We are told in one of the oldest and most esoteric books of all Judaism, The Sefer Yetzirah, that El created the worlds using voice, number and text. That is just a HINT of where we are going!
D The third file system is D for Drash. This is where teachers, preachers, our Talmudic sages and expounders of the law have created whole libraries of deep expository applications of a few simple laws, the famous ten. The Drash is the moral of the story. Here you can search for and find homiletic, typological, allegorical interpretations and applications. The more creative the better but there are rules. You cannot leave the Pashat or literal level in the dust and fly away to some fancy tower no one can get to. Or brazenly contradict a plain meaning. Here scripture is used best to interpret scripture. The more of the parts you can find to make a whole thesis, the better. Remember Ps 119:160a “The sum of Your word is truth”. Just like there are 613 mitzvahs according to the great medieval Sage Rashi so there are myriads of ways to apply truth to our lives.
S The last level is S for Sod. To let the texts speak here we find “deep waters” “hidden chambers” or “sealed knowledge”. Here, held and reserved, is the sweet wine to be savored and enjoyed after a full banquet of delicacies. Yahshua himself told us that he saved the best wine for last. This file is where you find all the “holy or secret mysteries” the “keys to the kingdom” or “higher wisdom”. Teachings are kept here and are intelligible only to the wise, the initiated, the Torah scholar. This is where those who are wise can explain a riddle, a paradox or a dark saying. Words, meanings and phrases are often referred to as apocryphal, arcane, occult, esoteric, mystical, sublime. At this table only those who can eat meat and drink strong wine can sit. This is what 2 Esdras 14:46-47 says about secret books:
“But keep the seventy that were written last, in order to give them to the wise among your people. For in them is the spring of understanding, the fountain of wisdom, and the stream of knowledge. ”2 Esdras 14:46-47
This is a system involving letter permutations, gramatica and encrypted coded words. Here we encounter an Oral Tradition of transmission of theses secrets. Here our garden comes alive and all the colors, textures, forms and fragrances have meaning and reach into other worlds where truly the Lord God, our Yahweh Elohim, walks in the cool of the day enjoying fellowship with those who have been invited to his enclosed garden….May you walk on these shalom paths today enjoying all the beauty of this great garden called the WORD of LIFE!!
This is where this blog is going…..into the sublime, supernal, ethereal and eternal WORD of Elohim…… I hope you subscribe and come along!