Are there any Torah commentaries that incorporate a systematic theory of PaRDeS analysis?

Given the number of commentaries out there, even just the ones from eminent Torah authorities (the numerous conflicting interpretations of Bereshit 1:1 being the classic example) I was wondering if anyone has attempted to compile them, or demonstrate how they form a framework of valid interpretation.

Unfortunately, I don't remember the source, but PaRDeS is the general division: within each type of analysis are the same for subtypes, meaning peshat of peshat, remez of peshat, etc.. (hence Rashi can use drash freely while still presenting the peshat, but only if it's required by the literal text). The theory goes that there's one unique interpretation for each Soul at Sinai.

But regardless, there are a number of conflicting commentaries. And we know from the Gemara that a conflict between two sages can be reconciled at a higher level of interpretation. Meaning a contradiction doesn't always imply an error, but quite often is a "these and these are the words of Living G-d" type situation. Applied to commentaries, this would suggest that they are all valid interpretations (the eminent ones, I mean), some higher, some lower, with the "peshat of peshat of peshat..." being the most material level, all the way up to the Zohar (assuming that's the sod of sod of...).

Does anyone know if this approach has been rigorously treated anywhere? By that I mean, gone beyond merely listing competing interpretations and attempting to fit they all into a single (albeit necessarily contradictory) framework? Because the Torah is G-d's Essence emanating down into this material world (Tanya), and therefore shouldn't all commentaries ultimately fold into One?

  • Not really, I don't think most people would claim to know themselves how these various levels of understanding fit together.
    – pcoz
    May 19, 2022 at 12:49
  • It's worth noting that a quadripartite division of exegesis as such was not known in Jewish sources until the 13th century. Before such time, a fourfold division of interpretation was a Catholic/Christian approach. May 19, 2022 at 17:10
  • That's actually not true, Deuteronomy. The Zohar is a sod commentary, and midrashim are drash. Both are 2000 years old. Furthermore, this Christian-invention idea puts Rashi, the Rambam et al in a awkward position of commentating something that never actually existed in the Torah. I don't think this is an acceptable conclusion. Furthermore, according to Rashi, remez and drash are fundamental to a child's level of understanding the Torah. If they are required on such a level, drash and remez are innate in the Torah. Or Rashi made it up, G-d forbid.
    – John
    May 19, 2022 at 20:35
  • True, pcoz, but the commentators themselves did. And others such as the Ari, Ashlag, the Rebbe, etc clearly have the spiritual level to grasp how they fit together. The Rebbe, for instance, understands Rashi completely, or his commentary anyway.
    – John
    May 19, 2022 at 20:40
  • @John The idea that there is a fourfold (not five, not three) division of biblical hermeneutics is first found in Christian sources, and then centuries later in Jewish sources in the 13th c. That's a fact. Moses De Leon was the first documented to use the term פרדס to refer to such a fourfold division. This does not mean that each method independently did not exist. If you asked the Rambam or Rashi about פרדס and intended פשט/רמז/דרש/סוד they'd in all likelihood have no clue what you were talking about. If you asked them about biblical hermeneutics, I'm certain they'd have plenty to share. May 20, 2022 at 20:48

1 Answer 1


Rabbeinu Bechaye wrote a commentary that deals with pshat, medrash, philosophy, and Sod.

Michtav MeEliyahu by Rav Dessler is known for finding common themes among different midrashic explanations for a verse.

A full work like you describe would probably take a lifetime to finish one parshah.

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