What is the source for expounding the torah according to remez, derush and sod (along with 'pshat' the group can be referred to by the acronym PaRDeS)?

These forms of hermeneutics are not found in the list of Rabbi Yishmael on the 13 ways to expound the torah, nor do they have a logical basis.

definition and examples of each

  • 3
    What happens when one doesn't learn Kabbalah (Sod)? Instead of Pardes he gets Ferd (horse). :) Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 22:35
  • 2
    @ShmuelBrill atorahminute.com/2012-02-12 Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 2:09
  • 4
    (Converted to a comment per DoubleAA's suggestion.) That these aren't listed among the 13 middos of R. Yishmael proves little, because those are used to derive halachos. For aggadic interpretations (which include a great deal of derush and remez, although they are not described there as such), there are the 32 middos of R. Elazar the son of R. Yose HaGelili (printed in the back of Maseches Berachos in a full-size Shas).
    – Alex
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 3:35
  • If anyone has access to the original hekhalot literature I imagine you can find Pardes mentioned in there.
    – avi
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 6:11
  • @msh I think a tag-wiki would be most appropriate on that tag if it's worth having.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 4:41

4 Answers 4


Hacham Ovadia in Yechave Da'at 4:47 quotes Morenu Harav Haim Vital (1543-1620) who speaks about this concept in Sha'ar Hagilgulim (Hakdama 11) and in his introduction to Sha'ar Hamitzvot. He seems to get it from the Zohar Parashat Balak (202a) which says:

והיה כעץ שתול על פלגי מים, מה אילן זה יש בו שרשים ויש בו ענפים ויש בו עלים ויש בו פרחים ויש בו מוח וכו', כך התורה יש בה פשוטי המקראות, דרשות הפסוקים, רמזי החכמה על ידי גימטריאות ונוטריקון, וסודות נעלמים וכו‏

So, it seems, the oldest and primary source for PaRDe"S explanation is the Zohar.

(Disclaimer: I have not seen/looked into any of the primary sources inside other than the excerpt above. I only quote Hacham Ovadia.)

  • 1
    Hmm... In the Zohar on Bar Ilan Responsa it says: כעץ שתול על פלגי מים, מה אילן אית ביה שרשין ואית ביה קליפין ואית ביה מוחא ואית ביה ענפין ואית ביה טרפין ואית ביה פרחין ואית ביה איבא שבעת זינין אלין סלקין לשבעה עשר לשבעין, אוף מלין דאורייתא אית בהו פשטא דקרא, דרשא, רמז דקא רמיז חכמתא, גימטרייאות, רזין טמירין, רזין סתימין אלין על אלין, פסול וכשר, טמא וטהור, איסור והיתר, מכאן ולהלאה מתפשטאן ענפין לכל סטר והיה כעץ ודאי ואי לאו לאו איהו חכם בחכמתא, Seems a little different to me.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 0:11
  • It's also in Shaare Kedusha by Rav Haim Vital. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 2:06
  • 3
    I'm not convinced light Zohar reading counts as "learning kabbalah". The 'issur' is probably on learning kabbalah be'iyun.
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 4:02
  • 1
    @DoubleAA is correct. The Pele Yoetz, and the Hida (and R' Yaakov Hillel Shelit"a) all recommend reading Zohar without understanding. It is a big Tikun. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 14:07
  • 1
    I can corroborate that it is in the zohar balak 202a in the mossad harav kook edition. @vram thnx :)
    – none
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 0:10

Scholars have written much about this issue. Here is the summary of A. Van der Heide:

The origin of the acronym Pardes can be established with some precision. Following the initial research carried out by W. Bacher, Gershom Scholem convincingly traced the invention of the highly evocative pun to Moses de Leon... In all probability it was introduced by Moses de Leon in a book called Sefer ha-Pardes, which he mentions in at least two places. The book itself is not extant. The idea found its way to the later parts of the Zoharic corpus, the Ra'ya Mehemna and the Tiqqune Zohar, and from there is spread to other works.

Gershom Scholem in his article “The Meaning of Torah in Jewish Mysticism” in On the Kabbalah and Its Symbolism (New York: Schocken, 1996), 32-86, noted that the development of a fourfold hermeneutical method appeared simultaneously in the works of R. Moshe de Leon, R. Yosef Gikitilla and R. Bachya b. Asher. The description “Pardes” for this fourfold interpretation belongs to R. Moshe de Leon, in a lost work of that name, and became widely known through the Tikkunei Zohar.

See also M. Idel, “Pardes: The Fourfold Method of Interpretation” (Appendix I) in Absorbing Perfections: Kabbalah and Interpretations (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2002), pp. 429-37. Idel argues that the tiered “Pardes” hermeneutic allowed Kabbalists to locate kabbalistic interpretation in “a place of honor” without replacing existing methods of exegesis. According to late thirteenth century kabbalists, the “four who entered Pardes” each reached one level of PaRDeS. Likewise, Pardes was seen to correspond to four worlds of ‘atzilut, beriah, yetsirah and ‘asiyah. The kabbalist climbs successively through these worlds by means of the pardes method.

B. Sack, The Kabbalah of R. Moshe Cordovero [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1995) pp. 113-139, discusses the view of R. Moshe Cordevero, according to which the four levels of souls correspond to the four levels of understanding Torah, PaRDeS, and the four worlds.


The earliest I can find of those four categories being mentioned together is in the writings of Rabbi Moshe Alshich (a kabbalist from Tzefat; 1508 - 1593). He writes in his commentary to Genesis 1:27 as follows:

וכל זה על ידי קיום התורה אשר גם בה ארבע בחינות אלה שקשורים זו עם זו, הפשט כנגד עולם השפל, רמז כנגד השני, דרש כנגד השלישי, סוד כנגד העליון

(I leave this untranslated because I don't really know what it means. CYLK)

  • Doesn't R' Bachya already use these categories centuries before?
    – jake
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 23:30
  • @jake Could be. Can you find it?
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 23:34
  • See here. The hebrew terms he uses are, I think, derech p'shat, derech drash (or midrash), derech hasechel, and derech sod (or derech ha'emes). He dosn't seem to have gotten much into remez.
    – jake
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 23:59
  • @jake So post as an answer if you want. It seems to me that he is just using four different layers of exegesis, each more esoteric than the other. I'm not sure if that is what the questioner is looking for. But answer if you want. IIRC Ibn Ezra also has four types of parshanut that he mentions in his hakdama, but those four are certainly not the 'classic' PaRDeS!
    – Double AA
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 0:04
  • @DoubleAA Where can one find this Ibn Ezra? Thank you. Commented Jan 11, 2021 at 1:32

Rabbi Chaim Vital, Sha’arei Kedushah 1:2, s.v. u’zkhor v’al tishkach; Sha’ar HaMitzvos, Hakdamah, s.v. gam b’inyan eisek haTorah; R. Yehudah Ftayah, Minchas Yehudah, Yirmiyahu, 86 (p. 131), and Tehillim, 93 (p. 202) -- in addition to the other mekoros cited here.

  • 2
    Thanks for the pointers and welcome to the site. I hope you stick around and enjoy it.
    – msh210
    Commented Dec 8, 2013 at 21:39

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .