It's known (as explained and sourced in Kuntres Inyana Chassidus 5726) that there are 4 levels of Torah Interpretation, regarding any idea of it -- Pshat (simple meaning), Remez (how it hints or alludes to something else), Derush (how it teaches us something else that's not part of the simple meaning), and Sod (how the Torah idea is manifested in the spiritual worlds), [and Chassidus is the 5th level which encompasses all of them etc. see there)

It says in Hilchos Yesodei haTorah halacha 9 and 12:


If so, what is the meaning of the expressions employed by the Torah: "Below His feet" [Exodus 24:10], "Written by the finger of God" [ibid. 31:18], "God's hand" [ibid. 9:3], "God's eyes" [Genesis 38:7], "God's ears" [Numbers 11:1], and the like?

All these [expressions were used] to relate to human thought processes which know only corporeal imagery, for the Torah speaks in the language of man. They are only descriptive terms, as [apparent from Deuteronomy 32:41]: "I will whet My lightning sword." Does He have a sword? Does He need a sword to kill? Rather, this is metaphoric imagery. [Similarly,] all [such expressions] are metaphoric imagery.

A proof of this concept: One prophet says that he saw the Holy One, blessed be He, "clothed in snow white" [Daniel 7:9], and another envisioned Him [coming] "with crimson garments from Batzra" [Isaiah 63:1]. Moses, our teacher, himself envisioned Him at the [Red] Sea as a mighty man, waging war, and, at Mount Sinai, [saw Him] as the leader of a congregation, wrapped [in a tallit].

This shows that He has no image or form. All these are merely expressions of prophetic vision and imagery and the truth of this concept cannot be grasped or comprehended by human thought. This is what the verse [Job 11:7] states: "Can you find the comprehension of God? Can you find the ultimate bounds of the Almighty?" ט

אם כן מהו זה שכתוב בתורה ותחת רגליו כתובים באצבע אלהים יד ה' עיני ה' אזני ה' וכיוצא בדברים האלו הכל לפי דעתן של בני אדם הוא שאינן מכירין אלא הגופות ודברה תורה כלשון בני אדם והכל כנויים הן שנאמר אם שנותי ברק חרבי וכי חרב יש לו ובחרב הוא הורג אלא משל והכל משל ראיה לדבר שנביא אחד אומר שראה הקדוש ברוך הוא לבושיה כתלג חיור ואחד ראהו חמוץ בגדים מבצרה משה רבינו עצמו ראהו על הים כגבור עושה מלחמה ובסיני כשליח צבור עטוף לומר שאין לו דמות וצורה אלא הכל במראה הנבואה ובמחזה ואמתת הדבר אין דעתו של אדם מבין ולא יכולה להשיגו ולחקרו וזה שאמר הכתוב החקר אלוה תמצא אם עד תכלית שדי תמצא:


Since this is so, all such [descriptions] and the like which are related in the Torah and the words of the Prophets - all these are metaphors and imagery. [For example,] "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh" [Psalms 2:4], "They angered Me with their emptiness" [Deuteronomy 32:21], and "As God rejoiced" [ibid. 28:63]. With regard to all such statements, our Sages said: "The Torah speaks in the language of man."

This is [borne out by the rhetorical question (Jeremiah 7:19):] "Are they enraging Me?" Behold, [Malachi 3:6] states: "I, God, have not changed." Now were He to at times be enraged and at times be happy, He would change. Rather, all these matters are found only with regard to the dark and low bodies, those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is dust. In contrast, He, blessed be He, is elevated and exalted above all this. יב

והואיל והדבר כן הוא כל הדברים הללו וכיוצא בהן שנאמרו בתורה ובדברי נביאים הכל משל ומליצה הן כמו שנאמר יושב בשמים ישחק כעסוני בהבליהם כאשר שש ה' וכיוצא בהן על הכל אמרו חכמים דברה תורה כלשון בני אדם וכן הוא אומר האותי הם מכעיסים הרי הוא אומר אני ה' לא שניתי ואילו היה פעמים כועס ופעמים שמח היה משתנה וכל הדברים האלו אינן מצויין אלא לגופים האפלים השפלים שוכני בתי חומר אשר בעפר יסודם אבל הוא ברוך הוא יתברך ויתרומם על כל זה: that "the Torah speaks in the language of man", in a way of metaphors, when describing the nature of G-d, so if so: what category does that fall under in ParDas? Is that the plain simple meaning (that its only an allegory) or is the simple meaning actually that Hashem has a body (chas veshalom)?

In other words, in what category of PaRDeS do the metaphors describing G-d, fall under?

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    Would you consider that Rambam didn't buy into that 4-fold division of interpretation? – Double AA Feb 28 at 13:51
  • @DoubleAA No I would not consider that at all – Yaakov5777 Feb 28 at 21:11
  • As far as I know, the 4 fold division of Torah known as PaRDeS appeared after Rambam's time. It may have been known to a select few, but it doesn't appear in any texts until about 100 years before Rabbi Moshe Kordevero. (Ramak) And even then, the meaning used today (Peshat, Remez, Drush & Sod, which follows the teaching of the Ari z"l) was not universal. I have seen (Peshat, Remez, Dat & Sod). – Yaacov Deane May 15 at 21:45
  • @YaacovDeane did you read the source linked? – Yaakov5777 May 15 at 23:54
  • @Yaakov5777 If you’re referring to the pamphlet by the Rebbe, yes. If you’re referring to the Mishnah Torah link, I don’t know what you are referencing in it in regard to the division of PaRDeS. – Yaacov Deane May 16 at 0:44

The general rule I learned from R' Shlezinger is:
If it does not include reasoning, e.g. if one understands it "as is" it's Peshat.

If the text says "God's hands" and you understand it as God's hands, it is Peshat. The further clarifications like G-d does not have hands etc have nothing to do with understanding the verse. But if the verse says "ושננתם לבניך" and you conclude that because the students are treated like sons this verse speaks about students, it's not Peshat.

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    I agree with your second part about ושננתם לבניך but not your part about God's hands. By that logic you'd also have to conclude in the peshat that a river has a hand for example. There's some level of common sense that's required even for peshat. – Heshy Feb 28 at 12:41
  • Respectfully, that makes no sense. This division means that one person’s pshat could be another person’s derash or even sod. – DonielF Feb 28 at 16:05
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    @AlBerko Be very careful with that line of logic. Taking that to the extreme, you can conclude some things that are complete heresy by saying that the simple reading is always a correct and valid approach. Consider עין תחת עין - not only is the simple reading wrong, it's also contradictory to several other pesukim. – DonielF Feb 28 at 18:03
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    Then I guess no Hebrew speaker understands sefaria.org/Genesis.41.42 You have to use common sense and figure out what it means from context. For a human it means a hand. For God or a river it doesn't. – Heshy Feb 28 at 18:07
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    @AlBerko But you agree that their initial, pshat understanding - that you take them there to hurt them - can not be correct. You need to extrapolate based on other information to derive the truth, which you’re understanding to be derash. – DonielF Feb 28 at 18:40

Well seemingly, given that no Torah Commentary has ever even considered that fact that "Hashem's hand" being a literal body part is part of the "Pshat", so it would appear that the "Pshat" of all of the references to Hashem's body and personifications is, in fact, the allegorical nature; the P'shat is referring to the basic level of "Hashem's hand" as meaning his might, for example, while the Sod, by contrast, would refer to what specific "world" that "might" is referring to, with all of the tecnical Kabbalistic details.

It additionally doesn't fall under "Remez" and "Drush" because like you said from Kuntress Inyana, "Remez" just means how the Torah idea hints to something else, and Drush is how the Torah idea can be expounded in a way that's not the simple meaning, in order to teach a different lesson that's not explicitly mentioned in the simple meaning. Even allegorically speaking, the metaphors of Hashem's body to refer to his different attributes doesn't seem to fit under any of those 2 categories, the only one it could possibly fit under is Sod, and a distinction can be made, as said above, that Sod is specifically what Kabbalistic level it's referring to, while the "Pshat" could just be referring to the basic id"Hashem's hand" means his might, etc...

  • -1 you're begging the question, saying "because it can't be true, it is not true". You base yourself on Rambam, but not many considered his philosophical debates practical. As I claimed, "being a literal body part" refers to G-d's body part, even if not physical. A man was created in resemblance to G-d, therefore, all men's body parts are, somehow, present with G-d. – Al Berko Mar 2 at 17:01
  • @AlBerko Im not exactly sure whats hapening, you say that I'm assuming "because it can't be true, it is not true"; yes, I am saying that, I don't understand how something can be true if it can't be, it's a contradiction. I'm having a hard time understanding the second part of what you're saying, is English your first language? Because If not , I understand Hebrew also, if you want to write it in Hebrew I might have a better time undrstanding it – bluejayke Mar 3 at 4:41
  • (I'll continue in English anyway as many people read the comments.) My point is that the idea of immaterial God is not self evident, as you assume, therefore it can't be Pshat in my view. As it requires some additional reasoning I promote it into a higher category, maybe Pshat2 but not a regular Pshat. – Al Berko Mar 3 at 7:35
  • Turns out you're also right: see wiki "Linguistically, the term Peshat finds its root in the Biblical Hebrew term meaning "to flatten out," or "to extend." In the Talmudic Era, this definition was expanded to mean "to propound." Some have used the Talmudic definition of Peshat to widen its overall definition, stating that the Peshat interpretation of a particular passage is "the teaching recognized by the public as obviously authoritative, since familiar and traditional," or "the usual accepted traditional meaning as it was generally taught." – Al Berko Mar 3 at 8:44
  • +1 edit something so I can change my voting. – Al Berko Mar 3 at 8:45

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