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
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 13:51
  • @DoubleAA No I would not consider that at all Commented Feb 28, 2019 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). Commented May 15, 2019 at 21:45
  • @YaacovDeane did you read the source linked? Commented May 15, 2019 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. Commented May 16, 2019 at 0:44

1 Answer 1


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
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 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
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 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
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 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
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 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
    Commented Feb 28, 2019 at 18:40

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