|The English names for each of the Torah's five books of Moses are actually Greek, and like the Rabbinic names for the books, they are
descriptive of the contents. The common names for the books come from a significant word. According to Jewish tradition (later adopted
by Christianity) the Torah was dictated to Moses by God.
Bereishit ("In the Beginning") - Genesis ("Origins") tells the story of creation, Noah and the flood, and the selection of Abraham and
Sarah and their family as the bearers of God's covenant. Stories of sibling conflict and the long narratives of Jacob and his favorite son
Joseph conclude with the family dwelling in Egypt.
Shemot ("names") - Exodus ("The Road Out") tells of how the family of Jacob grew and then was enslaved in Egypt. The baby Moses,
born of Israelites but adopted by Pharaoh, becomes God’s prophet who, after bringing 10 plagues down upon Egypt, leads the Israelites
through the Red Sea to freedom and to the revelation at Mt. Sinai. The story of the Israelites worshipping the golden calf, which follows
soon after the revelation at Mt. Sinai, is almost obscured by lengthy materials on the building of a sanctuary in the wilderness.
Vayikra ("And God Called") - Leviticus ("Laws of the Levites”) deals mostly with laws of Israelite sacrificial worship. Related rules
include the basis for Jewish dietary laws (kashrut) and issues of purity and impurity. The holiness code, which describes a sanctified
communal life, is a highlight of the book.
Bamidbar ("In the Wilderness") - Numbers ("The Census") begins with a census of the Israelites and the tribe of Levi. A group of
Israelites spy out the land of Canaan; their discouraging report sends them back into the desert for an additional 38 years, during which
the Israelites continue to behave badly, rebelling against the authority of Moses and his brother Aaron, and having illicit relations with
Devarim ("Words") - Deuteronomy ("Second Law") is Moses' final message to the people of Israel before they cross over the Jordan
River into Israel. Moses reminds the people of how God has redeemed the people from Egypt and of the details of the covenant between
Israel and God. In stark language, Moses describes the rewards for observance of the laws of the covenant and the punishment for
disobedience. Finally, Moses passes along his authority to Joshua who will lead the people into the land.
|Hebraic Levels of Biblical Interpretation *
The four levels of interpretation are called: Parshat, Remez, D’rash & Sod. The first letter of each word P-R-D-S is taken, and vowels are
added for pronunciation, giving the acronym PARDES (meaning "garden" or "orchard"). Each layer is deeper and more intense than the
last, like the layers of an onion.
1- P'shat (pronounced peh-shaht' - meaning "simple"). Other spellings include P'shat, Peshat.
The p'shat is the plain, simple meaning of the text. The understanding of scripture in its natural, normal sense using the customary
meanings of the word’s being used, literary style, historical and cultural setting, and context. The p'shat is the keystone of Scripture
understanding. If we discard the p'shat we lose any real chance of an accurate understanding and we are no longer objectively deriving
meaning from the Scriptures (exegesis), but subjectively reading meaning into the scriptures (eisogesis). The Talmud states that no
passage loses its p'shat:
Note that within the p'shat you can find several types of language, including figurative, symbolic and allegorical. The following generic
guidelines can be used to determine if a passage is figurative and therefore figurative even in its p'shat:
When an inanimate object is used to describe a living being, the statement is figurative. Example: Isaiah 5:7 - For the vineyard of the Lord
of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant; and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for
righteousness, but behold a cry.
When life and action are attributed to an inanimate object the statement is figurative. Example: Zechariah 5:1-3 - Then I turned, and lifted
up my eyes, and looked, and behold a flying scroll. And he said to me, What do you see? And I answered, I see a flying scroll; its length is
twenty cubits, and its width ten cubits. And he said to me, This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth; for everyone who
steals shall be cut off henceforth, according to it; and everyone who swears falsely shall be cut off henceforth, according to it.
When an expression is out of character with the thing described, the statement is figurative. Example: Psalm 17:8 - Keep me as the apple
of the eye, hide me under the shadow of your wings ...
2 - Remez (pronounced reh-mez' - meaning "hint")
This is where another (implied) meaning is alluded to in the text, usually revealling a deeper meaning. There may still be a p'shat
meaning as well as another meaning as any verse can have multiple levels of meaning.
An example of implied "REMEZ" Proverbs 20:10 - Different weights, and different measures, both of them are alike an abomination to the
Lord. The p'shat would be concerned with a merchant using the same scale to weigh goods for all of his customers. The remez implies
that this goes beyond this into aspects of fairness and honesty in anyone's life.
3 - D’rash (pronounced deh-rahsh' also called "Midrash")
This is a teaching or exposition or application of the P'shat and/or Remez. (In some cases this could be considered comparable to a
"sermon.") For instance, Biblical writers may take two or more unrelated verses and combine them to create a verse(s) with a third
There are three rules to consider when utilizing the d'rash interpretation of a text:
A drash understanding can not be used to strip a passage of its p'shat meaning, nor may any such understanding contradict the p'shat
meaning of any other scripture passage. As the Talmud states, "No passage loses its p'shat."
Let scripture interpret scripture. Look for the scriptures themselves to define the components of an allegory.
The primary components of an allegory represent specific realities. We should limit ourselves to these primary components when
understanding the text.
4 - Sod (pronounced sewd or sood [like "wood"] - meaning "hidden")
This understanding is the hidden, secret or mystic meaning of a text. Some examples of this would be the "dragon," "whore of Babylon,"
and number "666," all from the book of Revelation.
* Thanks to James Trimm at www.nazarene.net from whom much of the above material is derived from.
The four levels of understanding are each a layer diving deeper and more intense than the last, like the
layers of an onion.
Peshat = Literal meaning; the contextual, philological level
Remez = Allegorical meaning; cross-reference to other texts; rational or philosophical level
Derash = Moral or homiletic meaning; aggadic level; midrashic [= interpretation via derash] level
Sod = Mystical or anagogic meaning
P'eshat, the literal meaning, is related to the World of Assiah, the World of Actions, in which we live.
Remez, the allegorical meaning, is related to the World of Yetzirah, the World of Formation, the angelic realm.
Derash, the moral or homiletic meaning, is related to the World of Briah, the World of Creation, the archangelic realm.
Sod, the mystical meaning, is related to the World of Atzilut, the World of Archetypes or Emanations, the realm of the Divine Names.
When an inanimate object is used to describe a living being, the statement is figurative. (Example: Prov. 18:10)
When life and action are attributed to an inanimate object the statement is figurative. (Example: same example Prov. 18:10)
When an expression is out of character with the thing described, the statement is figurative. (Example: Ps. 17:8)
(Gen. 1,2) And the earth was empty (tohu) and formless (vohu). Rashi - The Hebrew word 'tohu' means astonishment in English and the
word 'bohu' means emptiness and next to emptiness. Thus the phrase is 'amazement and desolation'. This means that a person would
be amazed and astonished at anything that was there.
Ex. 21:26-26-27 where we are told of our liability regarding eyes and teeth. By the "REMEZ" understanding we know that this liability also
applies to other body parts.
Three important rules when using the D'rash level of understanding a scripture:
A - A drash understanding can not be used to strip a passage of its PASHAT meaning, nor may any such understanding contradict any
PASHAT meaning of any other scripture passage. As the Talmud states "No passage loses its PASHAT." (b.Shab. 63a; bYeb. 24a)
B - Let scripture interpret scripture. Look for the scriptures themselves to define the components of an allegory. For example use Mt. 12:18-
23 to understand Mt. 13:3-9; Rev. 1:20 to understand Rev. 1:12-16; Rev. 17:7-18 to understand Rev. 17:2-8 etc.
C - The primary components of an allegory represent specific realities. We should limit ourselves to these primary components when
Mt. 2:15 on Hosea 11:1
Mt. 3:11 on Isa. 40:3
Rom. 5:14 (14-21) on Gen. 3:1-24
Gal. 4:24(21-31) on Gen. 17-22