Sunday, February 20, 2005

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The Works of Kabbalah - The Pomegranate Orchard

From, the writings of Rabbi Ginsburgh (hassidic kabbalist in Israel), from his weekly mailing list (available to all, click here):

"In general there are 5 stages in the revelation of the wisdom of Kabbalah, each stage appearing (one might say, even encoded) within a particular text."

Three: The Pomegranate Orchard

The Ramak’s work represents the third stage of the evolution of Kabbalah. His interpretation of the Zohar was based on a rational mindset (not very different from the mindset used in explaining other Midrashic literature) and a wide and circumspect knowledge of the entire Torah in all its strata exoteric (revealed) and esoteric (hidden) alike. The Ramak’s commentary on the Zohar, titled Or Yakar, is tremendous in its scope, spanning dozens of large volumes. But, his magnum opus was the volume titled The Pomegranate Orchard (Pardes Rimonim), based on what is perhaps one of the most enigmatic verses in the entire Bible: “Your shoots are an orchard of pomegranates with pleasant fruits, henna and nard.”

This verse is from the Song of Songs, a poetic and metaphoric description of the love between a bride and her groom. Even though all the sages of the Talmudic period knew about and were involved in the study of Kabbalah, the Talmud does not openly delve into its mysteries. However, there is one chapter dedicated to this topic: the second chapter of the tractate of Chagigah. There, the sages who were initiated into the study of Kabbalah are described as having entered the Pardes, the “orchard.” The Hebrew word pardes is also understood in Kabbalah to be an acronym for the four parts of the Torah: literal, allusive, homiletic/hermeneutic, and secret. That the “orchard” contains all four parts of the Torah implies that it is impossible to truly be initiated into its secrets without studying the three other strata.

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