Orchard of the Torah
The Torah is sometimes called an orchard.
In Hebrew this is פרדס Pardess.
Like an orchard, the deeper one enters into it,
the sweeter the fruit.
Four levels of Torah knowledge
(that correspond to Four Worlds) are depicted here
in four concentric rings.
These are hinted at in
the four Hebrew letters of the word .פרדס
1. פשט פ Pshat literal Scripture Asiyah-body
2. רמז ר Remez symbolic Mishnah Yetzirah-heart
3. דרש ד Drash homiletic Talmud Beriyah-mind
4. סוד ס Sode esoteric Kabbalah Atzilut-soul
1. The outermost circle quotes the opening sentences of the first scroll of the Scriptures - B'reishit (Genesis). "In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was chaos and emptiness; with the spirit of Elohim hovering over the surface of the water. And Elohim said 'Let there be light' and there was light. And Elohim saw that the light is good; and Elohim separated between the light and the darkness."
This ring contains twenty four trees with scenes representing the Twenty-four Books of the Written Torah (the TaNaK - Torah, Nevi'im, Ketuvim). This can be called the 'body of the Torah' because the physical connection to the ink on parchment of these books is important. Moving counterclockwise from Genesis at the top. The name of each book is written on the scrolls which are open across the trunks of these trees: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Torah - the Five Books of Moses); Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, The Twelve Minor Prophets (that concludes the Books of the Nevi'im - Prophets); Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra-Nechemia, and Chronicles (concluding the Books of the Ketuvim - Holy Writings).
2. Moving more deeply inward, the next level depicts the Six Orders of the Mishnah - The Oral Torah. Here are six trees in whose fruit are the various texts of the Mishnah that students learn by heart - thus this level can be called the 'heart of the Torah'. The passage ringing this region is the opening of the text Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, which tells of the unfolding of the Oral Torah from the Written Torah: "Moses received Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua; Joshua to the Elders; the Elders to the Prophets and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be slow to judge, raise up many students, and make a fence for the Torah".
The names of the Six Orders of the Mishnah are written on the trunks of the six trees in this level counter-clockwise from the top: 1. Zera'im Seeds (dealing with agricultural laws - all the tractates of this order are the fruit of this 'tree'); 2. Moed Holidays (dealing with the laws associated with the Jewish Holidays); 3. Nashim Women (dealing with laws associated with marriage, divorce etc.; 4. Nezikin Damages (dealing with civil laws); 5. Kodshim Sacred Things (dealing with Temple offerings); and 6. Taharot Purity (dealing with laws of purity primarily during the time the Temple in Jerusalem stood).
3. The next circle holds four trees whose branches form the names of the Four Sections of the Shulkhan Arukh, the code of Jewish law written in Tzfat by Rabbi Yosef Karo in the 16th Century: Counter-clockwise from the top: 1. Orech Chaim (dealing everday Jewish practices and the holidays); 2. Yoreh Deah (laws Rabbis learn regarding Kosher slaughter, etc.); 3. Even Ha'ezer (laws Rabbis learn associated with marriage, divorce, etc.); and 4. Choshen Mishpat (laws that are learned by Rabbinic Judges).
Between these trees stand four brilliant scholars, teaching their students the complex logical arguments used in deciding legal matters from the Babylonian Talmud and Jerusalem Talmud (which is written in the foilage of these four 'trees') - thus this level can be called the 'mind of the Torah'. Around this circle are the opening words of the Talmud: "When should we read the Shema in the evening? From the time the Kohanim enter to eat their Trumah (when the stars come out) until the end of the first watch - these are the words of Rabbi Eliezer; and the Sages say until Midnight."
4. The innermost circle is the secret region of the Kabbalah - also known as the 'soul of the Torah'. The 'Tree of Life' at its center represents the Zohar, the main text of the Kabbalah. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and four of his holy students eat from the fruit of this mystical Tree and teach the secrets of the Inner Torah. All are surrounded by holy fire. The Tikkunai Zohar's opening passage encircles this scene: "The 'enlightened ones' (refered to in the verse from Daniel 12:3) these are Rabbi Shimon and his friends 'will shine (like the Zohar radiance of the sky)' when they gathered to compose this book, permission was granted them (to reveal the secrects of the Torah)".