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
פשט פ .1 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). This ring contains twenty four trees with scenes representing the Twenty-four Books of the Written Torah (the Tanach) moving counterclockwise from B'reishit at the top. The name of each book is written on the scrolls which are open across the trunks of these trees.
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. 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.
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. Between these trees stand four brilliant scholars, teaching their students the complex logical arguments used in deciding legal matters from the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud. Around this circle are the opening words of the Talmud.
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.