Channukah, Pardes and
the Books of the Maccabees
By James Trimm
The Channukah story is found in the Apocrypha in the four Books of the Maccabees. Interestingly these four books recount the Channukah story on each of the Four levels of understanding known in Judaism as PaRDeS.
The Hebrew/Aramaic word PARDES is spelled in Hebrew and Aramaic without vowels as PRDS. PaRDeS refers to a park or garden, esp. the Garden of Eden. The word appears three times in the Aramaic New Testament (Lk. 23:43; 2Cor. 12:4 & Rev. 2:7). The word PRDS is also an acronym (called in Judaism "notarikon") for:
[P]ashat (Heb. "simple")
[R]emez (Heb. "hint")
[D]rash (Heb. "search")
[S]od (Heb. "hidden")
These are the four levels of understanding the scriptures. Each layer is deeper and more intense than the last, like the layers of an onion.
The first level of understanding is PASHAT (simple). The Pashat is the literal meaning. It is similar to what Protestant hermeneutics calls "Grammatical Historical Exogesis" and also similar to what Protestant Hermeneutics calls "The Literal Principle."
The PASHAT is the plain, simple meaning of the text; understanding scripture in its natural, normal sense using the customary meanings of the words being used, in accordance with the primary exegetical rule in the Talmud that no passage loses its PASHAT (b.Shab. 63a; b.Yeb. 24a). While there is figurative language (Ps. 36:7) symbolism (like Rom. 5:14); allegory (like Gal. 4:19-31) and hidden meanings (like Rev. 13:18; see also 1Cor. 2:7) in the Scriptures, the first thing to look for is the literal meaning or PASHAT.
The following rules of thumb can be used to determine if a passage is figurative and therefore figurative even in its PASHAT:
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)
PASHAT is the keystone of Scripture understanding. If we discard the PASHAT we lose any real chance of an accurate understanding, left with a no-holds-barred game of pure imagination in which we are no longer objectively deriving meaning from the Scriptures (exogesis), but subjectively reading meaning into the scriptures (eisogesis) (see 2Pt. 1:20-21; 1Tim. 4:3-4). Thus Talmud twice warns us: "No passage loses its PASHAT" (b.Shab. 63a; b.Yeb. 24a).
The next level of understanding is called in Hebrew REMEZ (hint). This is the implied meaning of the text. Peculiarities in the text are regarded as hinting at a deeper truth than that conveyed by its PASHAT.
An example of implied "REMEZ" meaning may be found in 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.
Another level of understanding the Scriptures is called in Hebrew "drash" meaning "search", this is the allegorical, typological or homiletical application of the text. Creativity is used to search the text in relation to the rest of the Scriptures, other literature, or life itself in order to develop an allegorical, typological or homiletical application of the text. This process involves eisogesis (reading of the text) of the text.
Three important rules in utilizing the drash level of understanding a scripture are:
 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)
 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.
 The primary components of an allegory represent specific realities. We should limit ourselves to these primary components when understanding the text.
EXAMPLES OF DRASH UNDERSTANDINGS: Mt. 2:15 on Hosea 11:1
Mt. 3:11 on Is. 40:3
Rom. 5:14 (14-21) on Gen. 3:1-24
I Cor. 4:6
Gal. 4:24(21-31) on Gen. 17-22
Heb. 8:5 on priesthood
Heb. 9:9, 24 on the Tabernacle
Heb. 10:1 on the Torah
Heb. 11:19 on Gen. 22:1f
1Pt. 3:21 on Gen. 6-9
The final level of understanding the Scriptures is called in Hebrew "SOD" meaning "hidden". This understanding is the hidden, secret or mystic meaning of a text. (See I Cor. 2:7-16 esp. 2:7). This process often involves returning the letters of a word to their prime-material state and giving them new form in order to reveal a hidden meaning. An example may be found in Rev. 13:18 where the identity of the Beast is expressed by its numeric value.
THE FOUR GOSPELS
The Four Gospels each express one of these four levels of understanding of The Gospel according to the Hebrews. Each also expresses a different aspect of the Messiah and
corresponds to each of the four faces of the living beings in Ezekiel 1.
The Pashat Gospel is Mark. Mark presents the Messiah as the servant (the
servant who purifies the Goyim in Is. 52:13, 15) the "my servant the
Branch" of Zech.3:8 who is symbolized by the face of the Ox in Ezekiel 1
(the Ox being a servant, a beast of burden). Mark does not begin with an
account of the birth of Messiah as do Matthew and Luke because, unlike the
birth of a King, the birth of a servant is unimportant, all that is
important is his work as a servant which begins with his immersion by
Yochanan. Thus Mark's simplified account omits any account of Yeshua's
birth or preexistence and centers on his work as a servant who purifies
The Remez Gospel is Luke. Luke wrote a more detailed account for the High
Priest Theophilus (a Sadducee). The Sadducees were rationalists and
sticklers for details. Luke presents Yeshua as the "Son of Man" and as
"the man whose name is the Branch" (Zech
6:12) who is presented as a High Priest and is symbolized by the face of
the man in Ezekiel 1. Luke wants to remind by remez (by implication) the
High Priest Theophilus about the redemption of the filthy High Priest
Joshua (Zech. 6) and its prophetic foreshadowing of a "man" who is a
Messianic "Priest" and who can purify even a
The Drash Gospel is Matthew. Matthew presents his account of Yeshua's life
as a Midrash to the Pharisees, as a continuing story tied to various
passages from the Tanak (for example Mt. 2:13-15 presents an allegorical
understanding of Hosea 11:1).. As a drash level account Matthew also
includes a number of parables in his account. Matthew presents Messiah as
the King Messiah, the Branch of David (Jer. 23:5-6 & Is. 11:1f) symbolized
by the face of the lion in Ezekiel 1.
The Sod Gospel is Yochanan (John). Yochanan addresses the Mystical Essene
sect and concerns himself with mystical topics like light, life, truth,
the way and the Word. Yochanan includes many Sod interpretations in his
account. For example Yochanan 1:1 presents a Sod understanding of Gen.
1:1. Yochanan 3:14; 8:28 & 12:32 present a Sod understanding of Num. 21:9
THE FOUR BOOKS OF SOLOMON
Now lets look at these levels in relation to the four books of Solomon:
1. Ecclesiastes is written on the PASHAT level. Solomon was inspired by Elohim to write a book about how the world appears without the revelation of Elohim "under the sun" or "under heaven". This book is not YHWH's revelation on the subjects it touches, but YHWH's revelation of how those subjects seem to mean WITHOUT YHWH's revelation.
2. Proverbs is written on the REMEZ level. This book digs deeper and implies the revelation of YHWH, examining its topics in light of that revelation.
3. The Song of Solomon is written on the Drash level and gives an allegory of YHWH and his relationship to Israel as His bride.
4. The Wisdom of Solomon "hidden" in the apocrypha ("Apocrypha means "hidden") this book deals with much deeper subjects of the light of YHWH's revelation.
THE FOUR BOOKS OF THE MACCABEES
Finally there are the Four Books of the Maccabees. These give the story of Channukah. Channukah is the Jewish holiday which celebrates the rededication of the Temple after it had been defiled by Antiochus Epiphanies. This festival celebrates the victory of the Jewish rebels known as the “Maccabees” over the Greco-Syrians who had outlawed Torah observance and were attempting to force all Jews to embrace Greek Paganism and Greek customs. The exploits of the Maccabees are to be found in the four Books of the Maccabees.
These four books give the Channukah story on each of the four levels of understanding known as PaRDeS:
1st Maccabees gives the plain simple account using only seven chapters to cover the same material covered in all 2Maccabees
2nd Maccabees digs into the details not included in 1Maccabees.
3rd Maccabees tells a related story of another persecution some fifty years earlier in Egypt under Ptolemy, which illustrates the same point.
4th Maccabees is a treaty making the case that the Torah is divine reason, and as such is supreme and thus the mind is sovereign over emotions. In fact the 4th Book of Maccabees fits like a glove with the Tanya. The Tanya is a book written by the Rebbe Zalman (known as the Alter Rebbe) who was the first Rebbe of the Chabad movement,
The Tanya teaches that the mind, characterized by the “three mothers” Chochma (Wisdom), Binah (Understanding) and Da’at (Knowledge) (which the Tanya collectively calls ChaBaD) rule over and produce the seven middot or seven emotions, corresponding to the lower seven sefirot:
Now, each distinction and grade of the three— nefesh, ruach and neshamah— consists of ten faculties, corresponding to the Supernal Ten Sefirot (Divine manifestations), from which they have descended, which are subdivided into two, namely, the three "mothers" and the seven "multiples," to wit: chochmah (wisdom) binah (understanding) and da at (knowledge); and the "seven days of Creation:" chesed (kindness), gevurah (power), tiferet (beauty), and so on.
Similarly is it with the human soul, which is divided in two— sechel (intellect) and middot (emotional attributes). The intellect includes chochmah, binah and da at (ChaBaD), whilst the middot are love of G-d, dread and awe of Him, glorification of Him, and so forth. ChaBaD [the intellectual faculties] are called "mothers" and source of the middot, for the latter are "offspring" of the former.
The Tanya goes on to say:
The intellect of the rational soul, which is the faculty that conceives any thing, is given the appellation of chochmah—כ"ח מ"ה— … this is called binah. These [chochmah and binah] are the very "father" and "mother" which give birth to love of G-d, and awe and dread of Him…. The rest of the middot are all offshoots of fear and love and their derivations, as is explained elsewhere.
And then the Tanya says:
Da'at, the etymology of which is to be found in the verse: "And Adam knew (yada) Eve," implies attachment and union. That is, one binds his mind with a very firm and strong bond to, and firmly fixes his thought on, the greatness of the blessed En sof, without diverting his mind [from Him]. For even one who is wise and understanding of the greatness of the blessed En Sof, will not— unless he binds his knowledge and fixes his thought with firmness and perseverance— produce in his soul true love and fear, but only vain fancies. Therefore da'at is the basis of the middot and the source of their vitality; it contains chesed and gevurah, that is to say, love with its offshoots and fear with its offshoots.
(Tanya; Likutei Amarim; Chapter 3)
Then in Chapter 13 we read:
...understanding is the mother of...fear and love of Elohim.
These are born of knowledge and profound contemplation of the greatness of Elohim.
(Tanya', Likutei Amarim, Chapter 13.)
It is important to realize that the Tanya (cited above) teaches that from the mind flow seven emotions, polarized by “love” and “fear” with the other five being “offshoots” of these two.
Now this is in exact agreement with the teaching of 4th Maccabees which says:
1:1 The word of philosophy that I am about to discuss before you:
If the true mind of shalom (peace) is sovereign to the fear of Elohim. I am an upright adviser to you, that you should pay earnest attention in philosophy.
1:2 For it is also necessary for all men to suffer, more especially these are steps to virtue.
1:3 For I bear a good report:
If the mind of balance is over the emotions that stand against temperance, showing that the mind of virtue rules over gluttony [and] over lust.
1:4 And it is not only over the walk, but also over the other emotions that hinder righteousness. It is shown to be sovereign, over fornication [and] evil and over other emotions that impede courage, over rage, and that a man be not soft before tribulation, and over fear.
1:13 The question therefore is this: If the mind is sovereign over emotion.
1:14 But you may ask: What is the mind? And what is emotion? And what are the kinds of emotion? And is the mind sovereign over all of them?
1:15 The mind therefore is thus: That in uprightness we choose the life of wisdom.
1:16 Now wisdom is knowledge of the hosts, of the Godhead, and of manhood and of their effects.
1:17 Now this is the discipline that is in the Torah, that through it also you learn of the Godhead greatly and of manhood to our advantage and obtaining favor.
1:18 Now the forms of wisdom are these: prudence, righteousness, [courage] and temperance.
1:19 Now the head of all of them is prudence because through it the mind rules over all emotions.
1:30 For reasoning is the leader of the virtues, but it is the sole ruler of the passions. Observe then first, through the very things which stand in the way of temperance, that reasoning is absolute ruler of the passions.
1:31 Now temperance consists of a command over the lusts.
1:32 But of the lusts, some belong to the soul, others to the body: and over each of these classes the reasoning appears to bear sway.
(4Macc. 1:4, 13-19, 30-32 HRV)
Moreover 4th Maccabees teaches that the emotions are seven in number and are derived from two: pain and pleasure, which polarize these two:
20 Of the passions, pleasure and pain are the two most comprehensive; and they also by nature refer to the soul.
21 And there are many attendant affections surrounding pleasure and pain.
22 Before pleasure is lust; and after pleasure, joy.
23 And before pain is fear; and after pain is sorrow.
24 Wrath is an affection, common to pleasure and to pain, if any one will pay attention when it comes upon him.
25 And there exists in pleasure a malicious disposition, which is the most multiform of all the affections.
26 In the soul it is arrogance, and love of money, and vain gloriousness, and contention, and faithlessness, and the evil eye .
27 In the body it is greediness and gormandizing, and solitary gluttony.
(4Macc. 1:20-27 HRV)
Thus the teaching of 4th Maccabees and that of the Tanya fit like a hand in a well fit glove.
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