Svithe: four levels of interpretation


Yesterday at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, at one exhibit I learned a bit about a lot of things, all related to the Torah.

What I want to share is out of the kabbalistic tradition, which suggests there are four levels of interpretation to scripture. I will mostly just state them and invite your comment, rather than comment excessively myself.

1. Literal meaning.

2. Allegorical meaning.

3. Meaning in connection with similar passages.

4. Kabbalistic meaning; or meaning through inspiration or direct, personal revelation; mystical meaning.

Now. In studying scripture, how many levels of interpretation are we finding? What can we do to seek more? Or are we being satisfied with too few?

last week's svithe


  1. In software development, we have to look at our code with similar questions. How will the computer interpret this line of code? Will it literraly do what I intended? Or will it have some unintented consequence? How does it connect with other code? When I come back to maintain this program, will I see some other meaning? If another programmer looks at this, will they see some other meaning?

    Other questions are pertinent too. Why is this particular line of code even necessary? What contribution does it make to the overall structure of the program? If were to reinterpret these additional questions for scripture study, I'd ask, "Why was this scripture necessary? What is the context for it?" and "How does this scripture support the overall plan?"

  2. .

    Good questions.

    And thanks for the new metaphor. I love me a new metaphor.

  3. I think it depends on our willingness to put forth effort. Each level requires more time and energy, but I think that human beings are inclined to be lazy by nature. As I analyze each of the levels, I see a discrepancy between where I would like to be, and my perceived amount of time and energy I can devote to such a goal. I'd like to work on that.

  4. COOL. I like this concept of layers of meaning, although I have trouble with 1. Or at least I find it least appealing.

  5. .

    Yeah. It's definitely least.