The Legend of Pardes: Background information when reading The Orchard

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The Orchard

by David Hopen

The Orchard by David   Hopen X
The Orchard by David   Hopen
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  • Published:
    Nov 2020, 480 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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The Legend of Pardes

This article relates to The Orchard

Rabbi Akiva In David Hopen's novel, The Orchard, the main action is set in motion by a discussion of the Jewish legend of Pardes. In the tale, four celebrated sages enter the orchard, but only one emerges unscathed by his encounter with the divine.

The word "Pardes" comes from the ancient Persian word pairidaeza, which refers to an enclosed garden. The Pardes legend can be found in the Tosefta, an anthology of laws attributed to Jewish sages gathered between 0 and 200 CE, and the Talmud, the central book of rabbinic law, the first component of which — the Mishnah — was published around 200 CE. The legend is traditionally interpreted as a warning against the study of mysticism, and is meant to contrast the actions of three historic scholars — Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma and Acher — with the ideal, Rabbi Akiva.

The rather cryptic story goes like this: Ben Azzai, Ben Zoma, Acher and Rabbi Akiva entered the orchard. "Entering the orchard" has been commonly interpreted to mean...

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