What aspect of PRD”S (Pardes) is gematria part of?


There are two basic systems of rules for biblical exegesis or darshanning:

  1. The 13 principles of Rebbe Yishmael, from the Mechiltah D’rebbe Yishmael, like that which we say before pesukei d’zimra every day. This is the classic system of exegesis which forms the foundation of all halachic drash.
  2. The 32 principles of Rebbe Eliezer ben Rebbe Yosi Haglili, appearing in a Braisa referred to by Rashi and other Rishonim. This is a broader system which also incorporates middos used to expound on Aggadic meanings of the Torah.

Gematria is one of the middos mentioned on that second list.

It is generally understood that there are two functional uses of the middah of Gematria, the first being within the realm of “halachic drush” and the second being used in “aggadic drush” (including kabbalistic usage of gematria). We see an example of gematria being used in “halachic drush” in the Gemara1)Nazir 5a where we derive from the word יהיה, gematria 30, that stam nezirus lasts 30 days.

On the other hand, gematrios are likened to what the Mishnah2)Pirkei Avos 3:23. In some editions 18 or 13 calls “parpraos lachachma,” clearly a realm of knowledge not essential to halachic living. I have seen sources that categorize this type of gematria usage as “remez”. It is also very common to find the use of gematria in kabbalistic writings as well.

None of the above should be confused with the narishkeit gematrios that are made up by people with no mesorah to get the Torah to say whatever they want it to say.

References   [ + ]

1. Nazir 5a
2. Pirkei Avos 3:23. In some editions 18 or 13