CONSIDER: The Torah, indeed life, may be discussed from four perspectives.
These are described by the acrostic, Pardes, which stands for peshat, the literal meaning; remez, the allusion or hint; drush, the homiletic; and sod, the underlying or esoteric.
The peshat is the perspective all people know. This is the literal, or that which can be seen. At this perspective, the nature of an object or occurrence is described by its physical appearances; i.e. the physical table.
The remez, the hint or allusion, describes the table by its use, such as the table being used for Shabbat meals and therefore likened to an altar. The similarity of a table to an altar in both appearance and use leads us to consider and treat the table as such. Because of these similarities, we infer additional meanings, and thus affect the way we use the table. Just as we would never offer a non-kosher meal offering upon an altar, we would never place anything non-kosher upon our table. Since we salted our sacrifices, we now dip our bread in salt, etc.
[Meal (grain) Offerings were one of the types of Temple Offering.]
Next is the perspective of drush. Here the homiletic or expounded meaning is drawn out. Since the table is a type of altar, and since we must behave in a certain way before approaching an altar, while serving on it and after we leave it, we expound that we must also behave in an appropriate way before approaching a table (meal), while we are dining, and after we finish the meal. For example, before making a sacrifice in the Temple, the Priest would wash his hands. Likewise, before eating bread, we also wash our hands. Since the table is considered to be an altar, we must behave at the table as if we are offering upon an altar. Thus we not only conclude as we did by allusion, that the table is a type of an altar, but we further expound that a Jewish table has requirements of service just like a Jewish altar. Just as we would be obligated to proceed in a proper order at an altar, we must also act appropriately when eating. An artist's…thoughts do not create the ink but merely cause it to be reshaped into strokes…
Finally, we may discuss the table from the perspective of sod, or the esoteric. Here we recognize that in order for a physical table to be manifesting in the physical realm, first there must be a spiritual "table" manifesting in the spiritual realm. The spiritual table is formulated as its name or concept is drawn together. Only after this is done, can there be the possibility of a physical table. After the physical table manifests, the spiritual table does not cease to exist, but rather the spiritual table actually sustains its physical likeness. This can be more easily understood by considering the relationship of ongoing thought to ongoing deed, somewhat like an artist's brush being directed by his thoughts. However, when the artist stops his directing thought, only his future strokes are interrupted. Those already drawn stay on the canvas. This is so because his lines are made from ink which existed before he used it. His thoughts do not create the ink but merely cause it to be reshaped into strokes. However, the cessation of the spiritual thought would not merely prevent any future physical strokes, but would also erase those already drawn! This is so because the physical is actually made up of the spiritual and is therefore sustained by it. Liken this to turning off a flashlight, which not only prevents the continuation of future rays, but also eliminates the existing ray.
How is this information of use to us who deal in the everyday physical world? We must realize that this physical environment is actually the spiritual being "brought down" into a physical realm. The food we eat causes a transfer of the spiritual and the physical. From names to molecules, from energy to deeds, as the food we eat becomes energy in our bodies we are able to maintain life. By taking in this sustenance with a memory of its Creator, the act of eating becomes elevated into a spiritual experience. Food taken with a spiritual hope will produce a better opportunity to use its energy spiritually in order to enjoy G‑d's Presence on earth. By judging a man as 'good' we draw upon that goodness…
The table was brought into creation manifesting first as will, then name, then light, then through various stages until it finally formed materially in a manner appropriate to serve in the daily service of G‑d. Metal or molecules, we can see these phenomena as table, altar, place of divine service, or molecules stacked and floating in a certain pattern supported by its spiritual purpose.
Each perspective is true. Each exists. None of the perspectives stop existing while we discuss the next. When we say molecules, the table does not cease, and when we say altar, the molecules do not cease to exist. We merely change our focus or depth of perception. So it is with all of creation. Whether we wish to call each person man or molecules, each person is both. Whether we wish to call the earth dirt or holy, both are there and we are expressing our experiences or points of view by labeling what we see. We are not changing what is there. Although we do bring into creation what we emphasize. By judging a man as "good" we draw upon that goodness.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts, the whole earth is filled with His Glory.(Isaiah 6:3) The entire world is filled and imbued with holiness. The table is holy. The altar is holy. The order is holy, the molecules are holy, and certainly the spiritual essence is holy. This holiness permeates all perspective. As we realize that we also cannot be excluded from this holiness, our awareness is elevated from the mere physical to include the spiritual.