Attainment of the Torah Begins with “Sod” (Secret) and Ends with “Peshat” (Literal)
Who would dare extract it from the heart of the masses and scrutinize their ways, when their attainment is incomplete in both parts of the Torah called Peshat (literal) and Drush (interpretation)? In their view, the order of the four parts of the Torah (PARDESS) begins with the Peshat, then the Drush, then Remez (insinuated), and in the end the Sod (Secret) is understood. [This the opinion of the ignorant people about the attainment of the Torah.]
However, it is written in the Vilna Gaon prayer book that the attainment begins [specifically] with the Sod [when everything said in the Torah seems to a person a secret]. After the Sod part of the Torah is attained it is possible to attain the Drush part, and then the Remez part. [Only] when one is granted complete knowledge of these three parts of the Torah, one is awarded the attainment of the Peshat part of the Torah.
– Baal HaSulam, “Introduction to the Book, Panim Meirot uMasbirot,” Item 1
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