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Not all the Torah teachings are permitted to be written down. Some may only be spoken but not written down. One who can distinguish which may be written and which may not, can identify a Jew among a thousand (thousands of) non-Jews. - Sefer HaMidot, Novelties in Torah p.205

With this in mind, how does a Baal Teshuva approach a novel idea in Torah (nature, halacha, etc.)? Is it common practice to keep a journal?

Coming from a secular background can taint perspective. So what is the protocol/expectation in sharing with others and 'backing-up' these ideas? Respectfully is it better to share or just be silent?

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    I assume many readers will be unfamiliar with the seffer hammidot. I assume that this is the sefer hammidot of rabbi Nachman of Breslov. As an ethical tractm it is probably not particularly focused on technical laws. As such, it probably is not the best source for legal rulings. I am aware of no prohibition that could be relevant to either sharing or recording a Torah thought. It seems valuable to record one's thoughts, regardless of their value. However valuable they are, they can be improved by being recorded to facilitate future improvement. Sharing with others is also an excellent way to
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 15:34
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    [cont.] flesh out ideas, thereby improving them (and it benefits those with whom you share them. To summarize, do not hesitate to record and share ideas, as this is a crucial component of learning. Best wishes, Kol Tuv.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 15:38
  • @mevaqesh Thanks. Edited with link to book pdf. Kol tov!
    – Re'eh
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 22:02
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    Similar: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/66685
    – msh210
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 6:48
  • Are you assuming that "written down" means, in your diary? It probably just means, "published". Is there a link to the Hebrew?
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jan 21 at 14:05

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My teachers who worked extensively with Baalei Teshuva warned me that Sefer HaMiddot by Reb Nachman is a work that is difficult to understand properly and many ideas in fact seem to run contrary to Halacha. A person should learn these works with a competent teacher who can guide them to understand Reb Nachman's words correctly.

The Halacha clearly encourages writing down and sharing Torah thoughts. In fact, one is even permitted to record novel Torah thoughts on Chol HaMoed, when writing is ordinarily prohibited, for there is no greater loss than the loss of Torah. See Shulchan Aruch 545:9 and the commentators there. For example:

  • Mishna Berura:" ואין לך דבר האבוד יותר מזה שבכל עת...מוטל על האדם...לחדש בה כפי יכלתו"
  • Shut Min Hashamayim: "וכל הכותב אותם מקבל שכר עליהם"

While honest striving in Torah learning is always encouraged, one should be careful not to misuse Torah as a tool to defend one's preconceived notions, see Avot 3:11 below:

One who interprets the Torah contrary to the halacha---although he may possess Torah knowledge and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come.

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  • "The Halacha clearly encourages writing down and sharing Torah thoughts." This seems false. The Halacha begrudgingly allows for writing Torah thoughts only if you fear them being lost, no? That's why they finally wrote down the Mishna: better to cut off one limb (ie one prohibition) than lose the whole body (ie the whole Torah). It's hard to call that "clear encouragement".
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 18:13
  • @DoubleAA Let's not conflate the two situations. Writing down a new section of oral law (such as the Mishna) is a problematic step. Writing down Chiddushim is a different situation entirely. See the commentators on Shulchan Aruch I quote who talk of the great value of writing novel Torah ideas. To quote one, "אין לך הפסד גדול מזה"
    – LN6595
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 18:43
  • It's being a big loss, and therefore permissible, doesn't make the permission any less begrudging. In the ideal situation we'd just remember it. There's nothing to conflate here as the laws against writing Oral Torah, like all Torah rules, are eternal and unchanging.
    – Double AA
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 18:44
  • @DoubleAA Please bring me a source that the prohibition of writing down the oral Torah applies even nowadays to standard Chiddushim.
    – LN6595
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 18:50
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    @DoubleAA agav it is not at all clear that this is a torah prohibition. I am not aware of the Rambam ever mentioning it at all.
    – mevaqesh
    Commented Dec 25, 2015 at 20:17
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Attached is a very nice article from The Derher Magazine which discusses the history of The Lubavitcher Rebbe's encouragement for the writing and publishing of chidushei torah.

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  • I was totally turned off by the first paragraph. Sorry, but how is it acceptable to publish that kind of stuff? That kind of contempt for the beloved leaders of the rest of the Torah world is really wrong.
    – MichoelR
    Commented Jan 21 at 14:10
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I recall that the Aruch Hashulchan comments on the prohibition of learning Torah on Tishah B'av, with permission to learn certain parts, but even those without depth: He says, It is impossible to learn without coming to new ideas! Of course. Novel ideas are a precious part of trying to understand the Torah. Listen to what the Torah says to you.
A baal teshuvah has to understand that he needs to be patient. Most ideas that anyone has are going to be wrong or incomplete. As you continue studying the subject, you will find out how your ideas need to be modified, or completely redone. You will see if someone said them before (ברוך שכוונת), or said the opposite.
We also need to be humble. Since we have not learned the whole Torah yet, we aren't equipped to give answers that take the whole Torah into account. Even those who have learned everything still need to learn it better. Our questions and our answers are going to be incomplete.
Be patient. Ask questions, and don't insist on answering them - you can spoil a good question that way. Keep your questions. Some of the best ideas come years later. Some are still waiting to be found.

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