10

I am not at all learned in Torah, and yet I occasionally come up with what I think is a chiddush of Torah.

Of course, it frequently turns out that someone else has thought of my "chiddush" before me, and in such cases, I am reasonably reassured of being correct.

But what about in the others? Is it possible that some of my "original" chiddushim are right? Moreover, how could one know if they were?

Could any Jewish neshama, in principle, come up with a chiddushah Torah? Or is some minimal skill set required--perhaps the ability to understand language, for a start--or a great deal more?

  • 2
    You ask about "right". Maybe it is an obligation! – Avrohom Yitzchok Feb 6 '18 at 8:59
  • 1
    I always thought of chiddushim as waiting to be discovered. If I find (or even innovate) one that has been said before then I am thinking like an historical gadol. If I find one that hasn't, either I haven't looked hard enough, my deduction was wrong, or I have found something new (and which should be subject to rigorous testing and investigation). Shouldn't that be an OK practice for anyone who immerses him or herself in learning? – rosends Feb 6 '18 at 11:23
  • Nefesh Hachayim spoke about that – kouty Feb 7 '18 at 6:23
  • Related: hakirah.org/Vol18Wiederblank.pdf – SAH Feb 26 '18 at 0:44
  • Also I read on dafyomi.co.il (though i am unsure to what extent "pilpul" and "chiddush" may be coextensive): "The Gemara in Shabbos (31a) teaches that when a person is brought to his final judgment in the heavenly court, he will be asked, "Pilpalta b'Chochmah" -- "Did you profoundly analyze with wisdom the Torah's teachings?" " – SAH Sep 3 '18 at 5:04
11

See the Pele Yoetz's discussion of this in his entry for "Chiddush".

The basic idea (according to him) is that everyone can and should be mechadesh to the best of their abilities.

וכל אדם אינו חייב אלא כשיעורו רק שיעמול בכל כחו לחדש חידושי תורה

He defines being mechadesh chiddushei Torah as asking and answering in Tanach and Shas, or providing explanations of peshat/remez/drush/sod for Tanach and Shas.

דהיינו להקשות ולתרץ בתנ"ך ובש"ס או לפרש פירושים בפרד"ס על תנ"ך וש"ס

He states that it is very important to write down your chiddushim, as that is the only reason they were given to you.

וכתבו גם כן שעתיד אדם ליתן את הדין על שגילו לו חידושי תורה ולא כתבם שלא גילו לו אלא על מנס שיכתבם ויהנו ממנו ולמטי לה הנאה שיהיו שפתותיו דובבות בקבר

For those who cannot come up with any chiddushim of their own, they can study the chiddushim of others. When you learn something that you did not know before it is considered as if you were mechadesh it yourself.

ולמי שאין ידו משגת לחדש חידושי תורה מדעתו כבר יש תקנה שילמד חידושי תורה את אשר כבר עשוהו ונכתב בספר כל אשר ילמד וידע את אשר לא ידעו חשוב כאילו חדשו

Perhaps the best summary is where he says that whatever you do is fine as long as you have the proper intentions.

ואחד המרבה ואחד הממעיט ובלבד שיכון לבו לשמים

1

Could any Jewish Neshama, in principle, come up with a Chidushei Torah?

Let's first define Chidushei Torah: A way of understanding the text that fits into the words but isn't the way the commentators (that you have read) understand the passage.

Or is some minimal skill set required--perhaps the ability to understand language, for a start--or a great deal more?

I would differentiate between 2 types of Chidushei Torah.

  1. The narrative
  2. The law - Halacha

The narrative

When learning a passage of Tanach, for example, there's nothing wrong with coming up with a novel interpretation. Au contraire, you are expected to learn in depth to the best of your ability; glossing over the text is considered qualitative Bitul Torah by some.

These Chidushei Torah should be written down, and one may even do so on Chol HaMoed (when most writing is forbidden) since forgetting one's Chidushei Torah is considered a major irreplaceable loss.

On a practical level, every few years you should review these Chidushei Torah to ensure that you still agree with them, based on new knowledge you've gained since you wrote them down.

The law - Halacha

However, when it comes to practical Halacha, you cannot come up with novel ideas unless you are an expert in the field. What you invented may fly in the face of something written explicitly elsewhere.

We have dozens of explanations for many passages in Tanach and Medrash - and they may even contradict each other. This goes along with the rule of there are 70 ways to interpret the Torah.

Rarely will you find a Perush arguing and trying to disprove another Perush. It happens, but mostly the various explanations live side by side.

When it comes to explaining Halacha-related texts, there's only one correct way, in theory. When we do have multiple opinions they are either Minhag-based (which I suspect is the majority of them, with different locations developing variant customs) or they disagree on how to explain/decipher/implement a passage in the Gemara. Whichever way they explain it will be consistent across the board, which is why the layman cannot pick & choose which Poskim to follow in different areas. Since we're (blissfully) unaware of the roots of each halacha and how they are intertwined, we may be doing contradictory things by following multiple opinions in different areas.

The difference

Point being that while you may create an entirely new school of thought regarding the narrative, (and the Malbim does that, for example), if you have a novel way of explaining a Halacha-based text, e.g. a Gemara, then the chances are you're misunderstanding something.

In the narrative case, write it down for posterity.
In the Halacha case, write it down and ask around to find out where you went wrong. You may discover you're correct... but hope for the best and expect the worst.

To sum it up:
שִׁבְעִים פָּנִים לָתּוֹרָה
There are 70 facets to the Torah.
(Go figure them out)
vs.
מְּגַלֶּה פָנִים בַּתּוֹרָה שֶׁלֹּא כַּהֲלָכָה
The transgression of uncovering facets of the Torah in contradiction to Halacha.
(Don't go there).

  • 1
    Even within halacha, you can divide chiddushim into several categories. As you say, chiddushim that lead to practical halachic ramifications... don't go there. But for understanding the structure or reasons behind the halacha (as long as you don't then say "the reasons don't apply in case X so the halacha doesn't apply either"), I would say chiddushim are very important in understanding and remembering the halacha. Similarly, coming up with new cases where the halacha might be relevant can be valuable (again, as long as you don't pasken on your own what the halacha would be in those cases). – Heshy Feb 6 '18 at 13:09
  • 1
    Why is it impossible to come up with a chiddush in law? Obviously it might take knowledge of the Gemara and previous commentaries, and there are certainly a lot of mistakes that can be possibly made, but אין אדם עומד על דברי תורה אא"כ נכשל בהן, a person only understands Torah after making mistakes (Gitin 43a) – b a Feb 6 '18 at 13:15
  • 4
    any sources for any of this? – רבות מחשבות Feb 6 '18 at 13:51
  • 1
    I think there are critical issues you haven't raised, and I know you know. (1) Without some amount of "Sinai", it's difficult to be an "oqer harim". The more one knows, the less likely one could be contradicting data one is unaware of. So, while everyone has a right, there is more or less chance of saying something that doesn't work. (2) Are you okay with someone finding a new path in parshanut that not only is different than chazal, but grossly contradicts it. Like the suggestion, common in some non-O circles, that Avraham failed the aqeida. – Micha Berger Feb 7 '18 at 21:53
  • 1
    "There are 60 myriad letters in the Torah" is more democratic than "70 facets". The number of panim matches the number in the Sanhedrin. But to say that every householder has their own piece... – Micha Berger Feb 7 '18 at 21:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .