I was probably too harsh attributing various cognitive biases to Rabbis, so I'd like apologize and to step back.

With some background in Cognitive sciences, I'm very interested in understanding the types and methods of thinking of the prominent Rabbis. Unfortunately, I don't find any information, besides notions of some "divine intervention" like Ruach Hakodesh.

I myself write some Chiddushim and give Shiurim on various Torah topics, incl. Halachah, Hashkafah and more, and I'm trying to reflect myself on the cognitive strategies I use in my statements - sometimes I exaggerate or even lie purposefully, sometimes I fall for cognitive bias, like bringing only the verses/Poskim that support my claims.

I'm interested to see if some Rabbis wrote their reflections on how they wrote their books (not what they wrote). How did their thinking go and how aware were they of those processes?

  • Personal apology accepted and appreciated. I;m uncertain what your looking for, exactly, but, I think Ramba:m in his intro to Yad chazaka explains his motive for writing his volume. I have to check Rabbeinu Yonah's intro to Sha'arei Teshuva as I think he explains his motive, as well. Luzzato, I'm quite certain explain something in Derech Hashem from what I recall. I'm not saying that they specifically explain how they wrote, but, they tend to explain their motive which may suggest, on its own merit, the basis of how they wrote tings. Is this what you seek?
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 19:08
  • @DanF No, not motives, but how they thought. How they inferred one thing from another, why they preferred one example over others, did they allow themselves to skew the facts a bit to conform with thei theories and the like.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 19:12
  • My! I doubt you'll find that. But, who knows?
    – DanF
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 19:15
  • Not sure if this is what you're looking for, but many Tannaim and Amoraim had nicknames that were based on the way they thought and processed what they learned. For example עוקר הרים, סיני, אוצר בלום and many more. See Gittin 67a
    – Silver
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 19:21
  • 1
    The issue with your previous question wasn't that it's possible for a rabbi to have a bias influence his thinking, as might be inferred from your apology here. People wouldn't have objected to that. The problem was that you said "all Rabbinical argumentation suffers from the confirmation bias... when Rabbis formulate a statement... they bring only the sources that confirm their claims and do not mention or deal with known contradicting facts and sources. It is true that others argue, but each one only defends his own point." That's a mischaracterization of rabbinic writings in general.
    – Fred
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 20:11

1 Answer 1


The introduction to the Chovot Hallevavot (text and translation copied from Sefaria) describes the author's inner struggle on whether to write the book. He originally thought he wasn't worthy to write the book. Then he changed his mind and figured that the reason why he thought he wasn't worthy to write the book was because he was lazy.

וכאשר זמותי להסיר משא הטורח הזה מעלי ולהניח לי מחברו שבתי וחשדתי את נפשי על בחרה במנוחה ולשכון במעון העצלה בהשקט ובבטחה ויראתי שיהיה רצון התאוה להניח המחשבה הזאת ושהוא הטני אל דרך המנוחה והשלוה ולהסכים על ההנחה ולשבת במושב העצלות

When I then decided to relieve myself of the burden of this undertaking and give up my plan of composing this work, I again suspected my soul of having chosen tranquility, to dwell in the abode of laziness, in peace and quiet. I feared that perhaps this decision to abandon the project stemmed from the lust for pleasure, and that this is what had inclined me to the way of peace and tranquility, to decide to abandon this in order to sit in the company of laziness.

Two more examples of similar deliberations (though they are less about their cognitive processes:

Rabbi Kook describes a similar "inner war" (מלחמה פנימית) about whether to write one of his books (introduction to Orot Hatteshuva), which may allude to Jeremiah's struggle with regard to prophesying (20:9).

The Chafets Chayyim, in his introduction to the work of the same name, was unsure whether to publish his book because people might abuse it. He decided to publish it, partially because of a reason given in the Talmud (Bava Batra 89b), which describes a similar internal debate of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkay whether to make some of his teachings public.

  • I need to think of formulating a new question for your answer, like "what is Rabbis' motivation/considerations for writing books". In this question, I focus on how they think when writing a book - why they think one way and not another.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 20:11

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