In the introduction to Chovos Halevavos, R. Bachya (as translated by R. Yehuda Ibn Tibbon) writes:

מצות השמע שאין השכל מחייב בהם ולא דוחה אותם כאיסור בשר בחלב ושעטנז וכלאים והדומה להם ממה שנעלמה ממנו עילת איסורם ועילת חיוב ממה שנתחייבנו מהן.

He seems to be referring to reasons for the mitzvos, but עילה is used here as opposed to טעם.


  1. טעם and עילה have different meanings
  2. The translator chose עילה over טעם deliberately

What did he intend to convey here by the usage of the word עילה.

Or more simply, what, in general, is the difference between the meaning of the words עילה and טעם?

  • One seems to be translated as “rationale” or something close to that while the other is “reason”. Rationale would represent a more calculated reason. No source, just a hunch
    – Chatzkel
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 17:55
  • ChatGPT agrees with @Chatzkel: chat.openai.com/share/03d3c61c-27df-4ee5-a4a6-7baa3f6acd78
    – shmosel
    Commented Jun 21, 2023 at 19:33
  • Firstly, @Chatzkel- can you elaborate on what you mean by this distinction. I don't fully understand it
    – Yehuda
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 20:08
  • @shmosel I absolutely LOVE the chat GPT answer, and I think it's so cool! I'm biased, because that's exactly what I told my chavrusa when we learning it but I couldn't full express it. Can you post it as an amswer? If not, I will... Thank you!!!
    – Yehuda
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 20:09
  • It's officially banned on stack exchange. Not sure what the policy is if it's explicitly sourced. Maybe one of the mods can comment.
    – shmosel
    Commented Jun 22, 2023 at 20:12

1 Answer 1


עילה means "cause", and טעם means "reason". So while we can understand many "reasons" for various mitzvos, we cannot understand the ultimate true reason, as that requires seeing things from G-d's perspective, which is above us.

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