What’s the Source? Chai Rotel and Minhagim of Lag Ba’omer


lag-baomerBy Moishe Friedman

One hundred years ago, there lived in Lemberg a shochet named Rav Avrohom Yitzchok Sperling zt”l. As a young man, he was always interested in minhagim and the reasons behind them. He collected hundreds of minhagim with their reasons and published the Sefer Taamei Haminhagim. This sefer was an instant success and was a bestseller. It was reprinted at least six times in his lifetime (something unheard of in those days).

The original sefer had only three entries for Lag Ba’omer:

1) Tachanun is not said.
2) Children play with bows and arrow.
3) One increases lit candles.

The reason for so few entries is because in those days, Lag Ba’omer in chutz la’aretz was a very minor occasion, even for Chassidim.
In later editions, another 4-5 entries were added.

In 1957, Mr. Yakov Weinfeld, the owner of Eshkol Publishing House, bought the copyrights for the Sefer Taamei Haminhagim from a grandson, R’ Moshe Sperling. Mr. Weinfeld had a friend, Rav Shlomo Eliezer Margolis, whose father, Rav Osher Zelig, was a mekubal who was also the organizer for the travelers to Meron on Lag Ba’omer. He put together a collection of interesting sources on the Lag Ba’omer festivities. Mr. Weinfeld acquired this collection from his son. He inserted a complete chapter (25 pages) from Rav Osher Zelig’s kesovim (writings) in the Sefer Taamei Haminhagim. Most people are not aware that this whole chapter is not part of the sefer. They are also not aware that the haskamos written on the sefer do not apply
to this chapter, which was written 40-50 years after the haskamos were written.

Chai Rotel is advertised as an old minhag mentioned in the Sefer Taamei Haminhagim. Those advertising it this way are probably also not aware of the fact that Chai Rotel is not mentioned in the sefer proper, but was inserted by the publisher 40-50 years later.

Many likkutim seforim of today use material and sources from this chapter, not aware of the fact that it is not from the Taamei Haminhagim.

It is very likely that Rav Osher Zelig’s kesovim are just as reliable as the Taamei Haminhagim, but it doesn’t have any haskamos and we have no assurances that it wasn’t tampered at any point.

{Moishe Friedman-Matzav.com}


  1. Very interesting. So a publisher added what he wanted under some else’s name
    Isn’t that problematic if it was done a small thing like drinking. What about major things

  2. What is misleading article. What difference does it make if the veteran Mekubal who was very familiar with what happened in Meron shared his knowledge with Rabbi Sperling or Rabbi Einfeld. Do anyone really think that the Rabbis issuing the haskama woukld not do so if Rabbi Sperling printed it. This is much ado about nothing!

  3. Rav Yitz, if only you knew the chashivus and brilliance of the author of this article, you would not question any further.

  4. This article is NOT accurate!
    #1) There is a lettet written in ???”?,1929, by the ????? ???? ????”? ??”? where he writes of the old ???????? minhog to send ?? ???? and he writes that he personally sent. Check it out!
    #2) ????? ??? ?????’????? all know of the minhog and it’s ????? by them to be accurate.
    So a) what do we know in 2015? b) Just because the ???? ??????? hadn’t heard of it, he was a ??”? in Lemberg, far away from ??? ????? and simply did not know of it! His work is still a masterpiece although a nice new type-setting would really do it justice!

  5. Dumb comment learning is what it’s all about the article is about a fraud where done one bought the rights and inverted his own ideas without telling you they where not part of the original work is 50 years old

  6. To #8
    How is “this article NOT accurate” When the so called letter from the Kedishas Tzion was written in 1929 and is published in a Sefer
    that the Mechaber was Niftar way before.

    It is as if you were to stick this letter in a Gemoro Meseches Kesubos and claim the Kedishas Tzion’s letter is a befeirishe Gemoro in Kesubos.
    The only source for this letter is in the
    chapter inserted in the Sefer Ta,amei Haminhagim.

  7. As MK from Cleveland points out the author of this article is indeed very choshuv.

    I think there is an important point about the sefer Ta’amei Haminhagim (TH) and other similar collections of minhgagim that is sometimes overlooked and that is that a reason for a minhag is not the same thing as a source for the minhag. The very fact that so many of the minhagim mentioned in TH are given multiple reasons is evidence in itself that the original source of the minhag has probably been lost with time assuming there ever was an authentic source to begin with. And when a minhag does not have a verifiable and authoritative source (e.g. a gemara or mention by the rishonim or by at least the writings of the Ari’zal) then a healthy does of skepticism about the minhag is reasonable.

    But the fact alone that a reason for a minhag is published in the TH without an older source tells us nothing more than that someone was familiar with the minhag approximately 150 years ago and thought they knew a reason for it. But reasons for minhagim are easy to manufacture. (I sometimes play a gaqme in which I present three minhagim AND their reasons one of which I make up on the spot and see if people can guess which one it is. They often cannot.)

    Genuine,verifiable and ancient SOURCES for them are much harder to come by.

    A Gutten Shabbos to everyone.