By 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.