This letter was addressed to Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin, one of the foremost Rabbinic scholars of the previous generation.

B”H, Rashbi’s day of celebration, 5709,

Brooklyn, N.Y.

Greetings and blessings,

By chance I saw your book HaMoadim BeHalachah, 2nd edi­tion, in the library of my revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita. In the section on Lag BaOmer, I found a quotation from the Pri Etz Chayim (as found in the Dubrovna and Lashtchov printing), Shaar Sefiras HaOmer, ch. 7, in the note: “The reason [for the celebration] is that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai died on Lag BaOmer. He was one of the students of Rabbi Akiva who died during the Counting of the Omer.

As is well known, this passage is difficult:

— from the perspective of nigleh (the revealed dimension of Torah law) — for Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was one of the five students to whom Rabbi Akiva gave semichah after [the death of his other students],1 and also

— from the perspective of pnimiyus haTorah (the Torah’s mystic insights) — based on the explanations in the Pri Etz Chayim, loc. cit., and the Siddur of the AriZal which describe the spiritual level of the 24,000 students who died and that of these five students.

This [apparent contradiction] was already discussed in the responsa Divrei Nechemiah, Orach Chayim, Responsum 34, sec. 7, [which] concludes: “Perhaps there is a textual error in the Pri Etz Chayim, in the statement: ‘He was one [of the students]....’ Analysis is required. I heard that in the Karatz printing [of the Pri Etz Chayim], this passage was left out.”

This is in fact true. In the Karatz printing of the Pri Etz Chayim,this passage is not found. Similarly, in the copies of the Siddur of the AriZal andthe two manuscript copies of the Pri Etz Chayim thatmy revered father-in-law, the Rebbe Shlita, possesses, this entire concept is lacking. Similarly, I have not found this explanation in any of the maamarim of Chassidus that I have seen as of yet.

This is the wording of Sefer Hakavanos (Inyan Sefiros HaOmer, Discourse 12) with regard to the rationale for the customs of Lag BaOmer: “Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was one of the five great students of Rabbi Akiva. Therefore, his day of celebration is on Lag BaOmer.” Similar concepts are found in Mishnas Chassidim.

Apparently, the author of Divrei Nechemiah did not see Sefer Hakavanos, for he does not refer to it. In my humble opinion, for several reasons, it would be appropriate to correct the above matter in your text or at least to mention the doubts that exist concerning the matter at the earliest opportunity.

By the way, the responsum in Divrei Nechemiah touches on several of the points you deal with in the discourse on Lag BaOmer in your text.

Respectfully, and with blessings for all forms of good,

M. Schneerson