"A Mesorah And A "Torah Sheb'al Peh" In Breslov"
Rabbi Dovid Sears commenting on The Breslov Mesorah:
You asked about the Meron machlokes and the difference between the two main lines of the mesorah.
As for the Meron issue: you really have to understand the centrality of what Breslovers call "the Rebbe's Rosh Hashanah" to appreciate why Reb Avraham Sternhartz stirred up such a hornets' nest with his shittah about going to Meron.
The basic Breslover belief is that the Rebbe's Rosh Hashanah in Uman is a special tikkun (fixing or repair) for the souls of all who participate -- and that it has a cosmic "ripple effect," as well. Whatever the Rebbe does on Rosh Hashanah heals the spiritual damage of all Klal Yisrael and all of humanity. This is why Breslover Chassidim had such mesiras nefesh in traveling to Uman for Rosh Hashanah throughout the generations, under all sorts of conditions.
So when Reb Avraham Sternhartz, arguably the greatest figure in Breslov of his generation, announced that going to Reb Shimon Bar Yochai's kever in Meron has the same benefits as going to Uman when it is not possible to do so -- and that those in Eretz Yisrael should have just as much mesiras nefesh about going to Meron for Rosh Hashanah -- this was regarded as an extremely radical idea. Again, to a non-Breslover it may sound like a minor thing; but to a community in which the Rosh Hashanah kibbutz looms so large, it is major. Thus, even certain people who knew that they were no match for Reb Avraham in expertise in the Rebbe's seforim or in shimush chakhomim or in Torah in general felt compelled to protest.
Reb Avraham answered some of these questions, and years later, Reb Shmuel Moshe Kramer presented the "Meroner" ideology in his kuntres "Chadi Rabi Shimon." Nevertheless, during those years, Rav Elazar Kenig often repeated that we go to Meron because of our emunas chakhomim in Reb Avraham, not because we truly understand the mechanics of how this tikkun works. Later it became known that earlier generations of Breslover Chassidim in Eretz Yisroel had gone to Meron for Rosh Hashanah, too, which added something to Reb Avraham's position. Since the revival of the Uman gathering, beginning in the late 1980s, this controversy has pretty much become dormant.
As for the mesorah -- this is a harder question to answer.
Both main lines of the mesorah probably agree about most things anyway. My main intention was to point out that we need to have a mesorah, whichever way one connects to it.
There are two aspects to the mesorah, one that is specific and practical, one that is more general and intangible.
For example, the Rebbe says many things in Likkutei Moharan that we don't quite know what to do with today. Going to Uman for Rosh Hashanah is a case in point -- the mesorah tells us that the same tikkun applies after the Rebbe's histalkus (passing) as when he was living in the world. Or a person may not know what the avodah of Erev Rosh Hashanah is all about, since this is not spelled out in the primary seforim; or how to approach certain undefined issues, such as the balance between hischazkus (encouraging oneself) and hisorerus (pushing oneself to reach higher levels) (Likkutei Moharan II, 7). All of these things lead us to seek the guidance of those who know how Breslover Chassidim of the past addressed such matters.
Then there is the intangible, unspecfic aspect of the mesorah -- the spiritual connection we forge with previous generations of Breslover Chassidim, all the way back to Reb Noson and the Rebbe himself.
Concerning this, Reb Noson once remarked, "Fortunate are the eyes that saw our master, Rebbe Nachman -- and fortunate are the eyes that saw those eyes!" To this Rabbi Avraham b'Reb Nachman (author of Biur HaLikkutim) added, "And fortunate are the eyes that saw the eyes…that saw the holy Rebbe!" (Siach Sarfei Kodesh I, 720)
Like everything else in Judaism, there is a mesorah and a "Torah sheb'al peh" in Breslov, and we need to seek out those who can pass it on to us.