Guest Posting From Rabbi Dovid Sears: Common Ground Between Breslev and Other Early Chassidic Texts
Rabbi Dovid Sears, author of many books on Chassidic thought including The Path of the Baal Shem Tov and the newly-released Shir Na'im/Song of Delight, provided the posting below upon request.
Common Ground Between Breslev and Other Early Chassidic Texts
There are strong similarities between virtually all early Chassidic texts, especially those that originate with the family members and close disciples of the Baal Shem Tov. To illustrate this fact (among other things), third generation Breslev leader Rabbi Nachman Goldstein, better known as the Rav of Tcherin, compiled two anthologies: Leshon Chassidim and Derech Chassidim. These two works present selections from dozens of Chassidic seforim on the most common themes, such as Da'as / Knowledge of G-d, Achilah / Holy Eating, Tefilah / Prayer, Hisbodedus / Meditation, etc. To a Breslever Chassid, the two volumes implicitly highlight some of the parallels between Rabbi Nachman's teachings and those of the spiritual environment in which he was born and raised -- the "Baal Shem Tov's Cheder," so to speak. To other Chassidim, they also show how many of Rabbi Nachman's primary ideas and concerns are connected to the streams of Chassidus that flow from the Baal Shem Tov and Maggid of Mezeritch, as well as their successors.
Beyond this, there are a number of interesting parallels we have come across. As is well known, Rabbi Nachman quotes the Baal Shem Tov many times, although not always by name. For example, the teaching that a person is "where his thoughts are," and the Baal Shem Tov's pshat in the Mishnah from Pirkei Avos: "The reward of one mitzvah is a mitzvah" -- that is, the reward is the connection to G-d inherent in the mitzvah itself. The reason why Reb Nachman does not mention his holy great-grandfather's name in such cases is probably because these teachings were quite familiar to all of his followers (although on occasion he does quote the Baal Shem Tov by name).
My chaver Reb Hillel Lubman has also noticed a number of such "overlaps." For example:
1. Rabbi Boruch of Mezhbuzh, Botzino de-Nehoro, printed by Chassidei Skolye, p. 159, on the verse in Tehilim 37:10: "Ve-od me'at ve-eyn rosho" -- compare this to the ma'amar "Azamra," Torah 282 in Likkutei Moharan I.
2. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Ephraim of Sudylkov, Degel Machaneh Ephraim, parshas Toldos, on the verse "Vayomar Esav," p. 33 (new print, "Hotzoas Mir"), citing a teaching from Rabbi Nachman Horodenker, z"l (after whom Rabbi Nachman of Breslev was almost certainly named) -- compare to the first ma'amar in Likkutei Moharan I ("Ashrei Temimei Darech").
To compile a list of such comparisons would be an enormous project. However, it would be worthwhile for anyone with the energy to attempt it.
The avodahs stressed by the Baal Shem Tov are also shared by most other "early Chassidim," including Breslev: Tikkun Chatzos / The Midnight Vigil, Hisbodedus / Secluded Prayer and Meditation, Mikveh / Ritual Immersion, Vasikin / Praying at Daybreak, Tefillah / Prayer, Neginah / Melody, Rikkud / Dance, etc.
It should be mentioned that there are numerous parallels between the Breslev and Chabad seforim, too. Thus, the Tzemach Tzeddek once met a Breslever Chassid and greeted him with the verse: "Bnei ish echad anachnu... We are sons of the same man" (see the recent collection of such anecdotes, "Shivchei ha-Tzaddik.") Although the ru'ach and style of the two derachim differ, they nevertheless share common roots, and this is readily apparent. But that's another discussion.
Rabbi Sears's last posting on this blog can be read here.