Dispute Part I

  • Rav Itamar Eldar
In this shiur we return to teaching no. 64. We previously completed section 3 of this teaching, dealing with speech and silence. Now we address the next section, with a completely different subject: dispute.
I believe that we must pay attention to two aspects of this teaching.
Firstly, we must examine it in relation to the other sections of teaching no. 64.  We must ask ourselves whether there is consistency in the framework that R. Nachman is setting forth.
Secondly, we must try to attain a profound understanding of R. Nachman's perception of the concept of dispute. His perception is reflected in several of his teachings, and which, in fact, is embodied in his life story as recorded and presented by his student, R. Natan, in the comprehensive biographical literature that lies beyond Likutei Moharan.
Concerning this second aspect, it should be noted that several scholars have focused on the issue of dispute in R. Nachman's teachings [1].  What is common to most of them is an attempt to identify the theological-philosophical statements within the life-story and personal development of R. Nachman himself – overflowing as they were with disputes and battles between him and those around him. This attempt, in my humble opinion, has not been satisfactory.
In fact, this attempt also undermines an in-depth study on the philosophical level, for if we want to say that R. Nachman in his theological statements is just covering up "political" ones, then there is no point in trying to clarify his theological teachings on the subject of dispute and to examine the correlation between them and the rest of his teachings. And if we wish to claim that R. Nachman's "socio-political" reality is what led to his theological view of dispute, then we are limiting the validity of intellectual truth by restricting it to the historical and social context. [2]
In the coming shiurim we shall attempt as best we can to focus on R. Nachman's thought and philosophy, with his biography in the background but not playing an active role in our discussion. Once we have traced the outline of R. Nachman's thought on this subject, we shall return to teaching no. 64 and try to evaluate it in light of the previous sections.
We shall follow R. Nachman's example and proceed from the outside inwards; from the most external expressions of dispute – which he also addresses – up to its supreme root, which turns it almost into the foundation of the world.
The sprouting of dispute
Let us open our discussion with a concise teaching that represents a "declaration of intent" as to R. Nachman's treatment of the subject of dispute:
"Dispute raises and elevates a person, for "man is a tree of the field" (Devarim 20). A tree is at the level of the ground; it is impossible for it to raise itself unless water is poured upon it, then the water raises and elevates the tree. Dispute is called "water," as it is written (Tehillim 88), "They come about me like water all the day; they encompass me all together."" (Likutei Moharan Kama 161)
The claim that "dispute raises and elevates a person" can be understood and explained on several levels. Every difficulty or setback is an opportunity for a person to raise himself and come out strengthened, and thus dispute can turn into a springboard for new spiritual horizons, development and progress. However, in his example, R. Nachman jumps a level from "bedi'avad" (post facto) to "le-khat'hila" (ideal): "He cannot raise himself unless water is poured upon him…" [3].
According to this analogy, dispute appears not as a springboard and an opportunity for future growth, but rather as a redemption for a person from the dead end in which he is imprisoned; he is "at the level of the ground," waiting for what he needs in order to move upwards.
I believe that as we explore the different levels, we will discover that the concept of dispute assumes more and more of an ideal status. But first let us address the dispute that arises from a deficiency within a person:
"This water represent dispute, as it is written (Bamidbar 20), "mei meriva" ("waters of dispute")[4]. And therefore dispute is called "palgata" (division), as it is written (Tehillim 65), "the river (peleg) of God, full of water." Because from all disputes a book is created, like questions and answers (response). For dispute is the questions and criticisms which they ask him, and he gives his answer, and in this way several new books are created in his mind. For there are several books right now, and in the future there will be several more, and all are needed for the world. In the beginning, when he did not have faith in the Sages, then all his books were like nothing, for he would disdain them, as it is written (Kohelet 12), "To make many books there is no end, and much studying is weariness to the flesh." In other words, he scorns their multitude of books, and then all are like nothing for him. But when he does teshuva for this, then a new book reveals itself to him every time, for all the books that he has, which were once as nothing, are once again counted for him. And he looks at the disputes: why do they argue in this way, using these words, rather than in a different way? And thus he sees how to do teshuva and to repair his faith of Sages, for it is from there that dispute arises – from the deficiency in his faith of Sages. And according to the teshuva, according to the dispute, so he returns to faith in the Sages, and a book is revealed to him, for what he originally considered as nothing is once again worthy in his eyes. And so it happens each time, in accordance with the dispute – so is the teshuva, that he returns to faith of the Sages. And yet another different book – which at first he disdained and considered worthless - is introduced to him, for he once again considers it worthy. Hence, through dispute a book is created. And this is the meaning of the words (Iyov 31), "My opponent has written a book": that through opposition and dispute books are created. But there are singular tzaddikim of the generation whose faith is certainly complete, but nevertheless there is dispute surrounding them. This is as it is written (Yishayahu 53), "He has borne the sin of the many," "and he suffers their transgressions." In other words, he bears dispute for the sake of the world. Through the controversy that exists around him, he repairs the faith of Sages of the masses. And there are some who are the subject of dispute because they have no faith in themselves; they do not believe in the Torah insights that they are teaching, they do not believe that the blessed God has great pleasure from their new teachings. And since they have no faith in their own insights, through this they become careless in their teachings and therefore controversy comes upon them. And through this they do teshuva, and their insights are once again worthy in their eyes, and they introduce new teachings again, and a book is created from this. Sometimes a book is created in heaven, as it is written (Malakhi 3), "Then those who fear God spoke to one another, and God listened and heard, and a book … was written."" (Likutei Moharan Kama 61, 5)
R. Nachman makes use of the dual meaning of the word "teshuva." "Teshuva" (meaning "answer") is the response to the question or counter-argument that is directed towards a person by his opponents; at the same time, it is also the returning and repair that the person achieves through his teshuva.
In this case, R. Nachman declares that giving an answer to opponents is itself that person's process of teshuva, and his sin is clear and known to him.
Dispute as an Expression of Alienation
The deficiency of faith in the Sages, the person's scorn for books, is not a "local" phenomenon that pertains solely to his specific problem. A person who lacks faith in rabbinical tradition, a person for whom the "Jewish bookshelf" is not a source of inspiration, nourishment and – it should be added – authority, creates for himself a religio-ethical world that rests upon himself alone – perhaps even upon the normative winds that blow around him.
One written source proclaims that "Of making many books there is no end, and much studying is weariness to the flesh." However, on the other side the ancient Tannaim present, in a concise Mishna, the secret of Jewish tradition: "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai, and he passed it to Yehoshua…" – up to the last of the "pairs." And from there, we know, it passed in turn to the Tannaim, the Amoraim, the Savoraim, the Geonim, the Rishonim and Acharonim – until our times.
Each stage of this handing-down creates a new stage of "making many books." The attempt to glean from our Rabbis the treasure of Torah, to understand it, to comprehend our reality in light of it, and – ultimately – to ready it for the next stage of inheritance, gives rise to questions and answers. This is known as responsa. And so the library continues to grow. As R. Nachman declares: "There are several books now, and in the future there will be several more, and all are needed for the world."
A person's attempt to sever himself from the chain of tradition and legacy – whether out of weariness (as portrayed in Kohelet) or out of scorn (as depicted in the above teaching) – expresses his alienation from that living spirit that pulses in Batei Midrash, around the study table, from the very dawn of our spiritual and cultural existence.
Dispute that comes to such a person is a reminder to him of where he comes from and where he is headed. Attention should be paid to the fact that R. Nachman does not speak of suffering that atones or awakens; he deals with the actual content of the dispute! The dispute involves many questions, and they demand a response.
A question that is built into a logical or religious perception may be repressed, but a question that is shoved into the believer's face cannot be ignored.  From this point of view the content is critical. Any subject that can be attacked, any structure that is threatened with collapse, requires that the respondent reinforce his foundations and strengthen his supports; against his will he is forced to consult the bookshelf. The yellowing pages that sat so long in a far-forgotten corner will once again illuminate his soul, and the great teachers of Israel, who have carried within them the Divine light from Mount Sinai, through the Middle Ages and down to our own times, will once again take part in that person's spiritual discussion. His teshuva, or answer, represents his renewed connection to the source of nourishment, as well as the answer to the dispute that arose from that deficiency. [5]
What arises from this is that the first dispute, which R. Nachman depicts here, pertains to content and to the idea. Its very existence points to a deficiency and carelessness in the idea and in the content.[6]
"Are my words not like fire"
In one of his most important teachings, R. Nachman presents a similar idea in different words:
"Know that there is a soul in the world which, through it, explanations and interpretations of the Torah are revealed. And this soul suffers great suffering. "You shall eat bread with salt, and drink water by the measure, for this is the way of Torah" (Avot, chapter 6). And all expositors of the Torah receive (inspiration) from this soul. This soul – all its words are like burning coals. For it is impossible to receive and draw the waters of Torah except for a person whose words are like burning coals, as it is written (Yirmiyahu 23): "Is my word not like fire." And when this soul falls from the level of "Is my word not like fire," and its words are no longer like burning coals – its words cool down – then it dies. And when it dies, then the explanations of Torah that are drawn by it also die, and then all the expositors of the Torah are unable to achieve any interpretation in the Torah. Then dispute breaks out over the tzaddikim. For the essence of dispute in the world is created by the disappearance of explanations of the Torah, for an explanation is the answer to difficult questions and arguments. And this is as it is written (Bamidbar 20), "midbar tzin" (the wilderness of Tzin) – representing speech that is "chilled" (metzunan), where Miriam died – representing the soul suffering the bitterness of subjugation for the Torah. And then the well disappeared – i.e., the embodiment of explanations of the Torah. And then "The nation argued with Moshe" – i.e., the dispute that consequently arose." (Likutei Moharan Kama 20, 1).
We shall not undertake an in-depth discussion of this teaching, which addresses the study and teaching of Torah; rather, we shall suffice with the basic assumptions lying at the foundation of the image that R. Nachman depicts here. [7]
In this teaching, R. Nachman describes the absolute and exclusive source of all the interpretations of Torah that emanate from all the commentators. And we should pay careful attention to this description: this person is not a phenomenal genius, not even a tzaddik blessed with special creative and innovative ability, but rather a "soul suffering great sufferings," "eating bread with salt and drinking water by measure."
The teachings of this soul are likewise not characterized by innovation, creativity, comprehensiveness, or anything else that we would expect from the source of inspiration for all Torah commentators. Its teachings have one main characteristic: "all its words are like burning coals." This is the necessary condition – perhaps also sufficient condition – for receiving Torah insights. For "it is impossible to receive and draw from the waters of Torah except for a person whose words are like burning coals." The waters of Torah, teaches R. Nachman, are received and drawn. They are not created and invented! Not even revealed and clarified! And the receiving and drawing cannot be complete, they are not possible, except through words that are burning coals.
We can understand the "burning coals" better in view of what happens to that soul when they disappear: a chilling; "the wilderness of Tzin, representing chilled (metzunan) speech." A Rabbi can stand before his students and teach Torah, demonstrating an amazing command of an enormous range of material as he weaves one idea or logical sequence into the next in an innovative and creative manner – and his words can still be cold!
Thus, the carelessness about which R. Nachman is speaking concerns not only the sources but also the form of delivery. Even an introductory course in Jewish Philosophy from the time of Tanakh until the modern era is no guarantee for a connection with the vitality of Torah and tradition. And when this connection is lacking, dispute is born. Dispute around tzaddikim, rules R. Nachman, is the result of the disappearance of explanations of Torah, which in turns results from the death of that soul.
Before attempting to understand this idea further, let us broaden our view with another teaching in which R. Nachman clarifies two concepts - good and kindness:
"It is written in the Holy Zohar (Teruma 148), "Goodness and kindness are one in the same; except, goodness- his goodness is entirely inside him, kindness- that extends outward." This is like two tzaddikim who are both from the same source, except one represents goodness, for its goodness "is entirely inside him" - i.e., he does not reveal his Torah to others, while the other represents kindness "that extends outward," he reveals his Torah to others, which is kindness, as it is written "the Torah of kindness is upon her tongue." And because of this there is dispute between them. And this is the dispute that existed between Shaul and David: both were great tzaddikim, but nevertheless there was dispute between them – as a result of their different aspects – for the one represented "good" while the other represented "kindness." As our Sages taught (Eruvin 53), "Of David who revealed the texts (made his studies accessible) it is written, "Those who revere You shall see me and rejoice." Of Shaul who did not reveal the texts it is written, "Wherever he would turn, he would do wrong."" This is as was stated above, for "Shaul who did not reveal the texts" is the attribute of goodness, "for goodness is hidden inside him." But "David who revealed the texts," that he taught Torah to the multitudes, this is the attribute of kindness that extends outward, the attribute of "the Torah of kindness is upon her tongue." And because of this there was dispute between them, for dispute is like lightning, as explained elsewhere (siman 56). And we find that lightning is caused when vapors emerge that are hot like fire, and the clouds draw in these vapors, and because they draw in more and more vapors until they cannot be held – then the cloud breaks, and this causes lightning. This is the significance of the dispute: because Torah is like fire, as it is written (Yirmiyahu 23), "Is my word not like fire," it is pent up in his heart like a burning fire because he does not reveal it. Therefore it bursts forth and emerges like thunder, which is the dispute. And this is as it written (Avoda Zara 19), "The discussion of Sages requires study." I.e., all the conversations between Sages in which they talk and disagree with one another must be studied, for the crux of the dispute is because of a deficiency of study, because he does not teach his Torah to others and his goodness is hidden inside him. Thus the dispute of tzaddikim is drawn from the Torah. But there is dispute among evil people, which is not drawn from Torah at all. This is what David complained before God (Tehillim 119), "The arrogant have dug pits ('shichot,' like 'sichot' – conversations) which are not in accordance with Your Torah" – for they talk and argue with me not in accordance with Torah. And this is what David asked (ibid. 23), "May goodness and kindness follow me": that at all times that I am pursued and suffer controversy, may the dispute arise only from there – from the place of goodness and kindness." (Likutei Moharan Kama 141, 283).
Both tzaddikim come from the same source, but they have different natures. The first represents "good"; he hoards all his learning within himself, not revealing it to others. The other represents "kindness" – he shares his Torah and his insights with others. But make no mistake: it is not the difference in character that leads to dispute. R. Nachman adopts a judgmental attitude, presenting the person with the first type of character as bearing a trait that is not suited to the nature of the Torah that is gradually building up within him. Again, let us not ignore the analogy that R. Nachman uses: "Because the Torah is compared to fire"! This time it is not the person's words that are burning coals, but rather the Torah itself. [8]
Again, the analogy is important for our understanding of the subject – in our case, the Torah. The Sage teaches Torah, but we are not speaking of information and knowledge that gradually accumulates. Torah is not made up of ink letters on paper, but rather letters of black fire upon white fire. Burning flames that seek to spread.
And thus R. Nachman describes the process that takes place within the person who is "good." [9] The fire is kindled and burns, and the vapors ascending from it grow denser until, in an instant, they break out in a great noise. What R. Nachman omits in this teaching we may fill in from another one.  Those vapors break out, lashing out at everything in their path. Dispute, representing water, comes as in the verse (Tehillim 124:4), 'The water would have washed us away, the stream would have overrun our soul."
This dispute, according to R. Nachman, has its source in the Torah: "Hence the dispute among tzaddikim is drawn from the Torah" [10]. But this dispute, according to R. Nachman, is like the torrential rains that crash down after a long dry period, during which time the water has accumulated and gathered in the cloud.
Dispute arising from a deficiency in study
The tikkun for this dispute, R. Nachman teaches, lies in study: "The conversations of Torah Sages require study." In other words, "The essence of the dispute arises from a deficiency in study." But the interpretation that R. Nachman gives to this phrase inverts its meaning. Before we examine this inversion, let us stop at this statement and understand its obvious meaning, representing a perception of dispute that is different from that of R. Nachman. Rambam teaches:
"But that which they taught, "When the disciples of Hillel and Shamai became numerous and did not follow their teachers closely enough, controversy spread in Israel."  This matter is explained as follows: if two people are equal in intellectual ability and in learning, and in their knowledge of the principles that from which hypotheses may proceed, then they will never disagree concerning the hypotheses. And if there would be a disagreement, it would be small in scale – just as we find that Hillel and Shamai disagreed on only a few laws. This was because their views were close to each other in everything that they proposed as hypotheses. Likewise the principles according to which the one drew his conclusions were the same as the principles of the other. But when their disciples' intellectual diligence weakened, and their reasoning was weaker than that of their teachers Hillel and Shamai, then fundamental disputes arose between them in many matters, where the hypotheses were in accordance with the intellect of each, and in accordance with whatever he had learned of the principles" (Shemoneh Perakim).
The assumption upon which Rambam's entire approach rests is that the Torah is rational and logical truth, which is passed down from one generation to the next. By a combination of study tradition and rational ability, the student approaches that truth with increasing accuracy.
Rambam interprets the Gemara in Sanhedrin 88b concerning the disciples of Hillel and Shamai in an entirely rational fashion. The dispute was a result of a weakening of the students' conscientious intellectual application and a consequent weakening in their reasoning.
Attention should be paid to the fact that the Rambam introduces the "principles" – i.e., the study tradition – as part of the conditions for attaining the truth and for abolishing controversy. It should be noted that R. Saadya Gaon also addresses this Gemara, and his view is even more extreme:
"The Sages of Israel have said concerning one who has not completed his intellectual study: 'When the disciples of Hillel and Shamai became numerous and did not follow their teachers closely enough, controversy spread." These words teach us that if their disciples had completed their study, there would not have been controversy between them, nor any argument" (Emunot ve-De'ot, introduction 10).
R. Saadya Gaon goes even further than Rambam in nullifying any element of the tradition needed to attain the truth and to negate controversy.  He thereby places the entire weight of the question on the conscious rational process. To the extent that this process is more precise, the mistakes and controversies will be minimized.
But, according to these perceptions, we are required to leave the entire matter to the rational training of the student – at least as regards everything connected to understanding the Torah. Emotions and experiences may color a person's religious world, but study itself must be clean of any hint of emotion, in order to allow the rational truth to be exposed.
This is the logical and obvious interpretation of the expression that R. Nachman himself does not hesitate to utter: "for the crux of controversy is because of a deficiency in learning."  But R. Nachman, as is his way, full of absurdities and surprises, leads us almost up to Rambam and R. Saadya Gaon, and then suddenly turns their teaching upside down [11] – "Because of a deficiency in learning – because they did not teach their Torah to others."
When we are faced with "many waters" – a Divine outpouring, a living spirit moving – the emphases alter, the vessels are exchanged, and the direction takes a turn. Dispute is not the result of a lack of knowledge or a lack of its application. For R. Nachman, dispute – in this context – wears two garments: it is the result of severing from the Divine outpouring, or a result of its halting.
When there are no sources of water, the ground threatens to dry up, and the voices of all earthly creatures crying out for water are clothed in the form of controversy surrounding tzaddikim. On the other hand, when a learned scholar does not share the outpouring of inspiration that comes to him, locking it instead within himself, then the bursting forth of that outpouring in the world is clothed in the form of dispute between that Tzaddik himself and his colleague. [12]
A "deficiency of study," for R. Nachman, does not lead to "mistakes," as R. Saadya Gaon or Rambam would have formulated it, but rather to "thirst" and to "chilling." "My soul thirsts for God," for R. Nachman, is not a mere gesture in prayer, but rather a psychological stance that envelops a person's entire religious experience – including, most certainly, the aspect of study.
Dispute, from R. Nachman's point of view, is not a cold, alienated arguments between two perceptions represented by the two parties, but rather a desperate cry of thirst for living spirit, on one hand, and on the other hand – the sound of "many, great waters, breakers in the sea," seeking to tell all the world that "great in the heavens is God." 
[1] See Yosef Weiss, "Studies on Breslov Hassidut," pp. 5-66; Mendel Paicage, "Breslov Hassidut," pp. 68-75; A.Y. Green, "The Sufferer" pp. 96-130 (biography with commentary).
[2] It should be noted that the boundary between history and philosophy, in the scientific world, is often breached – from both directions. Thus we find historians researching philosophical theories from an historical perspective, and vice versa. An outstanding example of this is the comprehensive study on Hassidism by the well-known historian Dubnow. The main criticism of it, in the eyes of well-respected scholars, was that he had attempted to provide, for every school of thought and every phenomenon, an explanation that rested upon historical reality. Even if this approach contains some truth, his colleagues maintained, this foundation does not provide us with the tools to analyze and explain the philosophy, since different people experience different reactions to any given historical event.
[3] R. Nachman provides a different analogy in a letter that he wrote to his brother, in which he discusses the controversy surrounding him: "All of this is to increase your greatness and glory and to add to your wisdom. For just as it is impossible for any kind of seed to reach its potential growth unless first it is placed in the earth, and then the seed must rot, and thereafter it blossoms and grows and becomes a big tree, likewise this matter: that through your being humiliated to the ground, through this you will become great and you will grow and blossom in the world" (Chayei Moharan, His Journey to Novoritch 14, 165). Here, again, our impression is that he is describing this process as the ideal, for "it is impossible for any kind of seed to reach its potential growth…" – i.e., reaching one's potential requires one to endure dispute and controversy.
[4] Attention should be paid to the fact that once again R. Nachman uses water as a metaphor for dispute. Likewise, he declares: "Any tzaddik, before he attains his level, there is controversy surrounding him. For, as our Rabbis taught, "Strife is like the rush of water." Thus dispute is like water, and the water – i.e., the dispute or controversy – elevates him. But I require that there be controversy surrounding me always, for I am constantly moving from one level to the next" (Chayei Moharan, Concerning the Controversy Surrounding Him 10, 401-402). This is no coincidence, and we shall relate to this below.
[5] R. Nachman addresses this subject within two other categories.
The first pertains to tzaddikim, perfect in their faith. For them, dispute is meant to repair the deficiency of "lack of faith in the Sages" that exists within the masses. I believe that R. Nachman is speaking here not only on the mystical level, where the tzaddik bears the sins of the entire world and atones for them through his suffering, but also about a spiritual and social truth. The need to protect the tzaddik who is surrounded by dispute and controversy is the way in which the masses, concerned for that tzaddik's honor, acquire anew their faith in the Sages. Rabbi Nachman writes: "Know that the crux of the obstacle, stopping a person who is not worthy, whom they do not allow to go to the true tzaddik to acquire tikkun (repair), is simply that he is led astray and confused by heresies and provocations that do not really exist in the tzaddik… Therefore the main thing is to grasp this in his mind, not allowing himself to be tempted or provoked, there, but rather to stand firm in his views there, to go confidently to the true tzaddik, and then these distractions will certainly leave him alone" (Chayei Moharan, Praise of Those who Approach Him, 19, 310).
But, moreover, the very readiness of the masses to remain loyal to any tzaddik, despite the scorn and humiliations, creates and strengthens the faith in the Sages that exists among them. A similar idea is expressed by R. Nachman concerning those who help convert proselytes: "Know that the Holy One, Blessed be He, looks at a soul that will be able to cause people to do teshuva and will be able to create converts, and then He Himself, as it were, wants and sees that he will be surrounded by controversy, for "No converts will be accepted in the Messianic times, nor (were they) in the days of Shlomo" (Yevamot 24), because of the king's table. For then they are not converting out of love, but rather only because they see the greatness of Israel. But the essence of conversion is when converts join at a time when Israel is suffering penury and distress, as it is written (Yishayahu 54), "Who dwells with you" – in your poverty, etc. (ibid., Gemara). Therefore there must necessarily be controversy surrounding a person who brings people back to the right path and who converts proselytes – in order that he should have no peace of mind, for then whoever approaches him does so sincerely, and then he may truly convert the proselytes – not for peace and tranquility." (Likutei Moharan Kama 228)
The second category pertains to people who do not have faith in their own innovative teachings. The "carelessness" in teachings concerning which R. Nachman speaks is the absence of vitality that grows out of faith. A person who believes in his teachings will fill them with Divine vitality that emerges from the higher Source to which he is connected. But in the absence of faith, there is no vitality – and in the absence of vitality there is no point to his teachings. Again, dispute comes along in order to place the person in conflict with the teachings and to award them renewed significance.
[6] It must be noted that the people presenting arguments are not necessarily aware of their important role. As R. Nachman testifies: "He said: Let us give credit to the frauds, for through the dispute that they raise against us we have achieved great things, and they are performing a great favor for us. For this is how it is: through dispute one arrives at and attains great things" (Chayei Moharan, The Greatness of his Awesome Insight 48, 288). Also: "If these evil ones knew of it, they would certainly not scorn you, for their intention is entirely evil" (Chayei Moharan, His Journey to Novoritch 14, 165).
[7] This teaching was conveyed by R. Nachman as a sort of "interpretation" of a vision or dream that he experienced, and his disciple, R. Natan, quotes it in detail in Chayei Moharan, New Stories 3, 83. Anyone seeking to study this teaching in greater depth should therefore first study the dream.
[8] R. Nachman uses the same verse that he quotes his teaching no. 20: "Is my word not like fire," and the same expression, "burning coals" – but further on we shall explain why, in this teaching, the Torah itself is the fire.
[9] Perhaps R. Nachman is alluding here to the good as in "Good is kept for its owners."
[10] At the end of the teaching, R. Nachman distinguishes between the dispute of tzaddikim and the dispute of evil people; we shall address this in future shiurim on this subject.
[11] R. Nachman employs a similar method in teaching no. 1, concerning "the intelligence that is within every thing." The scope of this shiur does not allow for elaboration.
[12] In a different teaching, R. Nachman addresses the causes of dispute, and there he gives expression to different parameters. We shall quote from there only those lines that pertain to the point we are discussing; the interested reader is encouraged to study that teaching in detail:
"For dispute does not arise from two different views, nor from the fact that one's partner is greater than oneself, such that one would disagree with him until one reached his level, and he would have to make efforts to reach his partner's level in order that they would be equal, and then there would be no argument. Or sometimes, the reverse – that he is greater than his partner, and the dispute arises because his partner is jealous of him because he has not yet reached his level, in which case he must judge his partner favorably, thereby elevating him, and then they are in the same place – i.e., on the same level, and then there will certainly be no dispute, because the dispute was only because they were different from one another – either his partner was greater than he or he was greater than his partner, as explained above. But if they are both in the same place, on the same level, then there will certainly be no dispute, for on the same thing there cannot be dispute." (Likutei Moharan Kama 136)
Again, R. Nachman does not see the actual content or understanding as the reason for the dispute. Dispute, according to this teaching, is the fruit of an unsuitedness in the spiritual level of the partners to it. "On the same thing there cannot be dispute," states R. Nachman, again using logical terminology, but it is only a garment for the spiritual idea that lies at the foundation of his philosophy: that dispute is the result of distance from the Divine source. Attention should be paid to the fact that the content of the dispute, in these matters, is irrelevant. If we held only the second side of the "two aspects" that R. Nachman discusses, we would be certain that R. Nachman is accusing most disputants of arguing only because of their jealousy of colleagues who are of greater stature than they. But the first side of which R. Nachman speaks, concerning one who disagrees with his partner because he himself – the arguer – is greater than his partner, teaches that the problem is not jealousy, but rather discrepancy in spiritual stature, which speaks of the absence of a connection to the source of Divine outpouring. The differing levels among people are the fruit of the world of separation, in which the Divine light is distanced from man, and each must strive to come close to it in accordance with his ability. Therefore the solution to the dispute is likewise not rational clarification but rather an attempt to diminish the spiritual discrepancy and to arrive at a common spiritual level – either by means of elevation to the level of the arguer (in the first case) or by elevating the arguer to my level (in the second case). Again, this point emphasizes the difference between Rambam and R. Saadya Gaon, on one hand, and R. Nachman, on the other, concerning the definition of the concept of dispute, its source, and the conditions for its existence.
Translated by Kaeren Fish