(Photo credit: The Jewish Press, Gary Lelonek- author of a recent book on the history of Tannersville. If anyone has the book, please check for a photo credit. Thanks.)
In this picture, Rav Breuer is seen at the summer home in Tannersville, New York. The shul there is situated on a hill in that very hilly town. In fact the shul- over 100 years old- is named “Anshei HaSharon” after the prayer of the High Priest in Jerusalem’s temple of old on Yom Kippur: “and concernig the people of Sharon (Anshei Hasharon) he would say: ‘May it be G-d’s will that their homes not become their graves!’” Someone in a stroke of wit named the shul after the people of the Sharon who likely lived in a hilly region prone to earthquakes.
Anyhow, when my father made the trip from the Catskills to Tanersville one summer to visit the Rav, Rabbi Breuer asked him where he was davening while in the mountains. My father responded that he davens with the Chasidim of the adjacent bungalow colony.
“Chasidim?” the Rav asked. He then began to list off all of the stages of piety that one must achieve before he reaches the level of the Chasid, per the talmud (Braysa Derabbi Pinchas ben Yair). “If they are really Chasidim, then I want to come and pray with them too!” the Rav exclaimed in irony. My father clarified that the community is only called that..not to imply they all have reached this level- as the Rav winked.
The Rav had a knack for dead pan humor. Once my father told him that he spotted a waterbug in the old keilim mikvah (who didn’t?) The Rav turned to him and said, “The mikvah is still kosher, I don’t think it could drink that much!”
The Rav was also careful with his words. At one of the memorials for Rav Breuer the following story was told. Rabbi Schwab’s son Yosef was completing his semicha (ordination) and the certificate was brought to Rav Breuer to sign. He read it and saw that the young man, not married yet, was called “HaChoson” (the betrothed), a respectful way of calling a young Benedict- but technically inaccurate if he was not even engaged to be married. The Rav asked if he was engaged. He wasn’t, and the Rav began to rip up the document for its use of hyperbole- until they had to wrest it from his hand in protest.
This is where we come from, people!