The Rav Enters.

For the Yahrzeit I am posting an essay. I  have the generous permission of Feldheim Publishers.

I have typed the post below:

Rav Yosef Breuer ZT’L

The Rav Enters

From the book: The Yearning Soul, Rabbi Moshe Einstadter. Feldheim Publishers 1992. Pg. 133

It is so many years ago, and It belongs to a bygone era, but I remember it as vividly as if it were yesterday.


It was several moments before mincha– a late hour at the end of a long summer’s day, or quite early during the winter- and within the next minute or so the Rav would make his entry into shul. Invariably he would allow himself precisely the time it took him to slowly proceed from the door to his seat at the front of the shul, and one or two minutes more for the time it would take him to prepare himself for his encounter with Hahsem Yisbarach. I waited with anticipation, not merely once, but every time, for his entrance filled me with a profound sense of reverence for kedushah and for that which is meaningful in life. And so glancing toward the door from my vantage of the southernmost sea in the back row, I waited.

Presently, the right door of the two southern inside doors opened, and the Rav entered.

I observed him closely. Rav Breuer would first carefully place his walking cane in the rear corner where wall met wall, and then begin his slow and unsteady advance up the aisle.

His dress, just as most everything about him, varied hardly at all. There was the round black hat with the upturned brim; the outmoded early twentieth-century wing collar and black bow tie; and on weekdays, the somber gray vest and three-quarter-length jacket. The sides of his face, in keeping with Germanic custom, were clean-shaven, and a trimmed beard dignified his countenance. He wore wire-frame glasses.

His eyesight was poor and he would move cautiously with faltering step, pausing every so often to steady himself before continuing on. He began the trek with his eyes fixed upon the floor before him, but after every few steps he would raise his head slightly upward, looking into the vacant space that met his glance. It was this look that intrigued me; it was mostly for this that I expectantly waited. It spoke worlds of the man who bore it; it captured a rare and enlightened personality.

Ostensibly, it took in the external world of material substance, but in truth he saw it not at all. It was an inward look, that focused on the true concerns of a lofty mind which oiled with uncompromising dignity in the world of practical reality. Etched into that visage was the register of a lifetime- first the old world,  which had formed and nurtured his Torah world-view, gone and lost beyond recall; and now the present world, into which he had translated the values of the old. There one could see the lines of battle fought and won, the just pride of noble accomplishment, the deep furrows of past sorrow. It was the profoundly serious look of a man of unshakeable faith, whose purpose was firm, whose commitment never wavered, who was tested and found true.


But beyond it all was the immense and unspeakable dignity which radiated from his aspect. If “Panim” in Hebrew, indeed reflects “Pinim”, here was the glorious proof; never to bend, when to bend was weak; yet humbly to bow when it drew from strength; to staunchly maintain the proud heritage of his fathers- a way of life which needed neither apology nor defense; to rise, to grow, undaunted and ready to meet future challenge. It was his shul, his kehillah, born of his vision, his labor, his trust. Elokim Haroeh osi me’odi ad hayom hazeh- He (G-d) had paved the way for him in the past, and He would see him through to the very end.

And thus he made his way very slowly, past one row of seats after another. Some noticed the Rav coming and respectfully rose while he was yet at a distance; others, caught unawares as he passed them, hurriedly rose to their feet and remained standing as he continued slowly on. They rose one after another, old and young, learned and ignorant, in wordless veneration for their revered Rav.

At last he reached the front rows and finally gained his seat. One to two minutes elapsed; then the Shaliach tzibur commenced ashrei.

Whenever on occasion I happen to be in new York City’s upper Manhattan and go to daven mincha at Breuer’s (the institution still bears that name), I occupy the southernmost seat of the back row. Several moments before the start of the tefillah I involuntarily turn and glance to the back door. In my mind’s eye I see a venerable gray-clad figure slowly make his entrance as in days of yore. He passed on to his eternal reward long ago, but his spirit resides within those walls forevermore.

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