Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg zt”l (1910-2012): Rosh Yeshiva For The Ages
On Tuesday afternoon, 26 Adar, March 20, 5772, Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, zt”l, returned his soul to the Creator. He was the rosh yeshiva of Torah Ore in Jerusalem, one of the leading rabbonim in Kiryat Mattersdorf, and a member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah of Israel. The entire yeshiva world deeply mourns his passing.
The life story of Rabbi Scheinberg is one of early adversity overcome on many levels. It incorporates the largest historical migration of a people, that of the Jews of Eastern Europe to America between 1880 and 1920. It also sees the emergence of an impoverished immigrant as one of the pillars on which the golden era of American and Israeli yeshivas is established.
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Chaim Pinchas was born in Ostrov, near Lomza, Poland, on Shabbos Nitzavim, 27 Elul – October 1, 1910, to Yaakov Yitzchok and Yuspa ne Tombak. Ostrov (Ostrow, then in Russia and now in Poland) was a city with a Jewish majority. A city that had Torah scholars and a tangible religiosity. Yaakov Yitzchok had a habit of reciting the entire Tehillim every morning before Shacharis.
As a child, Chaim Pinchas did not know his father. Called up in the Polish military draft in 1910, a few short months before the birth of Chaim Pinchas, Yaakov Yitzchok chose to immigrate to America rather than submit to the religious compromises compelled by conscription. Yaakov Yitzchok left behind his pregnant wife and older son, Avrohom Nosson, to seek a livelihood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Though quickly recognized as an excellent worker, the prerequisite of Saturday work precluded regular employment. He had a bad cough on the first Saturday. He was sick on the second Saturday. When the third Saturday arrived, he was dismissed and without a job. This schedule was repeated until he exhausted all immediately available employment opportunities. Without work, he had no income. Dismissing any compromise and without rent money, he was forced to sleep on the East River Drive with all his worldly possessions: The clothes on his back, a blanket, a pillow, and an umbrella.
In the interim, his son Chaim Pinchas was born. His wife was reduced to living with her parents. She would arise before dawn, milk the gentile neighbor’s cows, then distributed the milk to her Jewish clientele. The meager profit was primarily set aside for special Torah tutors for her sons. Chaim Pinchas absorbed what he was being taught and he would arise early and beg his grandfather to take him along to shul every morning. The grandfather knew this grandson would become a Torah giant.
With the advent of World War I in 1914, overseas communications were cut off. Yaakov Yitzchok and his wife did not know if the other was still alive. By the time the war came to an end, Yaakov Yitzchok had a tailoring business. Finally, after nine long years, he earned and saved enough to bring his wife and two sons, one of which he had not yet seen, to America. They moved into a railroad flat on the Lower East Side and Chaim Pinchas was enrolled in Yeshiva Rabbi Jacob Joseph where he achieved distinction as an outstanding Torah student.
Quickly he gained the attention of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman zt”l (1879-1969), an early 20th century American Torah pioneer, who recommended that Chaim Pinchas join the New Haven yeshiva headed by Rabbi Yehuda Hershel Levenberg zt”l (1884-1938). Rabbi Levenberg was a product of the yeshiva in Volozhin. The yeshiva he led was unique in that it had no secular studies. Chaim Pinchas, at the age of 14, ingested whatever was put before him. Less than three years later, he had already completed all of Shas.
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Returning to the Lower East Side, Chaim Pinchas joined Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yitzchak Elchanan, where he studied under towering scholars Rabbi Shimon Yehuda Shkop, zt”l (1860-1939), Grodno rosh yeshiva who taught in America from 1928 through 1929; Rabbi Moshe Soloveichik, zt”l (1879-1941); and Rabbi Moshe Polachik, zt”l (1877-1928). Chaim Pinchas’s chavrusahs (study partners) were Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l (1908-2001), rosh yeshiva Beis Yisroel; Rabbi Yehuda Davis, zt”l (1909-1997), rosh yeshiva Zichron Meir of Mountaindale; Rabbi Mordechai Gifter, zt”l (1915-2001), Telshe rosh yeshiva; Rabbi Moshe Zvi Aryeh Bick, zt”l (1911-1990), Mezubesher Rav; and Rabbi Noson Meir Wachtfogel, zt”l (1910-1998), mashgiach Beth Medrsh Govoha Lakewood. These names, together with that of Rabbi Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg, represent footing on which today’s yeshiva world is built.
Chaim Pinchas achieved recognition as a mature and advanced Torah scholar at the age of 19. Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Herman (All for the Boss), Chaim Pinchas’s mentor, proposed that he marry his own daughter Basha, then 17. The tannaim (engagement contract) was hand written by Rabbi Boruch Dov Ber Leibowitz, zt”l (1864-1939), Kamitzer rosh yeshiva and author of Birkas Shmuel, who was in America on a fund-raising trip and a guest at the Herman home at that time.