Rabbi Pinchas Scheinberg

Almost 20 years ago, I was learning in a Jerusalem yeshiva. A private contractor did laundry for the students for a fee. We were told by the contractor to leave our bagged dirty clothes outside an apartment near the yeshiva. His service would pick up the bags and bring them to the laundry. That night, the service would return the bags to the yeshiva for pick up.

I normally washed my clothes in my apartment-dorm’s bathtub, as did most other students. But one day, flush with a couple of extra dollars and, in my case, several weeks of unwashed laundry, one of my roommates and I decided to use the contractor’s service. We left our bags where specified. That night, we came to pick up our clean clothes. But the bags of laundry had been stolen, and our clothes were gone.

We wanted compensation from the contractor. After all, the bags were left where and when he specified. He did not want to pay, claiming the theft was not his responsibility. At loggerheads, he suggested taking our case to Rabbi Scheinberg. And so we did.

After hearing our stories, Rabbi Scheinberg ruled. “Used clothes have the halakhic value of rags,” Rabbi Scheinberg said, “The laundyman owes you nothing. Still, for the sake of peace, I have asked him to give each of you $50 dollars. We were stunned. Rabbi Scheinberg agreed that the laundry was negligent, but he argued the negligence was not punishable according to Jewish law because the clothes had no value. We pointed out that used American jeans fetched a very high price in the shuk, more than their retail price back home, and so did other American-made clothing. “But that is not what the halakha says,” Rabbi Scheinberg answered. We thanked him and left.

We were both upset for a few minutes, but then made peace with the ruling. If that was the halakha, we would follow it. Period. And so we did, with no more complaints.

Flash forward almost 20 years to the New York Magazine article posted below exposing man-on-boy sex abuse charges against Rabbi Yehuda Kolko. Rabbi Scheinberg allegedly told victims’ parents that, as long as Rabbi Kolko did not sexually penetrate their sons, there was no sex abuse according to the Torah. Therefore, parents must be silent and not publicize the abuse.

I see a similar pattern in both cases. A very narrow reading of halakhic case law while ignoring contrary evidence and opinions, all seemingly to reach a decision protecting an insider (yes, the laundry owner was an insider) from valid charges made by outsiders.

A direct parallel? Perhaps not. But disturbing nonetheless.

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23 Comments

Filed under Crime, Haredim

23 responses to “Rabbi Pinchas Scheinberg

  1. franji

    Halakha is halakha, wether for used clothing or penetration.
    I would double check the scriptures.
    The real problem is that in today’s world application of halakha in these cases is inferior to the common english law; and where halakha is not adequate, what is the point of implementing it?
    When a woman is worth no more than 30 silvers and another woman is no more than 15 silvers, and a woman can be acquired for a penny, is this adequate value and reflective of today’s situation?
    Falling back in such cases on halakha, is tantamount to saying, hey hold on a minute, we got to follow shariah, hmmm let’s see what the wahabi scholars of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would have done.
    Halakha in my humble opinion in this case, should be lifnim meshurat hadin, where the criteria is how good is halakha to the victim versus the law of the land, whichever is better to the victim.
    Vehamachmeer (in favor of the victim), tavo alayv beracha!

  2. While the judgement of the rabbonim is often poor, the behavior of uoj-ben hirsh is poor as well
    see stopuoj blog for a disscussion on this

  3. S.

    I don’t know if R. Scheinberg really said the comments attributed to him, and worse, allowed them to be used to shut victims up. But I know this:

    This view of halakhah, which is prevalent, imagines that halakhah is a set of ritual laws, like how many ounces of wine a cup must hold or how many brown spots an esrog can have, rather an actual, serious legal system designed to serve and protect and maintain a functioning society.

    Then, there are serious people.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mishpat_Ivri

  4. Shmuel

    The grotesque treatment of Slifkin…the silence of the shepherds (that should have been the title of the NY mag’s article)over the abuse of the lambs in their charge…women getting screwed over in bet din when trying to get their gittin…it’s all one big disgusting pattern. Anyone who really gives himself over to being run by rabbis, day to day, without questioning their abuses and thoughtless leadership over the years, ought to have his head examined. That means all of us.

  5. red

    Anybody who wears 50 pairs of tzitzis is plainly and simply nuts.Your parents should never have sent you to a yeshiva run by a madman.

  6. Anonymous

    Yea, first any proof of this story ever happening, other than it being a straw man?
    Second if true then these guys are idiots for leaving their clothes out to the elements and theft, was there a contract to reimburse for any stolen clothes??? They should have demanded that the guy come into the Yeshiva, to a specified spot and pick up the clothes there.

  7. TTalum

    I learned by rabbi kolko and kept up a friendly relationship for 18 years and counting. I would testify in court as to the integrity of the man and to the fact that in all my years in the school I didn’t hear anything to make anyone beleive there absurd accusations. The easiest way to destroy a good mans name is to file a frivolous and disgusting lawsuit like this and morons like you will beleive it and write moronic things like this. In that, this suit has already succeeded. May god help us all.

  8. a yid

    TTalum
    y would you read something written by a ‘moron’?

  9. Yochanan Lavie

    “I see a similar pattern in both cases. A very narrow reading of halakhic case law while ignoring contrary evidence and opinions, all seemingly to reach a decision protecting an insider (yes, the laundry owner was an insider) from valid charges made by outsiders. A direct parallel? Perhaps not. But disturbing nonetheless.”

    The pattern I see is that rabbis use halacha to make our lives miserable, and to cover their own asses. I have seen that pattern again and again, whether in formal shitot, or day to day interaction with their “flock.”

    “Anyone who really gives himself over to being run by rabbis, day to day, without questioning their abuses and thoughtless leadership over the years, ought to have his head examined.”

    Amen.

    Ignore my opinion, and read the scripture-
    Anan ben David (paraphrase).

  10. hashfanatic

    TTalum, I don’t mean any disrespect, but did it ever occur to you that he didn’t molest you because you may not have been physically attractive to him at the time?

    Or, something about you may have been off-putting, or you didn’t seem vulnerable enough?

  11. Isa

    This is another version of this story:
    A shabbos afternoon in the shetl. People come in to the rabbi and say a cow is stuck in the mud by the river. The rabbi turns to the Gemora and reads and then proclams ” The cow must die we are not allowed to break shabbos”
    But exclaimed the people “Its your cow rabbi!”
    The rabbi then goes to the Gemora again and in another section and reads, then he proclams: ” The cow has a soul it must be saved!”
    I saw this for myself with my rabbi of old, the rabbi got caught up with having a ‘bad’ guy speak in his shul. I was always told to do the right thing ,sacrifice etc, etc and etc. My rabbi was gutless and then he was no longer my rabbi.

  12. Dovid Lerner

    Rabbi Scheinberg allegedly told victims’ parents that, as long as Rabbi Kolko did not sexually penetrate their sons, there was no sex abuse according to the Torah. Therefore, parents must be silent and not publicize the abuse.

    The Halakhic ruling of R’ Sheinberg does’nt even make sence.

    The defenition of intercourse is penetration, not molestation (which there really is’nt any halkhic defenition of what is molestation or not).

    With regards to men and women, the rules of seperation are much stricter, i.e. touching yichud etc. Some of these restrictions are put in place because sexual attraction between man and women is mormal. These restrictions don’t apply between men (though I’ve seen in seforim that some sages did these things even for men).

    This is where R’ Sheinberg went wrong, since there is no “official” prohibition of contact males, he claims that molestation is penetration; this is wrong.

    Let me bring to light one halakha that is identical with regards to men and women:

    If someone is chasing a women or a man to rape them (rodeif) one must stop them with all means nessecary, including the pursuers life.

    Furthermore if someone is chashud on a certain sexual misconduct, he must according to Torah distance himself from it, and yet this man has been teaching for years!

  13. Franji

    “Furthermore if someone is chashud on a certain sexual misconduct, he must according to Torah distance himself from it, and yet this man has been teaching for years!”

    You are right on in your comment Reb Dovid!
    A few reflections however:
    He(the chashud) must distance himself.
    What if he doesn’t? Isn’t there an obligation on the rabbis to keep him within the equivalent of an electronic collar locator?
    You mentioned chashud, reminds me sheein yirsael chashudim al mishkav zakhur. The corolary is that either those perpetrators are amaleqites, or our rabbis of old were a tad too optimistic? or the cover up started that early?
    🙂

  14. schneur

    Most of our rabbis today lack the 5th shulchan aruch whichi is also called common sense.
    If onr reads the the great gaon ‘s advice to mothers etc you will see what I mean.Rabbi Charles is marketed by his family and yeshiva as a gadol. But his real gadlus is fund raising.

  15. How Does Jewish Law Define Sexual Abuse?
    Rabbi Mark Dratch
    http://www.JSafe.org

    There are things that should go without saying that nevertheless need to be said, and said loudly! There are recent and widespread reports that a certain prominent Jewish religious authority dismissed allegations of sexual abuse against a rabbi and teacher because according to Jewish law there was no abuse. The report claims that this prominent posek ruled that since there was no genital penetration by the alleged perpetrator there was no abuse.

    I do not know if this report is factual. I do know that the ruling is NOT consistent with Jewish law. One does not need a Code of Law to forbid such acts; they are inherently repulsive and repugnant (Rambam, Shemoneh Perakim, ch. 6). But one does not have to search far and wide in Jewish legal literature itself in order to find the forbidden nature of these activities that seem to have been dismissed so cavalierly. Failure to speak out against the misrepresentation of Jewish law would be a violation of the biblical injunction to “Keep far from a false matter (Ex. 23:7)” (Shevu’ot 30b-31a) and would render one guilty of being megaleh panim ba-Torah she-lo ke-Halakhah—rendering an interpretation of the Torah not according to Halakhah (Avot 3:11, Sanhedrin 99a).

    1. Although penetration may be required to render an intimate act occurring between a man and woman to be adultery, with all of its pursuant consequences (Rambam, Issurei Bi’ah 1:10; Shulhan Arukh, Even ha-Ezer 20:1), or to render an intimate act occurring between two men to be considered an act of homosexuality, with all of its pursuant consequences (Rambam, Issurei Bi’ah 1:14), nevertheless sexualized contact of any kind between ineligible partners (and that certainly includes a teacher and his students!), including kissing and fondling, is forbidden and is subject to punishment according to Jewish law (Shulhan Arukh, Even ha-Ezer 20:1), either biblically or rabbinically (See Bet Shmuel and Helkat Mehokek).

    2. Jewish law forbids intentional self arousal and illicit thoughts. It even forbids a number of benign activities that may bring about sexual stimulation. (Shulhan Arukh, Even ha-Ezer 23:3,4,6,7) Certainly Halakhah forbids explicit activities that are inherently sexualized and whose very intent is to offer the perpetrator sexual arousal and pleasure!

    3. The Talmud, Sanhedrin 75a, records and Rambam, Hil. Yesodei ha-Torah 5:9, codifies the following story that supports the contention that any sexualized behavior or interaction between those that fall into the category of arayot (forbidden sexual partners) is prohibited: “Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: A man once conceived a passion for a certain woman and his heart was consumed by his burning desire (even to the point of his life being endangered.) When the doctors were consulted, they said, “His only cure is that she shall submit (to him sexually).” Thereupon the Sages said: “Let him die rather than that she should yield.” Then [the doctors said]; “let her stand nude before him.” [The Sages answered,] “Sooner let him die.” Said the doctors, “Let her (at least) converse with him from behind a fence.” The Sages replied, “Let him die rather than she should converse with him from behind a fence.”

    4. Jewish law prohibits emotional assault and abuse. Victims of abusers—even those that do not penetrate them—live with the memories of the abuse for a lifetime and often suffer PTSD and suffer from psychological and emotional distress. The verse, “You shall not wrong one another; but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 25:17) prohibits emotional distress (Baba Metzi’a 58a). This is referred to as ona’at devarim (verbal wronging) and includes any speech or activity which maliciously attacks another’s sense of self (Rashi to Lev. 25:17) or causes emotional or psychological pain. (Rashi, Baba Metzi’a 59b, s.v. hutz; Rambam, Sefer ha-Mitzvot, no. 251).

    5. Abusers also violate “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18) and “What is hateful to you, do not to your neighbor.” (Shabbat 31a ).

    6. Such behavior is clearly a hillul Hashem, a desecration of God’s Name. No civilized society would accept such treatment of their children! Suggesting that the Torah permits such abuse causes people to say: “Woe unto him who studied the Torah; woe unto his father who taught him Torah; woe unto his teacher who taught him Torah! This man studied the Torah: Look, how corrupt are his deeds, how ugly his ways; of him Scripture says: ‘In that men said of them, “These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of His land”.’” (Yoma 86a) Can it be that the very children that the Jewish people brought as our guarantors at the time of the receiving of the Torah (Shir Ha-Shirim Rabba 1:3) should be sacrificed, abandoned and abused by that very Torah?

    7. These acts are a clear violation of the Torah’s warning to refrain from sexual impropriety and other forms of immorality that define decadent and depraved societies: “After the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, shall you not do; and after the doings of the land of Canaan, where I bring you, shall you not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall do My judgments, and keep my ordinances, to walk with them; I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 18:3-4)

  16. Actually, I’ve think Rabbi Scheinberg was correct. Despite Biblical statements to the contrary, halakha as currently practiced in Orthodxy does not protect victims – it protects abusers and those in power.

    Think about what Rabbi Mordechai Willig did. Or Rabbi Berman. Or Rabbi Lipa Margulies or Rabbi Scheinberg or dozens of other leading Orthodox rabbis both haredi and modern.

    The problem is with Orthodoxy. And Orthodoxy must change.

  17. Dovid Lerner

    While the usual rule is that “ein yisrael chashud al mishkav zachar”, the rule is if someone is chashud on on a certain ervah, I believe the halacha is that if he comes close to them, beis din apply makas mardus.

  18. der kugelager

    makas mardus?
    reb dovid,
    is it on an electric chair
    that the maka is applied ? 🙂

  19. R' Schienberg Is Correct

    Halacha, is Torah.
    Great Rabbi’s underssstand torah, and can aply all learned knowledgee in regard to Torah Rulings.

    There is no such thing as abuse acording to Torah Law.

    Haskafa and Muussar are a different issue.

  20. Dovid Lerner

    No, with a leather belt on bare back 39 times!

  21. Dovid Lerner

    Shmarya, though I’m no expert on Chosen Mishpar he would certainly need to pay tsa’ar and boshes, perhaps even ripui and sheves if he required psycological rehabilitation.

    Sheinberg misrepresented Torah.

  22. lakewoodlust

    Scheinberg has no sheychis with reality.He told my parents that if they give 10 thousand bux to his yeshiva ,I would not be gay anymore.I think this story speaks for itself!

  23. Check out this blog:
    aboutuoj.blogspot.com
    Some great reading about UOJ!

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