Volume 22 Number 81
                       Produced: Sun Jan 14  9:38:19 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Administrative Detention in Israel
         [Shmuel Himelstein]
Announcing listserv mj-ravtorah (shiurei HaRav ZT'L)
         [Josh Rapps]
Er and Onan
         [Frank Silbermann]
Fattakhov case, State Department, and UCSJ
         [Mike Gerver]
Ribis - a Much Needed Clarification
         [Zale Newman]


From: Shmuel Himelstein <himelstein@...>
Date: Wed, 10 Jan 1996 09:12:09 +0200 (IST)
Subject: Administrative Detention in Israel

With all the discussion about the injustice of having a Jewish
individual under administrative detention in Israel, I think it is very
important for us to remember that the law under which this
administrative detention was imposed is the very same one which was
applied to keep under administrative detention - but actually in most
cases in prison for extended periods of time and without trial - of
thousands of Arabs during the Intifida. There is no reason for me to
assume that the grounds for doing so in those cases were any greater -
or lesser - than those being applied now.

It would interest me to know whether Halachically there is any basis for
fighting for the present Jewish individual's freedom and whether is any
basis Halachically for not having done so earlier, in the case of
non-Jews who were similarly held.

           Shmuel Himelstein


From: <jr@...> (Josh Rapps)
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 08:51 EST
Subject: Announcing listserv mj-ravtorah (shiurei HaRav ZT'L)

The listserv 'mj-ravtorah' is now available and accepting subscriptions.
to subscribe send a message to <listproc@...> with the following 

subscribe mj-ravtorah <your name>

to get a list of available archives (currently there is one)
send the following message to <listproc@...>:

index mj-ravtorah

to get the archive of all submissions, (Toldos through Shemos) send the
following message to <listproc@...>:

get mj-ravtorah log9601

-josh rapps


From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 10:27:16 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Er and Onan

In V.22 #79 David Charlap asks
>	Why does everyone focus on Onan's sexual behavior
>	instead of on his refusal to give Tamar a child?
>	It seems from a straight reading that God killed Onan
>	for the latter and not the former.

We don't need to emphasize the duties of levirite marriage and chalitzah
because religious Jews seem to have little difficulty with this mitzvah.

Even though seed-spilling would seem to be a minor aspect of Onan's sin,
we focus on it because religious Jews still have room for improvement
in that area.

Frank Silbermann	<fs@...>
Tulane University	New Orleans, Louisiana  USA


From: <GERVER@...> (Mike Gerver)
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 10:50:46 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Fattakhov case, State Department, and UCSJ

Mordechai Perlman, in Mail-Jewish Announcements and Requests v2n68,
reports what he was told by an official at the U. S. State Department
about Dmitrii Fattakhov, and concludes that "there was no reason to
proceed" with his plan to get people at his yeshiva and at local day
schools to write letters about the case to Uzbek authorities. He
originally made the inquiry at the State Department because the
"principal of one of the day schools was only willing to move on the
idea if I could get outside confirmation of the facts as they were
presented." (By the way, although as you might have guessed I don't
agree with Mordechai's conclusions, I have a great deal of admiration
and respect for him for getting involved in this case and starting a
letter writing campaign in the first place. Not too many people in our
society are willing to take the time and energy to do things like that,
even with a life at stake.)

This raises several questions:

1) Is the information from the State Department accurate?

2) Even if it is accurate, does this mean there is "no reason to
proceed" with plans to write letters about Fattakhov to Uzbek officials?

3) Why was the principal of the day school skeptical about the
information received from the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews? Why was
he (or Mordechai) more skeptical about UCSJ as a source of information,
than he was about the State Department? I believe this may be indicative
of a problem in the Jewish community which has implications beyond this
particular case.

I will address these questions in order.

1. I have faxed a copy of Mordechai's posting to Judy Patkin of Action
for Post-Soviet Jewry in Waltham, Massachusetts, and she said she would
contact Helene Kenvin at The Caucasus Network, which is the source of
UCSJ's information. She said it would probably take several days to
receive a reply, and I will, b'li neder, post the information when I
hear from her. Meanwhile, I did not want to delay addressing question
number 2. I would just point out, however, that the State Department,
being responsible for relations with Uzbekistan and other predominantly
Moslem nations, may have its own agenda in this case, and may not be
completely objective. There's nothing wrong with that, necessarily, it
is their job to worry about these things, but we should take that into
account in considering the credibility of what they say, and try to "get
outside confirmation of the facts as they were presented."

2. It seems clear to me that, even if the State Department account is
accurate, there is every reason to proceed with the letter writing
campaign. Nothing in what the State Department official told Mordechai
contradicts the basic fact as presented by UCSJ: Dmitrii Fattakhov is
innocent, the case against him was based entirely on manufactured
evidence and on forced confessions. An Uzbek jail, and all the more so a
"strict regime" Uzbek state psychiatric hospital, is not a safe place
for a Jew or anyone else. Whether or not he was beaten within an inch of
his life in the past, he easily could be at any time in the future,
especially if international attention to his case fades away. Remember,
the present government of Uzbekistan is made up of the same people who
were in charge when it was part of the Soviet Union. The main
differences are that a) they are no longer constrained from anti-Semitic
excesses by the central government in Moscow, and b) they are anxious
for good relations with the United States and other countries in the
West (including Israel), so they can be influenced by international
pressure.  Both of these differences mean that is _more_ important to
proceed with a letter writing campaign now, than it would have been with
a similar case in the Soviet era.

	If, as reported by the State Department official, Dmitrii
Fattakhov's father is a Moslem Tatar, and only his mother his Jewish,
and Dmitrii had identified himself as a Tatar in the past, this may
explain why he is being persecuted. The original posting last September
said that he was a student of Hebrew, and that his mother was a single
parent. I don't know if his father died or his parents got divorced, but
perhaps he did identify as a Moslem when his father was there.
Certainly there would have been great practical advantages, living in
Uzbekistan, to have his passport identify him as a Moslem rather than a
Jew. Now, with his father out of the picture, he starts studying Hebrew
and learning about his Jewish identity. This must be infuriating to the
local Uzbek population, who are mostly Moslem. In Islam, a Moslem is
defined as anyone with a Moslem father, so from their point of view he
would be betraying his religion if he started identifying as a Jew. This
is all the more reason to give him our support.

	I urge everyone reading this, now, while you are thinking of it,
to write a letter to one or more of the Uzbek officials, and U.S.
officials, listed in the appeal from UCSJ posted in Mail-Jewish
Announcements and Requests Volume 2 Number 68.

	I am disturbed, by the way, by Mordechai's remark that "he is
Jewish on his mother's side (which makes him deserve our concern)..."
Do you mean to imply if that a non-Jew who is falsely accused of murder
doesn't deserve our concern?!

3. When I went around to shuls, asking for permission to give out copies
of a letter for people to sign, last October, one of the rabbis also
asked me to get independent confirmation of the facts of the case. (This
same rabbi had also declined to get involved with the Koinov case last
year, giving the same reason.) When I asked him why, he told me that the
Union of Councils for Soviet Jews does not have a good reputation in
certain circles, and would not go into more details. In response to
this, I called Judy Patkin of Action for Post-Soviet Jewry, who told me
that Helene Kenvin, director of The Caucasus Network, whom she knows
very well, has a reputation for being very careful to get her facts
right. (Helene was the source of all the information in the UCSJ
appeal.) Although I do not know Helene Kenvin personally, I have known
Judy Patkin for over 16 years, have worked with her on other cases, and
have a very high opinion of her, and of the other staff at Action for
Post-Soviet Jewry.  Not only are they full of energy and enthusiasm,
year after year and decade after decade, but they are very skilled at
focussing their efforts on the most effective activities, given the
constraints on available time and money. So, until I hear otherwise, I
believe what she said about Helene Kenvin's reputation. When I told all
this to the rabbi of that shul, he said to go ahead and pass out the

Does anyone know why UCSJ has a bad reputation in certain circles? Judy
Patkin was mystified by this remark. I admit that UCSJ is sometimes a
bit pushy in their fundraising, but that is not what was bothering the
rabbi, or the day school principal that Mordechai Perlman spoke to. The
only thing I can think of is maybe they have come down on the "wrong
side" in disputes between Orthodox and Reform Jews in the former Soviet
Union, or on disputes about the Jewish status of certain Russian
immigrants to Israel? (I don't know if this is true, I am just
speculating.) Whatever the reason, this situation is, in my opinion,
very bad for all Jews, and something should be done about it. UCSJ is,
after all, probably the largest nation-wide organization in the United
States for helping Jews in the former Soviet Union (FSU), and plays an
important role in coordinating activities of local Soviet Jewry
organizations. If influential leaders of certain Orthodox institutions
will have nothing to do with UCSJ, for whatever reason, then Jews in the
FSU who are in trouble will not be receiving all the help we can give
them. If UCSJ is really doing things which are offensive to Orthodox
Jews, then someone should talk to them about this, about the harm it is
doing to their ability to take effective action. If the rumors and
innuendoes are false, then this should be made known to the people who
believe them, and the harm these rumors are doing should be made clear
to them.

I hope someone who knows what's going on here can do something about it,
in private if not publicly. Jewish lives could be at stake.

Mike Gerver, <gerver@...>


From: Zale Newman <jacobt@...>
Date: Fri, 12 Jan 1996 13:55:14 -0500
Subject: Ribis - a Much Needed Clarification

Mail Jewish does its readers a great service by disseminating information 
that leads Jews to greater understanding and practice of Mitzvos.

However, if grave halachic misconceptions are NOT clarified, it can, G-d 
forbid, be a tool to mislead great numbers of people and lead to the 
desecration of G-d's will in this world.

Case in point:

A reader wrote in asking if he borrowed a stack of paper and returned a
larger stack in its place, if there was a halachic problem of "Ribis",
that is paying interest (ie: repaying more than the principle)

A respondent said no and later apologized for his error by _incorrectly_
stating that RIBIS only occurs in monetary situations, while in the case
in question one may return a larger stack of paper as a "Matana" (ie: a

This is clearly INCORRECT and a misstatement of the halacha as brought
down in Yareh Deah.  As a clarification, the situation with RIBIS is a
most serious one.  RIBIS can occur with any object, with time, with
words, with food as well as with money.  The laws are intricate and
quite difficult and have the severity of a Torah commandment (in most
cases).  All questions should be brought before a competent halachic
authority and we should all study the basic halachas so that we are
aware of the parameters.

Some examples:

1) One may not lend another an object on the condition that he may
borrow an object in return (Y.D. 160;9)

2) It is clearly forbidden to give back an extra amount and say it is a
gift (Y.D. 160;5)

3) The only exception to this is with food (eg: a cup of sugar) but the
Rama cautions that ONLY a Talmid Chochem (Torah scholar) may do so and
ONLY within set parameters and limitations.  (Y.D. 160;17)

4) Offering the classic "2/10 net 30" payment terms is a serious RIBIS
problem (Y.D. 173).

5) Offering to assist someone in a particular way (eg: to help build
their succa) in return for their assistance in your similar project is
highly problematic.

6) Lending money on a credit card and having the other party repay the
principle AND the credit card interest is not allowed (Y.D. 179)

As is clear, one cannot take the matter of RIBIS lightly, nor presume to
have received correct halachic instruction by accepting a brief Internet

Matters of great halachik significance MUST be directed to those who are
expert in their field and who can properly assess and evaluate each
query.  This function cannot be replaced by the Internet.

--  Zale L. Newman - Toronto


End of Volume 22 Issue 81