OPINIONS: The verse states "Bazuy Atah Me'od" -- "[Behold, I will make you small among the nations;] you shall be greatly despised" (Ovadyah 1:2). Rav Yosef explains that this refers to the nation of Rome which does not possess its own Kesav (script) or Lashon (language). What does this mean? (See Background to the Daf.)
(a) RASHI (end of DH u'Mi Mukmi) explains that the script and language of the Romans came from a different nation, and he adds that "others made all of their books for them." The first part of Rashi's comment apparently means that they merely used the script and language of a different nation. The second part of Rashi's comment needs further explanation. What does he mean that "others made all of their books"?
The SEDER YAKOV quotes two texts of Rashi (the DIKDUKEI SOFRIM's version of Rashi in the first edition of the EIN YAKOV) which elaborate. In those texts, Rashi adds that others made all of their mistaken books. Rashi continues that these people were "Yochanan" (John?), "Paulus" (Paul), and "Pitros" (Peter), all of whom were Jewish. In his explanation of "Lashon," Rashi says that it refers to the language spoken by the priests, which the abovementioned persons corrupted (see OTZAR LA'AZEI RASHI) in order to isolate the priests and to prevent them from mixing with Yisrael, "and these three were not heretics, because they had in mind the good of Yisrael, but because they saw Yisrael in difficulty... they made themselves as if they were with him (Oso ha'Ish)...." The Seder Yakov explains that when these emissaries of the Notzrim came to the Roman government with their "holy books," they brought them in a twisted form in order to prevent them from being mixed together as part of Judaism.
The notion that these emissaries had in mind the good of Yisrael is not unprecedented. It is mentioned by RABEINU YERUCHAM (Nesiv 17:5, as cited in short by the SHACH to YD 139:9). Rabeinu Yerucham rules that one may not sell a Nochri-translated Bible to a Nochri. He explains that it is clear that whoever originally translated the Tanach for the Nochrim changed the original text in order to lead them away from Judaism and to strengthen their beliefs and mistakes. He cites many examples of mistakes in the translation of the Bible. One such mistake is the translation of the verse, "Ani Amis va'Achayeh" -- "I will kill and I will give life" (Devarim 32:39). Their version reads, "I will die and live," a clear error which supports the Nochri's mistaken beliefs.
A third source that indicates that those emissaries had positive intentions for the sake of Yisrael is a rumor discounted by the early authorities. There was a mistaken rumor, quoted by a number of early Sefarim, that Shimon Peter Chamor authored the prayer of "Nishmas Kol Chai." The Rishonim point out that this is a flagrant mistake, and anyone who says such a thing will have to bring a Korban Chatas (see, for example, MACHZOR VITRI, Hilchos Pesach #66). Although the rumor certainly is untrue, the fact that there existed such a rumor, and that people mistakenly thought that the prayer was composed by him, provides evidence that his activities were conducted with positive intentions.
(b) TOSFOS (DH she'Ein Lahem) quotes the RI who explains that "Kesav v'Lashon" refers to the custom of royalty to have a special script and language. The Roman royalty did not have its own royal script and language.
(c) Alternatively, Tosfos explains that each of the nations that arose after the Mabul, from Yishmael and the sons of Keturah, adopted a language from a nation that was destroyed prior to the Mabul. The Romans did not do this. Rather, they learned their language from a different nation. (Y. MONTROSE)


QUESTION: The Gemara relates the heroic story of Keti'a bar Shalom, a Nochri who successfully defended the Jews from the evil decree of the Roman Emperor by proving the Emperor wrong. Although the Emperor relented and admit that Keti'a was correct, he sentenced Keti'a to death because of the rule anyone who is victorious over the Emperor in a debate is liable for death. While Keti'a was being led away to be executed, he heard a Roman matron say, "Woe to the ship that goes without paying a tax." RASHI (DH b'Lo Michsa) explains that the matron was hinting that it is a shame that he sacrificed himself for the Jews and did not give himself the opportunity to be with them in their share in the World to Come. When he heard this, he threw himself upon the ground in a manner which gave himself a Bris Milah.
Although his act clearly was one of tremendous Mesirus Nefesh, it seems that the Bris Milah should not have been effective in making him a Jew. The Halachah is that only a Jew can perform Bris Milah (see 27a). Why did the matron tell him to do something which was seemingly ineffective?
(a) The PORAS YOSEF explains that Keti'a's Bris Milah indeed could have been effective. He suggests that the law that a Nochri's act of Milah is ineffective is true only when the Nochri is not trying to convert. If he is trying to convert, then his act of Milah is effective. This is based on the concept of "Gito v'Yado Ba'im k'Echad" -- "his Get and his hand come simultaneously." The Gemara in Kidushin (23a) teaches that when a master gives his slave a Get Shichrur, the slave acquires the document only through the mechanism of "Gito v'Yado Ba'im k'Echad." Since a slave is unable to acquire anything (even his Get Shichrur) while he is a slave, the only way he can become free by receiving a Get Shichrur is if "the Get Shichrur and his freedom (literally 'hand') come simultaneously." Similarly, when a Nochri performs Milah to himself with intention to become Jewish, his "Milah and conversion come simultaneously." (See also MINCHAS CHINUCH #2).
(b) The SEDER YAKOV asks a number of questions on the view that Keti'a actually became a Jew. One of his questions is that even if Keti'a's Milah would have been a valid Milah, Keti'a did not immerse in a Mikvah in the presence of a Beis Din before his death. How, then, could he have been considered a Jew?
The Seder Yakov therefore explains that having a Bris Milah provides a benefit to a person even without making him Jewish. The MAHARSHA here quotes the Gemara in Eruvin (19a) which relates that Avraham Avinu takes Jewish sinners out of Gehinom, with the exception of a Jew who had relations with a Nochri woman. Although such a person physically has a Bris Milah, he is considered lacking in the spiritual aspect of Milah, and thus he does not deserve to be saved from Gehinom. Keti'a bar Shalom, who gave up his life for Hash-m's people, wanted to establish his spiritual relationship with Hash-m before he died, symbolized by Bris Milah. The sign of Milah, performed with such intention, shows that the person is dedicated to Hash-m, even if he is not Jewish. Since Keti'a had a Bris Milah, he was entitled to be saved from Gehinom by Avraham Avinu, and thus he would receive his just reward in Olam ha'Ba. (Y. MONTROSE)