||Novellae of the Meiri on tractate Megillah. The title page notes that the hiddushei of the Meiri were concealed and sealed in manuscript and only printed recently. The text follows the title page in two columns in rabbinic type. The Meiri’s hiddushim are distinguished by clarity and his original method of exposition. He develops his theme from its origin and for this reason he assigns a separate section to the Mishnah and explains it before turning to the later development and discussions in the later literature. Each tractate and its individual chapters is preceded by a short preface outlining the subject in general terms. The discussion begins with a presentation of the fundamental principles involved and proceeds with an explanation of the opinions of each of the amoraim. The author in conclusion sums up and collates these opinions, giving the relevant halakhah as he sees it. An abundance of comments handed down by German, Provencal, and Spanish scholars with their different interpretations are incorporated, but each one is given separately to prevent confusion on the part of the reader.
R. Menahem ben Solomon ha-Me'iri (1249–1316 was born in Perpignan where he spent his whole life. His family, regarded as one of the most distinguished in Provence, originated from Carcassonne and Narbonne. Few biographical details are available. In his youth he was orphaned of his father, and his children were taken captive while he was still young, but no details of this personal tragedy are known. R. Meiri's principal teacher was Reuben b. Hayyim. His reference to R. Jonah Gerondi as "my teacher" does not necessarily mean that he studied under him: it may merely mean that he studied his works. Among the contemporary scholars with whom he maintained close ties was R. Solomon b. Abraham Adret; they exchanged many responsa and Adret's teachings assisted him in the writing of his monumental work. R. Meiri was one of the participants in R. Adret's polemic against Maimonides. In a letter to R. Abba Mari b. Moses Joseph, who handled the entire affair and collected the relevant correspondence, Meiri disassociated himself from the attitude of R. Adret and his colleagues, upholding freedom of thought for the scholars of each country, and freedom from intervention by outside scholars reveal his great interest in philosophy and other secular sciences, and reflect his pride in the local scholars who had acquired proficiency in them. R. Meiri occupies a central position in the sphere of the talmudic creativity of Provence, not only due to his extraordinary literary fecundity and the comprehensive scope of his works, but also because he summarizes the teachings of his predecessors during the previous three centuries. In effect he puts the seal upon the literary efforts in this area of Jewish culture. His literary activity covered halakhic rulings, talmudic exposition, biblical exegesis, customs, ethics, and philosophy. The vast majority of Meiri's works remained in manuscript until very recently, probably on account of their exceptional length, which made it practically impossible to copy them in full. A small number of his books were published in the second half of the 18th century and the majority of them—from the beginning of the 20th century up to the present day. A great contribution to this project was by R. A. Sofer (Schreiber). An exception is his commentary to the Book of Proverbs which was first published in Portugal in 1492, and then included in the Kehillot Moshe edition of Mikra'ot Gedolot (Amsterdam, 1724).
Meiri's chief work is the gigantic Beit ha-Behirah on the Talmud, in which he was engaged from 1287 to 1300. In it he summarizes the subject matter of the Talmud, giving both the meaning and the halakhah derived from it. It follows the order of the Mishnah. The work covers the orders of Mo'ed, Nashim, and Nizikin, and the tractates, Berakhot, Hallah, Hullin, Niddah, Tamid, Middot, and Mikva'ot. Beit ha-Behirah has been republished almost in its entirety in recent years from a single complete manuscript (Parma). Of particular interest is the introduction to his commentary on Avot, in which he gives the chain of tradition of Torah study from its outset to his own time. It contains valuable material for the knowledge of the history of Torah study in Spain and Provence, and was copied out in full and completed (updated) to his own time by Isaac Lattes in his Sha'arei Ziyyon (ed. by S. Buber, 1885). In addition to Beit ha-Behirah, Meiri wrote commentaries on the Talmud which were expository rather than halakhic in orientation. Although the manuscripts in this group of a number of tractates are still extant, none has been published, except for the commentary to Avot and the Beit ha-Behirah to the tractate, Bezah, which apparently belong to this group. Meiri was one of the few rabbis of his time to make extensive use of the Jerusalem Talmud in order to clarify the parallel discussions in the Babylonian Talmud, and his works are therefore of added importance for research on the Jerusalem Talmud and its variant readings. Meiri's style contributes much to the lucidity of his presentation. His Hebrew is accurate, precise, and simple. In addition, he succeeded in finding the golden mean between the generally contradictory aims of expository comprehensiveness and halakhic definitiveness. These features endeared the Beit ha-Behirah to scholars and its volumes are now repeatedly republished in spite of their great length.