MEGILLAT SETARIM ("Concealed Roll"):
Name of a roll supposed to have been found in the bet ha-midrash of R. Ḥiyya, and which contained halakot recorded by him. Three passages from it, which are maxims of R. Ise b. Judah, are quoted by Abba Arika in the Talmud (Shab. 6b, 96b; B. M. 92a) with the introductory phrase: "I found a hidden roll in the bet ha-midrash of R. Ḥiyya."
According to Rashi (Shab. 6b), although it was not permissible to record halakot, the scholars were accustomed to write in rolls (which were then hidden) such sentences and maxims of various tannaim as were seldom repeated in the schools, and which were, therefore, liable to be forgotten; and he declares the Megillat Setarim was such a roll. This explanation is not satisfactory, however; for according to it R. Ḥiyya could not have been the only one to make such a roll, and yet no manuscript of this character by any other scholar is mentioned. Moreover, it is not easy to see how Rab could have had access to the scroll if it was kept in concealment merely because it was forbidden to write halakot. Rashi's assumption that the interdiction against recording halakot still existed at the time of R. Ḥiyya is wholly incorrect; for Judah ha-Nasi I. abrogated it by committing the Mishnah to writing. R. Ḥiyya did not conceal his Megillah, therefore, because it contained halakot, but because of their nature, inasmuch as his roll comprised sentences which Judah ha-Nasi had excluded from his Mishnah, besides additions and emendations to Rabbi's Mishnah most of which were contrary to that author's opinions.
R. Ḥiyya hid his Megillah during Rabbi's lifetime that he might not offend him; but after Rabbi's death this reason no longer existed, and Rab was permitted to see the scroll. This explanation of the origin and contents of the Megillat Setarim is also indicated by its name, "concealed roll," which implies that there were rolls containing halakot which were not kept secret, among them Rabbi's Mishnah collection. This view also invalidates the assumption of Lebrecht ("Handschriften und Erste Ausgaben des Talmuds," p. 10), who, in reading "Megillat Sedarim" instead of "Megillat Setarim," infers that this roll contained the six orders ("sedarim") of the Mishnah.
- Weiss, Dor, ii. 198;
- Frankel, Darke ha-Mishnah, p. 218, note, Leipsic, 1859.