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My Hebrew is rusty and my knowledge of all the halachot is equally rusty. I want to take on a new project to complete either one of those compilations.

For someone coming from a Sephardic heritage, which compilation would be better suited for gaining a practical and comprehensive know-how of the dos and don'ts of Judaism?

What are the major differences between the two compilations?

Or would it be even better to start with the original Shulchan Aruch?

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I'm unfamiliar with Yalkut Yosef, so am not posting this as an answer, but Mishne Tora is unsuitable IMO for "a practical and comprehensive know-how of the dos and don'ts of Judaism": it is not practical, primarily because Sephardic Jews do not follow it in all respects but also because it omits the application of halacha to modern technology. – msh210 Jul 26 '13 at 18:16
Yalkut Yosef has the advantage of being more modern (he deals with modern day questions). If you want Sefardi practical Halacha, stick to it. Rambam has the advantage of covering every halacha. So if you want general knowledge (not practical halacha), that's the way to go. – Shmuel Brin Jul 26 '13 at 18:19
I am not only interested in the practical halacha but the reasoning behind it, and iirc rambam throws in some nice chapters such as halachot teshuvah, proper dieting, and others. – Ani Yodea Jul 26 '13 at 18:23
@MoriDoweedhYa3gob, let's continue this conversation in chat. – msh210 Jul 26 '13 at 18:46
@Ramin for laws of dieting consult your local doctor – Shmuel Brin Jul 26 '13 at 19:08
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Coming from a similar background, I highly recommend Yalqut Yosef as a first stop as opposed to Mishneh Torah or Shulhhan Arukh. In contrast to Mishneh Torah and Shulhhan Arukh, Yalqut Yosef - having been written relatively recently - has modern examples that are more practical to the Ba'al Teshuva.

If you can manage in Hebrew, the Yalqut Yosef Kitzur Shulhhan Arukh is fantastic (available online here). For brevity, however, it does not always go into long explanations on rulings. For that, you could tackle the full Yalqut Yosef (some of which has also been translated into English - Shabbat, for example). Unfortunately, the 2-volume Kitzur has not yet been translated to my knowledge.

Good luck!

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the kitzur yalkut yosef is also available online, here: yalkut.info – Menachem Jul 26 '13 at 19:43
Yalqut Yosef Kitzur Shulhhan Arukh is also available here in full (in Hebrew). – Lee Jul 29 '13 at 13:40
yalkut.info has since been taken down if the mods can remove Menachem's comment (and this comment thereafter). Cheers. – Lee Dec 4 '13 at 17:30

Yalkut Yosef gives more information on the Halacha it does have than the Rambam. IT is missing a lot of Yore Deah, Even HaEzer, and Hoshen Mishpat but then again that's not as practical for everyday life.

We don't always hold like the Rambam anyways.

If I didn't write info comment below.

In short: Yalkut Yosef.

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