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I'd like a recommendation as to a set of responsa (shailos & teshuvos) that would be manageable for a "beginner," i.e., someone who after several years of hard work can generally make his way through the chumash and tannaitic literature, and (with additional effort and dictionary assistance) the more accessible parts of the Shulchan Aruch, but gets easily lost in the Talmud and is nowhere near the level of Tosfos.

I have no preference as to time period or geographic region. However, what I would prefer is the following:

  1. It is written in an engaging, perhaps entertaining style, succinct rather than long-winded (I'm thinking something akin to the Ra'avad's commentary to the Mishneh Torah).
  2. The author is well-known in Orthodox circles. (If I'm going to read one responsa collection, I'd rather it not be obscure.)
  3. It is printed in clear square font rather than Rashi script, with at least minimal punctuation.
  4. It has minimal roshei teivos. In other words, not like this: (ומשני דס"ל כירושלמי דפליג ארב הונא והמנהג וס"ל כרנב"י ע"כ יש לנו לפסוק כרנב"י וק"ל, from a Responsa of the Remah on Sefaria).
  5. Similarly, citations to the Tanakh, Talmud, or other authorities are not so truncated or opaque that only someone with a Yeshiva background (which I lack) would follow the thread.
  6. If it contains cross-references in the style of Ein Mishpat or Masoret HaShas, that would be an added bonus but not a requirement.

The choice may come down to the right publisher. For example, I recently purchased this set of the Mekhilta from Zichron Aharon, which has all the roshei teivos expanded and is printed in a nice clear font on high-quality paper, with a masoret, making it a joy to learn from for a beginner. Totally different genre, but that's the idea.

I also understand that there are many responsa on line (e.g., on Sefaria), but I only like to learn using books. I'm also not interested in a set containing an English translation -- I like the challenge of trying to decode the meaning on my own.

Thanks! If I can provide additional clarification, I'd be happy to do so in comments.

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    Point 5 is going to be tricky for most classical collections of teshuvot, and even plenty of more recent ones such as Iggerot Moshe. Something modern (for example Minchat Asher as suggested in mbloch’s answer) is likely to be your best bet.
    – Joel K
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 5:25
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    Respectfully, reading responsa is not a good use of your time. All responsa are written with the assumption that the reader is well-versed in Talmudic literature and style. And that the reader will be familiar with a plethora of commentaries and decisors from the time of the Talmud until the modern time. They are generally written by rabbis for rabbis. You would be much better off studying Talmud and Shulchan Aruch first.
    – N.T.
    Commented Jul 14, 2023 at 4:33

3 Answers 3

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Shut Minchat Asher from R Asher Weiss (there are many books on that name, I'm referring the 3-volume halachic Q&A set) meets many of the criteria you are looking for

  • there are many short- to medium-length responses, making it easily accessible
  • the author is a highly-respected posek in both Israel and the US, likely due to him being fluent in both languages
  • the book print is clear and modern, there are some abbreviations but nothing too fancy and a good dictionary of abbreviations is surely already part of your library (if not it is very helpful)
  • it doesn't have cross-references though

You can get a sense of R Asher's writings on his site.

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    Also he writes very clearly and explains everything as if you're a beginner.
    – robev
    Commented Jul 12, 2023 at 5:28
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    @mbloch, thank you for your suggestion. I was able to find the three volume set, and from a preview that I reviewed (shopeichlers.com/products/minchas-asher-volume-1/29598), it looks like it checks off most of the boxes, as you mentioned (especially the limited use of roshei teivos, block letters, and moderate size of the responsa), which is an encouraging sign. I'll plan on getting the first for now. !חזק וברוך Commented Jul 13, 2023 at 0:24
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I second the recommendation of Minchat Asher. Another good candidate would be Rav Ovadia's Yechave Daat. They are generally intended to be shorter and more accessible to an audience with less background, as opposed to his denser and more encyclopedic shutim in Yabia Omer. He is of course Sephardic, but usually makes clear what is a uniquely Sephardic issue versus what is not.

You might also want to check out Igrot Moshe. You might find it a little dense and/or not as engaging. But especially if you are in America he's pretty influential and most of his shutim are not longwinded and I think pretty clear.

Another recommendation I really enjoy, though a little farther from your list of criteria, would be Rav Chaim David HaLevi's Aseh L'cha Rav. He writes in Modern (less "Rabbinic") Hebrew and also deals with more hashkafa and not just halakha. Those may be pluses or minuses for you. He is also less widely known today, but still generally mainstream and respected, especially in Dati Leumi circles.

One thing you might want to consider is that different authors have different styles in terms of whether they mainly want to focus on basics of the gemara and rishonim versus giving you a lay of the land of what other acharonim said. Rav Moshe and Rav HaLevi were both much more in the former camp; Rav OVadia is more in the latter camp.

PS You probably already know this but you can sample shutim of most of these works online. You can try a bunch and see what's right for you.

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I would try Shu"t Avnei Yasfei by Rabbi Pesach Feinhandler . His writing isn't long-winded, and has countless of fascinating questions that aren't dealt with by others.

On a side note, he has probably the most strongest haskama I have seen . It is from the Baba Sali who says that we all ask him our questions ,and whatever he tells us we do.

Link to the 8 volumes of אבני ישפה (very hard to find in print ) :

https://hebrewbooks.org/home.aspx

Haskama of Baba Sali :

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