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Can someone explain the difference between these four books called "Shulchan Aruch"?

  1. The Shulchan Aruch stam
  2. Shulchan Aruch Habahir
  3. Aruch haShulchan
  4. The Tur Shulchan Aruch
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    I made some edits for formatting and clarity; if there's anything you don't like, feel free to edit again. – Scimonster Dec 24 '14 at 14:30
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    What about Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Kitzur Shulchan Aruch? – Daniel Dec 24 '14 at 17:10
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    Ah, I see that Yishai addressed those in his answer. – Daniel Dec 24 '14 at 17:10
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    Also, Shulchan Orekh: part of the Seder where the main meal is served. – Double AA Dec 15 '16 at 16:16
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The Shulchan Aruch was written by Rabbi Yosef Karo in the mid-sixteenth century. That is the reference to #1 ("stam" means plain, without any additional qualifications. Since then, others have appropriated the name or made names that have allusions to it, when writing books which have a similar purpose - to structure and organize Jewish Law into a relatively terse guide). It is generally printed with commentaries around the main text, and is as well known for those commentaries as for the main text.

Shulchan Aruch Habahir is a specific, recent, reprint of the Shulchan Aruch with commentaries that uses its own pagination format. It is an attempt at making a more readable page, but it contains fundamentally the same information as other prints.

Aruch haShulchan was written by Rabbi Yechiel Michel Epstein in the late 19th century. It is a more comprehensive but not as widely-regarded-as-authoritative work (although some do indeed regard it as such, just not as many as would regard the Shulchan Aruch itself that way). It also follows the organizational pattern of the original Shulchan Aruch.

Tur Shulchan Aruch is a print that combines the Tur with the Shulchan Aruch. The Tur is the originator of the organizational format used by the Shulchan Aruch, and was written by Rabbi Yaakov Ben Asher in the early 14th century. R. Karo wrote a commentary on it, called the Beis Yosef, which formed the basis for his later work, the Shulchan Aruch.

Because the organization method is the same, it fits naturally to print the two together, and due to the terse nature of the Shulchan Aruch itself, having the Tur and the accompanying Beis Yosef near by helps to elucidate the context of the Shulchan Aruch.

A couple of other prominent texts with the name Shulchan Aruch are:

Shulchan Aruch HaRav by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi written in the late 18th century and published after the author's death in the early 19th century. This follows the organizational structure of the Shulchan Aruch and is more detailed in providing the reasons behind each ruling (following more the style of the Tur than the Shulchan Aruch in that sense), however much of the original manuscripts were lost in a fire, so its coverage is sporadic, with most of what remains focused on the first of the four sections of Shulchan Aruch.

Kitzur Shulchan Aruch by Rabbi Shlomo Ganzfried was written in the later part of 19th century. It starts a new format and was composed in a very terse format for the layman, and picks the relevant sections of Jewish Law that a layman would focus on. This format has made it a very popular starting point for a student first delving into Halachic works. It has several prints that put in references to other Halachic works like the Mishna Brurah, the Shulchan Aruch HaRav and one with notes by former Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu who references the later Sefardi decisions in these areas.

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    Wow, this is an amazing answer. I wish I could +2 :) – Shokhet Dec 24 '14 at 22:59
  • @Yishai Great answer. If you have time, would you mind noting which on this list are based on the Rema and which on the Mechaber? Forgive my ignorance if this is a fundamentally dumb question – SAH Aug 21 '17 at 22:42
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    @SAH, they are all (SA Harav, Aruch and Kitzur, Mishna Brurah) ashkenazi works that lean more towards the Rema (except, of course Cheif Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu). – Yishai Aug 22 '17 at 1:31

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