Nowadays, we live in a world where one can get instant access to all sorts of Torah content. If you are researching or writing any Torah-related topics, you might want to familiarize yourself with the most important resources out there.
The mother of all resources, of course, is GOOGLE. You can simply search in Google to find whatever insights into Chumash, Rashi, Gemara, Midrash, Zohar, Rambam, you name it, that you seek. Using quotation marks in Google is always helpful for finding exact quotes. So, for example if you type into Google’s search bar “Gittin 56b” with the quotation marks, you can easily find everyone on the internet who has ever mentioned that amud of Gemara.
After Google, Wikipedia comes in second. Personally, I tend to use Wikipedia for quick biographical information about different rabbinic authorities that I quote (although, sometimes you have to resort to the Hebrew Wikipedia to get information about lesser-known figures).
There are also a plethora of online resources which can help you locate and cite Torah-related sources. A freeware program called Torat Emet has many Hebrew seforim in text so you can easily search through them, as well as copy their text for whatever uses you deem necessary. There are also online resources which do the same, such as Machon Mamre (which has all of Tanach, Shas, and Rambam), Maagar Safrut HaKodesh (which also has those resources plus more), AlHatorah.org (which has the texts of many meforshim on Tanach, and of course Sefaria (which has many classical Jewish texts in Hebrew and English).
There is also a very useful encyclopedia called Aspaklaria, which culls together sources from Tanach, Chazal, Rishonim, and select Acharonim (like Rav Tzadok, Rav Hirsch, Rav Dessler, and Sefas Emes) and is arranged by topic.
If you need access to more seforim, then there is Hebrewbooks.org (although to use that site, you should already know exactly the name of the sefer you are looking for and what page you need, because the site’s search engine is not the greatest).
If you are a real sefer-addict, like me, then you need something even more powerful: Otzar HaChochmah is the mother of all resources, but it will cost a pretty penny. You can buy the External HD version which is quite expensive, but does not require an internet connection and has more features than the online version. Or you can subscribe to the online version which is updated more frequently with new seforim. Although Otzar HaChochmah’s search is not the greatest (it uses a technology called OCR—Optical Character Recognition which essentially uses “pictures” of every page of the seforim in the system and tries to interpret the pictures as letters of a text), it’s still pretty good.
The searching capabilities of Bar Ilan University’s Responsa Project is superior to HebrewBooks and Otzar HaChochmah because Bar Ilan’s seforim are in text format, but it is limited in scope because Bar Ilan does not have as many seforim as HebrewBooks and Otzar HaChochmah do. I’ve also encountered some funny typos in texts coming from Bar Ilan, so when copying text from that program, be careful to check for accuracy.
If you are in a real pinch and can’t find exactly what you are looking for, don’t worry, there are people who can help, but you have to write to them in Hebrew. An anonymous Torah sage runs a Gemach called Maareches L’Dofkei B’Teshuvah by which you send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org with whatever question(s) you have or source(s) you need, and he will write you back. The drawback of this gemach is that he oftentimes doesn’t answer back during bein hazmanim, and he sometimes takes a few weeks to give an answer. If you can’t find a specific source in the digital programs available, you can email Rabbi Elbaum of the Rambam Library in Tel Aviv (email@example.com) and he is kind enough to scan and email people whatever Torah sources they need. You can also crowdsource your question to the Talmidei Chachmim of the Otzar HaChochmah Forums, who have a wide range of yedios and will take your questions seriously.
If you’re linguistically hampered and can only ask questions and receive answers in English, then you can sign up for Machon Shmuel’s research services done by some Chabad scholars (but it’s not cheap).
They say that in our time and age, gathering tons of sources is no great feat. We live in the Age of Information, and whatever knowledge you seek can be easily found with just a few clicks. The real job of the researcher/Talmid Chacham is to filter out those pieces of information which are irrelevant (whether because they are not suitable for his target audience, or whether the logic behind the information is not sound, or a host of other reasons). That—I leave to you.
Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein is the author of the newly-released book G-d versus gods: Judaism in the Age of Idolatry (Mosaica Press, 2018). He studied for over a decade at several yeshivas, including Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood and Yeshivas Mir in Jerusalem. He authored many articles both in English and Hebrew, and his first book Lashon HaKodesh: History, Holiness, & Hebrew (Mosaica Press, 2014) became an instant classic. His weekly articles on synonyms in the Hebrew language are published in the Jewish Press and Ohrnet. Rabbi Klein lives with his family in Beitar Illit, Israel and can be reached via email: firstname.lastname@example.org