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משלוח מנות: two different brachot or two portions of food/drink?

This comes up every year or almost every year.

I was taught that it has to be two items on which two different brachot are made. This is how it is currently taught and has been taught for a long time.

However, that does not appear to be the halachah, it seems to be more of an urban legend that has had incredible staying power! I was told this a few years ago, by someone I trust, but then it came up again in discussion at work, so I finally looked it up, in case I was wrong about any of it.

The basic sources upon which halakhah is determined are here, below, and they all say that it has to be two portions of food, not two different foods with two different brachot:
  1. The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, written 1170-1180 CE), see halakhah 15 in Scroll of Esther and Hanukkah Chapter 2:
    Specifically, he writes: "וכן חייב אדם לשלוח שתי מנות בשר או שני מיני תבשיל או שני מיני אוכלין לחבירו שנאמר ומשלוח מנות איש לרעהו שתי מנות לאיש אחד." Two portions of meat, or two types of cooked food, or two types of food. Two portions of meat = they can have the same brachah.

  2. The Tur (written c. 1330 CE) and its commentary, the Beit Yosef (written 1522-1542 CE):
    Specifically, the Tur says: "צריך לשלוח מנות איש לרעהו, לפחות ב' מנות לאדם אחד. ואם החליף סעודתו בשל חבירו, יצא."
    The Beit Yosef: "וצריך לשלוח מנות איש לרעהו לפחות ב' מתנו' לאדם א' נתבאר בסימן תרצ"ד:"
    (But it's actually תרצ"ה.)

  3. Shulchan Aruch (written 1563 CE) and its main commentaries (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chayyim 695:4): https://he.wikisource.org/wiki/%D7%A9%D7%95%D7%9C%D7%97%D7%9F_%D7%A2%D7%A8%D7%95%D7%9A_%D7%90%D7%95%D7%A8%D7%97_%D7%97%D7%99%D7%99%D7%9D_%D7%AA%D7%A8%D7%A6%D7%94_%D7%93
    חייב לשלוח לחבירו שתי מנות בשר או של מיני אוכלים, שנאמר: "ומשלוח מנות איש לרעהו" (אסתר ט יט; ושם, כב), שתי מנות לאיש אחד. וכל המרבה לשלוח לריעים, משובח. ואם אין לו, מחליף עם חבירו, זה שולח לזה סעודתו וזה שולח לזה סעודתו, כדי לקיים "ומשלוח מנות איש לרעהו":
    הגה: ויש לשלוח מנות ביום ולא בלילה (מדברי הרא"ש פ"ק דמגילה). ואם שולח מנות לרעהו והוא אינו רוצה לקבלם או מוחל לו, יצא. ואשה חייבת במתנות לאביונים ומשלוח מנות כאיש. ואשה תשלח לאשה ואיש לאיש, אבל לא בהפך, שלא יבא איש לשלוח לאלמנה ויבואו לידי ספק קידושין. אבל במתנות לאביונים אין לחוש:

  4. And, finally, for a modern take, the Arukh HaShulchan (mostly published 1884–1893 CE), סימן תרצה סעיף יג-יד:
    Here, he says explicitly that you cannot send two portions from the very same food, but can send two different kinds of meat, or two different kinds of drink, etc. Those would obviously both have the same brachah, in many cases (shehakol or hagefen, etc.).
I'm sorry for the mishmash of transliteration, Hebrew, English, different Hebrew fonts, etc. If I find the time/energy, I'll try to go back and fix it later. (I find Blogger to be a much worse experience in 2019 than I remember it being in 2009, in terms of user control of these things!) I trust that most people who are interested in this can make heads/tails of it as-is.

If anyone has a source from the traditional halakhic corpus that says that it has to be two different brachot, I would love to see it! Since that is also what I was always taught in school...

Since (nearly) everyone is taught that it must be this way, of course I make sure to give two different foods with two different brachot, lest I be mistakenly thought an am ha'aretz! I, too, went to day school and learned incorrect halakhah! I can be just as "frum" as anyone else in this matter. (And so on and so forth.)

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What do I believe?

In light of the fact that someone recently asked me what I believe, here are some of the things that I believe today (in no particular order), on March 3, 2019:
  1. That God speaks to me through the text of the Torah.
  2. That the Rabbis who wrote the Mishnah, Midrash, and Talmud were creative geniuses to whom I am eternally grateful.
  3. That worthwhile relationships require hard work.
  4. That children are both amazing and impossible, often at the same time. 
  5. Taking care of children, teaching them, and raising them to become respectable, responsible adults requires untold sums of patience, hard and boring work, inspiration, and perspiration. (This is true even for proponents of free-range parenting.)
  6. That things (habits, manners, ways of being in the world) that weren't modeled for us as children are more difficult to acquire in adulthood.
  7. That human bodies come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and that no one shape or size is better than any other shape or size.
  8. That the things that we love the most often cause us the most pain: our family, our friends, our romantic relationships, our communities (Jewish or otherwise), our religion... The list goes on. It is very long!
  9. That everyone (everyone!) can benefit from both individual and group therapy.
  10. That nature is both beautiful and cruel.
  11. That the ability to feel deep gratitude is an enormous blessing.
  12. That we improve at things through practice.
  13. That all of us struggle with things that are often/always/sometimes invisible to others.
  14. That time spent outside in nature, standing still in appreciation or meandering while lost in thought, is never wasted.
  15. That the myriad, unending series of individual choices that we all make in life are constrained both by things that we understand and know and things that we don't know or understand.
  16. That the Torah contains beautiful wisdom and really, really challenging verses.
  17. That the Talmud contains beautiful wisdom and really, really challenging pericopes (that's the fancy English word for sugyot).
  18. That the Midrash contains beautiful wisdom and really, really challenging passages.
  19. That it's normal to go through periods of feeling energized and excited by things (concepts, communities, hobbies, practices) and then distant from and alienated from them. Even bored by them. Things wax and wane. That's how it goes. Sometimes, we push through and continue our practiced commitment to them even during periods of waning interest or outright alienation, and sometimes we don't. And that's okay!
  20. That there are multiple authentic ways to practice Judaism and that different ways work for different people. Maybe even for the same person at different times of their life.
  21. That racism and sexism (among other -isms) are ubiquitous in the United States today (and probably elsewhere, but that's where I live). They are sometimes insidious and sometimes really blatant and in your face. The impact each one of us every single day.
I am quite sure that there are many more things that I believe, but that's what I have for you today!

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