The Obligation To Wait Between Meat and Milk

(This should not be relied upon for practical halacha. When a question arises a Rabbi should be consulted.)
Introduction- Waiting after meat

There are three places where the Torah states that one should not cook meat and milk together (Shmos 23:19, 34:26 and Devarim 14:21). Chazal tell us that one verse is prohibiting cooking meat and milk together. The second verse is prohibiting eating meat and milk that was cooked together. And the final verse prohibits any enjoyment from milk and meat that was cooked together (Shulchan Aruch Y.D. 87:1).

Chazal decreed that one may not eat cheese after eating meat, but may eat meat after eating cheese. The Gemara (Chullin 105a) mentions that Mar Ukvah said that he would not eat milk and meat in the same meal; however, he would eat a dairy meal following a meat meal. The Rambam and others understand that Mar Ukveh was dictating how much time one must wait between meat and milk. And that is the amount of time between the morning meal and the evening meal. This time period is six hours. [See Biur Hagra]

There are two reasons given in the Rishonim as to the need to wait 6 hours. Rashi (Chullin 105a) explains that when one swallows meat, the fat of the meat leaves a fatty residue in the throat and the mouth for that amount of time. The Rambam (Ma’achelos Assuros 9:28) explains that some meat might get stuck in between the teeth, and for 6 hours it has the hallachic significance of meat. However, after 6 hours the stuck meat is not halachically considered meat anymore and therefore even if one would then eat dairy one would not be eating meat and dairy at the same time.

We rule stringently and are concerned for both opinions and one must wait as long as either Rashi or the Rambam would require you to do so. For example if one swallows a piece of meat whole [without chewing it] he would be required to wait 6 hours. For although the opinion of the Rambam is inapplicable (because the meat was not chewed and thus none would be stuck in between the teeth), since the opinion of Rashi is still applicable (as the meat was swallowed some of the fatty residue coats the throat) one must wait. Similarly, if one merely chews on meat, even if he did not swallow it one would still be obligated to wait 6 hours because according to the opinion of the Rambam there is a concern that some meat got stuck in between his teeth. Even though Rashi would only require a waiting period if there exists a fatty residue coating the throat which occurs only when swallowing the meat.

Six full hours

The consensus of the majority of poskim is that one must wait a full six hours (Chochmas Adam 40:13, Pischai Teshuvah 87:4, and Aruch Hashulchan 87:7). This is indeed the most prevalent custom amongst Klal Yisroel. There are those that wait only 5 hours (and a little) there custom is most probably based upon the words of the Meiri (Magen Avos page 46). The Meiri, when addressing the obligation to wait in between meat and milk writes that one must wait “five or six hours”. Rav Ahron Kotler zt”l was of the opinion that one should wait five hours and thirty one minutes (custom of Lakewood see Ohr Yitzchak Y.D. 4). He felt that as long as one has waited a majority of the sixth hour one need not wait any longer.

Three Hours

Many German Jews have the custom of waiting merely three hours. Many feel that this custom can be found in the works of Rabbeinu Yeruchem (Issur V’Heter 39). Some explain that in these communities during the short winter days, they would eat their meals 3 hours apart. (Darkei Teshuva 89:6). While others explain that in those communities they used to eat 5 meals each day, and each meal was 3 hours apart. (Rabbi Yisroel Belsky shlit”a cited in Halachically Speaking vol. 5 Issue 5).

One hour

We stated earlier that Mar Ukveh required that one cannot eat dairy and meat in the same meal and one can only eat dairy in the meal following a meat meal. We cited that many Rishonim understood that to mean one must wait the amount of time one normally waits in between meals (i.e. six hours). However, Tosafos has a different interpretation of the words of Mar Ukveh. He feels that one does not need to wait a period of time; rather the milk and meat need to be served in different meals. As long as one recited a brachah achrona and cleared the table, one would be permitted to eat dairy immediately. The Taz writes that the custom of many Dutch Jews to wait one hour is based upon the ruling of Tosafos. They feel that one need not wait at all; the requirement to wait one hour is merely a stringency they placed upon themselves.

Assorted Hallachos

1. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l (Igros Moshe Y.D. 2:26) writs that one who swallows a meat vitamin (ex. A liver pill) does not need to wait six hours. He explains that the decree (to wait six hours) was never extended to meats that were not meant to be chewed. Additionally, since there were no pills during the time of Chazal, they were never included in the gezeira.

2. The Haflah writes that one who found meat in between his teeth and swallowed it [whether within the 6 hours or even after 6 hours from eating] would be required to wait 6 hours from that point. His opinion is cited by Rav Feivel Cohen shlit”a in the Sefer Badei Hashulchan (89:13 Tziyunim 22). See however the Chayei Halevi (5:60 note 5) for a permissible view.

3. One who eats a parave food that was cooked in meat pot (even if the pot had been used that day to cook meat), does not need to wait 6 hours (Rama 89:3).

4. If one merely tastes meat with his tongue (did not chew it) and then spits it out without swallowing it he does not need to wait 6 hours (Aruch Hashulchan YD 89:14). Washing out the mouth is still required if one wishes to eat dairy.

5. The Sefer Vyaas Avraham writes a truly novel hallacha. He feels that one who sleeps after eating meat is allowed to eat dairy immediately, even if six hours have not past. The Chasam Sofer originally agreed with this approach. The Chasam Sofer once placed milk near his bed in order that after his sleep he would be able to drink it, even though six hours had not past. However, while he was sleeping he knocked over the milk. The Chasam Sofer accepted that as a sign from Heaven that the hallacha does not concur with the Vyaas Avraham and one needs to wait six full hours even if he slept in between (See Tshuvos VHanhagos 1:43). It seems that the custom is to be stringent and not to rely upon the permissible view of the Vyaas Avraham.

Please email  any questions or comments to avizakutinsky@gmail.com

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2 thoughts on “The Obligation To Wait Between Meat and Milk

  1. Marc Goldhammer says:

    I met a baal teshuva from Maine, he had no frum background whatsoever. He said he only waits one hour because he had to make up his own minhagim. This person happens to be close with the Rabbi of the colleges down in the Baltimore area, so I assume this Rabbi told him it was okay, but is this permissible?

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    • That is a good question, maybe I will write about that a different time. In a nutshell, a person can not just choose a custom, he should follow his family lineage. If however he is a baal teshuva according to some poskim he can follow the customs of his rebbi, who was mekareiv him. Therefore, unless his rebbi is dutch and he follows every dutch custom it is not appropriate to just choose one custom of the dutch. And even if his rebbi is dutch, according to many poskim he should follow his family heritage and their customs.

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