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How long must one wait after eating meat before eating dairy?

by Rabbi Avraham Gordimer

www.OUKosher.org

  

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The Talmud relates that the great sage Mar Ukva contrasted his approach to waiting after eating meat with that of his father: “If Father would eat meat now, he would not eat cheese until the next day at this time. I, though, will not eat [cheese] at this meal, but I will do so at the next meal”.1 Mar Ukva’s father was super-stringent and went beyond the requirements, whereas Mar Ukva went according to the letter of the law.

Mar Ukva’s practice of “waiting until the next meal” is seen by Halachic sources as being the basis for the requirement to wait after eating meat before eating dairy. Posekim, however, do not agree on how long Mar Ukva waited. Some opine that Mar Ukva simply provided us with a general rule: Do not combine dairy and meat at the same meal; and, if you eat a meat meal, you cannot have dairy until the meat meal has been completed. Any further waiting is optional. Others maintain that Mar Ukva advocated waiting a specific duration of time, and that this is what Halachah requires.

Mar Ukva's practice of "waiting until the next meal" is seen by halachic sources as being the basis for the requirement to wait after eating meat before eating dairy
The Shulchan Aruch presents various approaches. Rabbi Yosef Karo—whose authority is binding on most Sephardic Jews—states in no uncertain terms that one must wait six hours after consuming meat before eating dairy.2 On the opposite end of the spectrum is Rema—whom Ashkenazic Jews follow—who posits that the rule is to not consume meat and dairy in the same meal. While Rema maintains that, according to the letter of the law, one may eat a meat meal, recite Birkat Hamazon and then immediately begin a dairy meal, he asserts that Ashkenazic Jewry has accepted the custom of waiting between meals, and this is a practice that is binding on all Ashkenazim.

Rema further explains that though the custom in his community (Krakow) was to wait an hour between meals, one should wait six hours. Nowadays, most Jews wait six hours, though Dutch Jews wait one hour, and German Jews wait three hours.

(It should be noted that instead of stating that one must wait six hours between eating meat and dairy, Rambam3 states that one must wait “about six hours.” Rambam’s intent is a point of dispute among halachic authorities. Some interpret this to allow for a five-and-a-half-hour waiting period.)

Republished with permission from www.oukosher.org

Footnotes

  • 1. Chullin 105a.
  • 2. Yoreh Deah 89:1.
  • 3. Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot 9:28.

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Talmud
Usually referring to the Babylonian edition, it is a compilation of Rabbinic law, commentary and analysis compiled over a 600 year period (200 BCE - 427 CE). Talmudic verse serves as the bedrock of all classic and modern-day Torah-Jewish literature.
Halachah
Jewish Law. All halachah which is applicable today is found in the Code of Jewish Law.
Halachic
Pertaining to Jewish Law.
Ashkenazim
(pl.) Jews of Northern or Eastern European ancestry. (singular: Ashkenazi)
Sephardic
(adj.) A Jew whose ancestors stem from Southern Italy, Spain, Portugal, North Africa or the Arabian countries.
Rambam
Acronym for Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, widely known as Maimonides. Born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
Birkat Hamazon
Grace after Meals. A Biblically mandated prayer, consisting of four blessings, recited after eating more than an ounce of bread.