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As far as I can tell, there are 5 different traditions for how long one has to wait between eating meat and milk:

  1. wait 6 full hours
  2. wait into the 6th hour (thus, 5 hours and 5 minutes would suffice)
  3. wait 5 full hours
  4. wait 3 hours
  5. wait 1 hour

I know that waiting 3 hours is a German tradition, and waiting 1 hour is a Dutch tradition. I'm wondering if:

A) There are any other traditions that I don't know about; and
B) If anyone can tell me who came up with these hours, and why?

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Another custom is that of the Arizal to wait until the end of the day. –  Michoel Jul 26 '12 at 0:05
    
I know people who wait 4, and others who only wait 4 in the winter. –  Double AA Jul 6 at 22:10
    
Aren't #2 and #3 basically the same? –  Ypnypn Dec 1 at 14:35

8 Answers 8

up vote 9 down vote accepted

(Taken from OU article here):

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

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” (Chullin 105a). 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.

The Shulchan Aruch presents various approaches. In Yoreh Deah 89:1, 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. 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, Rambam [Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot 9:28] 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.)

Why are there such diverse views on waiting?

It all goes back to Mar Ukva’s statement about waiting “until the next meal.” Some interpret the “next meal” to mean six hours, the average amount of time from lunch to dinner or from a late breakfast—“brunch”—to dinner. (In Talmudic days, most people ate only two meals: “brunch” and dinner.) Others believe Mar Ukva meant that one should wait an hour, the amount of time it takes for digestion to begin (Chochmat Adam 40:13). Those who wait three hours may understand Mar Ukva to be referring to the interval between breakfast and lunch, rather than that between lunch and dinner.

Sephardic Jews must wait six hours as a matter of halachah; there is no room for divergent customs or leniencies (unless there is a medical need, of course). Ashkenazim, however, wait as a matter of accepted custom, similar to the Ashkenazic custom to refrain from eating kitniyot on Pesach. For Ashkenazim, it is always necessary, however, to recite the required berachot upon completing a meat meal before eating dairy. The berachot serve to separate the meals. If—after waiting the requisite period of time—one finds meat stuck between his teeth, he must cleanse his teeth and rinse his mouth. There is no need to wait any longer. (There is also a machloket regarding the one-hour period. Some posekim rule that a person who always waits one hour needs to clean his mouth before eating dairy, whereas others disagree.)


My personal understanding/interpretation of the basis of waiting (the story told in the Gemara), is that, basically, Mar 'Ukva is saying a couple of things.
1. His father was very pious, and he himself is not nearly so pious, though he admires his father's piety of waiting 24 hours between meat and cheese.
2. He thinks it is appropriate to wait until the next meal to eat cheese (if this meal is with meat).
3. He thinks it is minimally appropriate (if not required; this is ambiguous) to at least not eat cheese with this (meat) meal.

Beyond that, I think how we derive minimum lengths of time depends on how we view these statements. We have a couple of options that I can think of:
A. His statements are meant to be precise measures of time - wait the exact amount of time one would normally wait between meals, or
B. His statements are meant to be situationally dependent - don't eat cheese in this (meat) meal, but wait until the next meal, whenever that is; by the way, if you are offered a snack of cheese between the meals, it's better to wait but it's ok if you eat it. or
C. Very similar to B., except delete the part after the semi-colon (no cheesy snacks allowed).

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"Sephardic Jews must wait six hours as a matter of halachah; there is no room for divergent customs or leniencies" - shortly after saying Dutch jews (Spanish and Portuguese sephardim) wait only 1 hour. I've learned long ago not to trust ANYTHING OU says with regard to sephardim. –  Marc Jan 16 at 23:52
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I'm not sure what you're getting at. Most Ashkenazic Jews regard Dutch Jews as separate and distinct from Sephardic Jews. Most Dutch Jews I know do too. –  Seth J Jan 17 at 4:21
    
Like most, you are using the term "Sephardim" to basically refer to all non-Askenaz jews. There are many different strains of non-Ashkenaz jews, all customarily lumped under the term "sephardim." This is not just a Dutch thing, and your comment actually proves the point. –  Marc Feb 17 at 22:26
    
I got dizzy from the circular logic. –  Seth J Feb 18 at 16:30
    
You missed the 3 hour minhag. It comes from Rabbeinu Yerucham one of the students of the Rosh. Source is here: sefaria.org/Issur_V'Heter_L'Rabbeinu_Yerucham.39.1 –  Bachrach44 Nov 30 at 1:46

Re: Sephardim

Although the Shulkhan arukh sets the waiting period at 6 hours, in the introduction the Bet Yosef writes that if anything he writes in this book contradicts a pre-existing custom in your community, you should keep that custom.

So, while the popular practice among Sephardim is to wait 6 hours, it should surprise no one if there are pre-existing Sephardic and Ashkenazic customs which survive to the modern day, which are less than that.

Among the Sephardim that lived in European lands, they also held:

1 hours - the Sephardic community of Amsterdam (note: also the view of the Rema and the Zohar)

3 hours - the Sephardim (and maybe others) following the opinion of Rabbi David Pardo, Italy-Sarajevo-Jerusalem (the Mizmor le-David, commentary on the Shulkhan Arukh).

The best thing in this area is to ask your family rabbi or do your own research as to the practice of your custom in your region of origin, and then consult a trusted rabbi that understands you with the results of your research.

It is tempting and easy to just do whatever the Shulkhan Arukh or another Sefer does or what people tell you, but it does not do justice to the communities (and poskim) that followed their own equally valid custom.

Hence, better to make an informed choice.

See reference to Mizmor L'David: http://www.yutorah.org/_shiurim/Waiting%20between%20meat%20and%20milk%20edited.htm

and

Footnote 23, noting that like the Amsterdam community, the Zohar's minhag is 1 hour waiting only: http://ohr.edu/5206#_edn23

  • Note

: There are Sephardim from European origin. These are typically distinguished from Eastern Sephardim (Mizrakhim), under the note Western Sephardim (Spanish-Portuguese, Italian, Greek Jews). Both groups share more in common with each other than Ashkenazim but have diverse practices among themselves.

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1  
Welcome to Mi Yodeya, Daniel, and thanks for the answer! Hope to see you around. :) –  Scimonster Nov 29 at 18:30
    
Thanks!@Scimonster –  Daniel Romero Nov 29 at 21:24
    
"There are Sephardim from European origin." Kind of unfortunate that that needs to be stated explicitly. –  Double AA Nov 30 at 1:19

An historical source for the most common minhag of six hours from early Ashkenazi sources.

The Trumas Hadeshen in his gloss on the Shaarei Durah siman 76 #2 says that waiting one hour was an invention by the people who wanted to make a pshara between the opinion in the rishonim which holds that after ending a meal and making a bracha achrona one can have milk right away, and the opinion that one must wait from the morning meal until the evening meal. He adds that there is no source or reason for the amount of one hour. But noone would make them stop being that the Tosafos and Ravyah are lenient (to eat right after bracha achrona). But the Tznuin wait from the morning seuda until the evening meal.

This time period of seuda to seuda is given as six hours in the Tur in Yoreh Deah siman 89 and this number is carried through to the Ramma. This six hours is independent of the amount of time and the reasoning of the Rambam, which is given as 'like six hours'. The Pischei Tshuvah in that siman #3 brings opinions if the six hours changes during different seasons and says the minhag is that it does not change.

The Maharshal, the uncle (or cousin) of the Ramma, in his Yam Shel Shlomo on Chulin chapter 8 #9 points to this Hagahos Shaarei Durah.

The reason I have bothered writing all this is there is a common mistake that the Ramma holds that one hour is ikkur din whereas six hours is minhag. This is not true. Sileik ubeirach, ending the meal and saying a bracha achrona is ikkur din. Waiting one hour was a minhag just like waiting six, albeit a less authoritative one. After seeing this information it will be very apparent in the Ramma that one hour is a minhag. When he says the accepted minhag is to wait one hour, this actually means it was sourced from a minhag, not that that was a real opinion which was ruled with.

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As far as I can tell no one has mentioned a very interesting side note that Rambam makes:

מאכלות אסורות ט

כה [כו] מי שאכל גבינה או חלב תחילה--מותר לאכול אחריו בשר מיד, וצריך שידיח ידיו ויקנח פיו בין הגבינה ובין הבשר. ובמה יקנח פיו--בפת או בפירות, שלועסן ובולען או פולטן; ובכול מקנחין את הפה--חוץ מתמרים או קמח או ירקות, שאין אלו מקנחין יפה.

כו [כז] במה דברים אמורים, בבשר בהמה או חיה; אבל אם אכל בשר עוף אחר שאכל הגבינה או החלב, אינו צריך לא קינוח הפה ולא נטילת ידיים.

כז [כח] מי שאכל בשר בתחילה, בין בשר בהמה בין בשר עוף--לא יאכל אחריו חלב עד שישהה ביניהן כדי שיעור סעודה אחרת, והוא כמו שש שעות: מפני הבשר של בין השיניים, שאינו סר בקינוח.

He first talks about meat after milk, saying that it's permissible immediately and you simply wash your hands and clean your mouth by chewing on bread or fruit, which you can either swallow or spit out.

He then discusses milk after meat, saying one should wait the amount of time between two meals, which is about six hours. The interesting part is at the very end where he gives an explicit reason for waiting so long - because of the meat stuck between your teeth and the fact that the method of cleaning your mouth used after milk doesn't work to remove the meat from between your teeth. About six hours is how long it takes for all the meat bits to be dislodged from between your teeth.

Basically, it would seem to imply that if you had a method to thoroughly remove any meat bits from between your teeth then at least theoretically you could eat milk immediately after meat, at least according to Rambam's understanding.

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                                              How long one waits in-between meat and milk

גמרא- חולין דף ק''ה אמר מר עוקבה אנא להא מלתא חלא בר חמרא לגבי אבא, כי הוה אכיל בשרא האידנא לא הוה אכיל גבינה עד למחר עד השתא, ואילו אנא בהא סעודתא הוא דלא אכילנא ,לסעודתא אחריתא אכילנא.

מר עוקבא father would wait 24 hours in-between meat and milk; however, his son would eat them in two different meals.

The ראשונים want to understand what מר עוקבה was meant when he said ואילו אנא בהא סעודתא הוא דלא אכילנא, לסעודתא אחריתא אכילנא is a debate amongst the ראשונים if you would need to wait from one meal to another, Secondly, if you do need to wait, how long it would be. There are four different opinions in the ראשונים “how long one has to wait in order to be considered two different meals.”

  1. (ר"י) תוספות "לסעודתא אחריתא אכילנא" in קה: holds that it is not referring to “the amount of time between the morning and evening meals” rather you can have meat immediately after milk. He explains that “from one meal to another meal” can be accomplished with סילק (clearing off the table (and ברכת אחרונה/ברכה המזון.

       a.   The ט"ז in סימן פ''ט says you can’t say ברכה אחרונה/ברכת המזון after eating meat in order to eat cheese, since this would not be considered a new meal.
    

    i. However theפירוש אל תבואות שור) (בכור שור in חולין ק''ה. does not agree with the ט''ז. He brings a proof that saying ברכת המזון would be considered finishing a meal. The ש''ע in א''ח סימן רצ''א, that if the morning meal onשבת dragged until מנחה, then he should say ברכה המזון, wash his hands and eat the third סעודהof שבת. We see that even though during the time of ברכת המזון he had in mind to have a meal right away, it will anyways be considered two meal (since ברכת המזון is considered סלק סעודה, even though he had in mind to have a second meal immediately after
    The בכור שור (שם), says that in חולין פו, the גמרא comparesבכרת המזון to כיסוי דם. If a person did a שחיטה and had in mind to do more שחיטה, but he did כיסוי דם after the first שחיטה? This כיסוי דם would be considered a סילוק , and he would need to make another ברכה on the second שחיטה. We see the same דין would apply by סעודה, and even though he had in mind to eat more, the בכרת המזון would be considered a סילוק. b. The מרדכי says in תרפז, when (ר"י) תוספות "לסעודתא אחריתא אכילנא" in קה: says one needs to wait from one meal to another, that is only when a person does not do קינוח ונטילה; however, if he does קינוח ונטילה he is permitted to eat cheese immediately after meat, even in the same meal (וכן נראה לרא''ם) he then says, if he eats cheese he is permitted to eat meat even with out קינוח ונטילה. i. We see the מרדכי held that with קינוח alone it would be enough. The תורת החטאת (in (כלל עו דין ג'/שרי דורה say, that some would even allow to eat without doing קינוח, since the ר''י used to only put his figure in his mouth and do קינוח and נטילה even during the day, since it sticks to your hand. ii. The מרדכי writes that the מוהר'''ם once found cheese in between his teeth, so he put a חומרה on himself not to eat meat after cheese just like he wouldn’t eat cheese after meat. (כלל עו דין ג' - תורת החטאת)1. The רמב'‘ם in הלכות מאכלות אסורות פרק ט הלכה כ''ז held that all this is only by a בשר בהמה או חיה which is similar to a בהמה; however, if one wants to eat cheese after chicken he would not need קינוח והדחה or נטילה. a. The באר היטב (ח) in סימן פ''ט say even though בשר חיה is only מדרבנן, we are still מחמיר on it since the meat of חיה is similar to בהמה.

  2. The זוהר has a חומרה and קולה. The חומרה is that one must wait an hour in-between cheese and meat, and the קולה is that one can even wait an hour between meat and cheese. a. רמ"א says the מנהג הפשוט is to wait one hour in between meat and milk, and קינוח והדחה would be good enough in between cheese and meat

  3. The גמרא inשבת י. Says that a תלמיד חכם waits six hours between his meals. According to the גר"א this is the source of the רמב"ם and the שולחן ערוך who say that one should wait six hours between meat and milk. a. The רי"ף also holds that it would not be enough to do קינוח והדחה, rather you need to wait (six hours) instead.

  4. The פרי חדשsays''.לאו דווקא שש שעות כגון בחורף שהימים קצרים'' the פרי חדש says you do have to wait six hours; however, with שעות זמניות (dividing the hours between sunrise and sunset in to 12, then multiplying it by six), which he say it’s usually four hours. a. The יד אפרים quotes the פרי חדש and says ובאמת לא נהגו כן רק ממתינים ששה שעות...ובמקום שיש מיחוי' חולי יש לסמוך על הפרי חדש.. We really wait regular six hours, and only if there is a sick person in the winter you can rely on the קולה of the .פרי חדש b. Berlin had about 160,000 Jews in 1933, the days are very short in the winter on Dec 15 it can be as short as seven hours and fifty minutes. This COULD be the reason the “yekis”have a מנהג to wait three hours in-between cheese; however, with this calculation we still don’t get three hours(it comes out to three hours forty minutes) i. Rav Tsvi Krakhour told me the reason why the “yekis” wait three hours between meat and milk is because a person is awake for fifteen hours and they had five meals a day in Germany; therefore, בין סעודה לסעודה would be three hours. ii. Since we don’t have a strong reason why the “yekis” wait three hours in between meat and milk, it is recommended for one to place the חומרה of six hours on himself.

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The Rambam gives an explicit reason for waiting six hours after meat, because the method used to remove dairy remnants from your mouth ( chewing on bread or fruit ) is not effective for removing meat from between your teeth. So we wait about six hours to allow time for the meat bits to be dislodged from our teeth. –  Robert S. Barnes Dec 1 at 12:11

http://ohr.edu/this_week/insights_into_halacha/5206

all this and much more are all answered in this comprehensive article:

very worthwhile to read. the level of research this rabbi spitz does is astounding!

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cmb I'm glad to see you are returning to Mi Yodeya and I hope you continue to enjoy. Please see this post from our meta site (where we discuss site policy and whatnot) regarding quoting and excerpting external articles in answers. –  Double AA Jul 25 '12 at 16:44

My family's tradition from both the ashkenazic (Russian) and sephardic (Libyan) sides it to wait 4 hours.

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This custom probably comes from the Pri Chodosh who claims that 6 hours are not hours of sixty minutes but rather sha'os zmaniyos. However many poskim say that if so four hours would only be in the winter, and in the summer it could be as long as eight hours! –  Michoel Jul 26 '12 at 0:03
    
@michoel, without further confirmation from Hacham Gabriel, I don't see how that would necessarily follow. –  Seth J Jan 7 '13 at 6:00

1) wait 6 full hours
2) wait INTO the 6th hour (thus, 5 hours and 5 minutes would suffice)
3) wait 5 full hours
4) wait 3 hours
5) wait 1 hour

I know that waiting 3 hours is a German tradition, and waiting 1 hour is a Dutch tradition. I'm wondering if

A) There are any other traditions that I don't know about

Seth J's good answer mentions other customs; one not mentioned there is my family's, which is to wait five hours and most of another (so, say, 5 hours 31 minutes).

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+1 for the additional custom! I'd heard of 5 and a half (5 hrs, 30 min), as mentioned in the article, but not 5 and a majority of the 6th (5 hrs, 31 min). Do you know the basis for it? –  Seth J Nov 29 '11 at 16:09
    
@Seth, nope, sorry. –  msh210 Nov 29 '11 at 16:48

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