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It seems as though the Geonim - although disparate and diverse in their opinions on many issues - seem to be rather united on the understanding of the Gemara on the subject of waiting after meat before dairy. According to the Halakhoth Gedholoth of Rav Shimon Qayara and the Halakhoth P'suqoth of Rav Ahai Gaon - and even Rasa"g, as quoted in a now lost portion of his sidur found in an anonymous commentator from Yemen on the Ri"f - one need only wash his hands (n'ttilath yadhayim/hidaha) and cleanse the palate (qinuah ha-pe) before eating dairy after eating meat. They do not require waiting unless one decided not to wash or cleanse their palate. I have found no Gaon who argues on this point.

My question is: If the Geonic tradition is clear on this point, why did some Rishonim require one to wait no matter what?

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Not all rishonim require waiting. See Rabbeinu Tam. (Not that I see Halachot Gedolot and Pesukot as necessarily representing the entirety of Geonim.) –  Double AA Dec 15 '13 at 4:40
    
It is a fact - if one looks into it - that NONE of the Geonim require waiting. The sugya was just not understood this way. I am aware of Rabbenu Tam, but he seems to be a lone voice on this particular point. Kol tuv. –  Maimonist Dec 15 '13 at 4:46
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2 Answers

Regarding your main question:

My question is: If the Geonic tradition is clear on this point, why did some Rishonim require one to wait no matter what?

When there was a shift from one era to another, they were accompanied by major shifts in the world as well.

One of the main differences between Geonim and Rishonim is the shift towards logical "systems". Meaning, it was not enough to have a collection of rules and principles, but you also needed more "standardization". (I'm putting these words in quotes, because they are modern terms which we use, but were not used by the rishonim)

As you stated in your question:

They do not require waiting unless one decided not to wash or cleanse their palate.

The key point in the phrase there is "unless". "Unless" becomes complicated, and it becomes hard to "systemize". Better to just remove the "unless".

One of the interesting changes during the time of the Rishonim, was a fixation with specific times in minutes and hours, rather than generic activities such as walking a certain distance, or cooking a fish.

I speculate, that another cultural change that might have happened, was less rigorous washing in general.

You can see how cultural attitudes, change people's understanding of laws, but the way that this question is worded or even this question.

Rabeinu Tam, and the Tosofot are noted exceptions here on this topic.

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Very interesting. Do you have a written source for "a fixation with specific times in minutes and hours, rather than generic activities" or is it an inference from aggregated observation? –  WAF Dec 17 '13 at 12:37
    
@WAF Inference from aggregated observation. I first noticed it in discussion about when shabbat starts, how long it takes for dough to become hametz, and in regards to zman kriat shema. –  avi Dec 18 '13 at 11:18
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It is an explicit Gemara in Chulin 105a that Mar Ukva's father waited from one day to the next between meat and milk, whereas he only waited between one meal and the next.

So the post-Geonim did have something to base their opinion on.

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This sounds more like a comment than an answer. –  avi Dec 18 '13 at 11:18
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