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
  • "the Halakhoth P'suqoth of Rav Ahai Gaon" wasn't HP from R. Yehudai? – mevaqesh Oct 30 '15 at 20:15

According to this article on the Seforimblog, it was as a reaction to Karaites who were lax in regards to meat, interpreting "in its mother’s milk" as referring only to the milk of its mother.

To very briefly summarize the main points, originally, Karaites forbade meat consumption entirely (theoretically allowing only the consumption of sacrifices. In the tenth century, the trend shifted and Karaites began to eat meat, thus making their interpretation of "a kid in its mothers milk" practically relevant.

It was shortly thereafter, in the early 11th century that we find the first reference to mandatory wait between meat and milk (in Rabbenu Chananel).

He notes that this explanation of R. Chananel is presented by no less that Rabbenu Tam who writes in Sefer HaYashar (ch. 472):

ספר הישר לרבינו תם סימן תעב. כל הבשר. אמ' רב נחמן לא שנו ...פירש רב יהודאי בשאלתות שנשאלו לפניו... אבל בין בשר בהמה לגבינה בעי קינוח והדחה. והא דאמר מר עוקבא להא מילתא (חלא) בר חמרא אנא כו' היינו גבי שיהוי בלא קינוח. דהא בעי ר' יוחנן כמה ישהא כו' היינו היכא דלא קינח אבל אי קינח לא בעי שיהוי. (ובין) גבינה לבשר לא בעי קינוח כלל....ובין בשר לגבינה בעי קינוח או שיהוי... וכן מוכיח בהלכות גדולות של ברכות.... וכן עיקר. ואע"ג דר' חנינא פליג אהאי פיסקא לאו דסמכא. דהא דאורי שאינן בני דאורייתא. ובקעה מצא וגדר בה גדר.

That is, in ruling that one must wait, R. Chananel was making a fence against those who dont follow halacha.

('R. Chanina' is a typo. It should say R. Chananel).

This explanation of Rabbenu Tam is quoted by the Sefer HaManhig (12th century) as well (note that he has 'Chananel', not 'Chanina'):

ואע"פ שרבינו חננאל פליג אהאי פיסקא וכן הרב אלפאסי לאו דסמכא נינהו ולמקום שאינן בני תורה חששו ובקעא מצאו וגדרו בה גדר וכן עיקר ... כפר"ת

The article cites several other examples of stringencies to combat the Karaite heresy.

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    Got something against Rabbenu Tam commentless downvoter? – mevaqesh Aug 24 '16 at 2:33

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.

  • 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

The Geonim mostly lived in the Middle East, while the Rishonim mostly lived in Europe. So it seems likely that their opinions reflect different local customs. If your local custom is stricter than the established halacha, you can keep it while still recognizing the intellectual authority of those whose halachic ruling is more lenient.


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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    One pious man's personal stringency is not a basis for a blanket prohibition. – Double AA Aug 23 '16 at 1:09

According to the opinions that one must wait a given amount of time, the only way they were able to rely upon the washing and bentching option previously was because it was a societal norm to wash in such a manner and therefore there was an assumption that it would happen on its own accord. At a time however when it is not a given to be done, one may not tell themselves 'oh, I will do that'. We don't put ourselves in situations like that. This its based on tosafos. There is a like-minded svara in the Shach concerning putting raw meat in a situation where it would need hadacha to be eaten. He said since everyone washes raw meat anyways, it is allowed.

So basically the population's etiquette changed.

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    Nice idea, but you do not bring a source and your reasoning actually contradicts that of Rabbenu Tam in Sefer haYashar where he marvels at Rabbenu Hananel for interpreting the sugya that way - thinking nothing of some sort of issur coming about due to a perceived change in etiquette. Further, the Gemara - as brought by the Rambam and others - says explicitly "mayim emssa`im reshuth" - which implies that not "everyone did that." However, your idea does echo RT's idea that RH said what he said because people began to be less careful in that regard. Kol tuv. – user3342 Oct 28 '14 at 20:16

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