By: Rabbi Amiram Markel
Two Reasons for Waiting
1) The rabbis give two divergent reasons for the practice of waiting between the consumption of meat and milk:
a) According to some authorities it is because of the possibility that some food may have lodged between the teeth during the course of chewing. After a period of six hours the saliva in the mouth has sufficiently broken down the food, thus eliminating its pleasant taste. Therefore, at this point it is no longer of any Halachic consequence.
b) Other authorities are of the opinion that residual grease and fat cling to the throat and palate for the first six hours after consumption and that during this time frame, due to the digestive process, the taste of the food often rises back to the mouth.
However, in practice, the Halacha takes both views into account and precautions are taken to avoid issues that arise from both of them.
2) Unless a person has a valid tradition based on where his paternal family hails from, such as the original Dutch-Jewish community who by tradition recite the after-blessing after eating meat, wait one hour, clean their mouth and then eat dairy, or German Jews who wait three hours before eating dairy, one should follow the accepted tradition kept by the vast majority of Jews to wait six hours before consuming dairy products. This is a matter of Halacha for Sephardic Jews who follow the ruling of Rabbi Yosef Caro, the author of the Shulchan Aruch, and a matter of custom for Ashkenazic Jews who follow the view of Rabbi Moshe Isserles (the Rema). Nonetheless, the Rema concedes that even for Ashkenazic Jews, this is the proper course of conduct. Therefore, any person imbued with the spirit of Torah should adhere to waiting six hours between eating meat and dairy.
3) However, since, for Ashkenazim, it is a matter of custom, rather than the base-line Halacha, therefore, a person who needs to drink milk often because he suffers from stomach problems, such as ulcers, or a nursing mother, who likewise needs to drink milk often, need not wait the full six hours. They merely need to recite the after-blessing for the meat meal, cleanse their mouth by eating and drinking something and wait one hour. Likewise, according to many authorities, if at least one hour has passed since a person ate meat and he inadvertently says a blessing over dairy and immediately realizes that six hours have not yet passed, he may, nonetheless, taste a small amount of the milk so that his blessing will not have been said in vain. Some are of the opinion that, in such a case, he need not even wait the one hour period. Furthermore, in the case of an inadvertent blessing or an illness, Sephardic Jews may be lenient as well.
How Long Should a Baal Teshuvah
Or Convert to Judaism Wait?
4) As stated above, unless a person has a valid tradition to wait less than six hours between meat and milk, he should conduct himself according to the custom of the vast majority of Jews who wait six hours. It follows, that a Baal Teshuvah, who has returned to Jewish practice but was not raised in it or a convert who has entered the Jewish fold, should wait six hours between meat and milk. However, a Baal Teshuvah who was raised in valid Jewish practice, but strayed from the path and then returned, may resume the custom he was raised with.
5) It goes without saying that a person whose custom is to wait six hours should not reduce it to less time. However, a person who was raised with the custom of waiting less than six hours may certainly elect to be more stringent and wait six hours. Moreover, this is praiseworthy. Nevertheless, though the custom of waiting twenty-four hours between meat and milk is mentioned in the Talmud, a person should not take this stricture upon himself. This is regarded as an act of excessive piety that even the most holy people throughout history did not practice.
Six Hours after Eating Meat
Or after Reciting the After-Blessing?
6) Though according to the opinion of some authorities the six hour waiting period should begin once one has recited the after-blessing of the meat meal and must end before the beginning of the dairy meal, the opinion of some authorities is that the six hours begin when one completes consuming meat, (even though this may have taken place during the first part of the meat meal), and the waiting period ends when one begins the dairy meal. Therefore, according to this second opinion, though six hours have passed between eating meat and milk, the time lapse between the two meals may be less than six hours. Consult your rabbi as to how to conduct yourself in this matter.
Doubt if Six Hours Have Elapsed
7) According to some authorities if a person is in doubt as to whether or not six full hours have elapsed since he last ate meat, he must wait until he is certain before consuming dairy. However, other authorities are more lenient on this matter and permit eating dairy in this case. This is especially true if it is impossible to verify whether a full six hours have elapsed. Nevertheless, even according to the first opinion, since the prohibition against eating poultry and dairy is only rabbinical in origin, one may certainly take the lenient position in such a case.
Chewing Meat without Swallowing
8) A person who chews meat but does not swallow it (as was customary in the past, that mothers would chew food for their infants), must wait a full six hours before consuming dairy. However if he just tasted the food with his tongue or even placed a piece of meat in his mouth without chewing or swallowing and immediately removed it from his mouth, there is no need to wait before consuming dairy. Nevertheless, he must clean and rinse his mouth before doing so.
Meat Lodged Between Teeth
9) If a person finds meat lodged between his teeth, he should floss them, even though six hours have passed since he last ate meat. He then should clean and rinse his mouth. This could be done by eating something, such as bread, and rinsing his mouth with something, such as water or wine. He may then eat dairy without waiting an additional six hours.
10) According to one opinion, if meat was found between the teeth six hours after consumption and was swallowed after being dislodged, an additional six hours must pass before consuming dairy. However, this is not the prevalent practice because meat that has been lodged between the teeth for six hours is considered to have lost its original status (due to the effect of the saliva). Nevertheless, if a person is aware that it is there he should still dislodge it by flossing his teeth before consuming dairy.
Pareve Dish Cooked in Meat Pot
11) If a person ate a pareve dish which was cooked in a meat pot or a pareve dish which was cooked in a dairy pot, a food of the opposite type may be eaten immediately afterwards. He may do so even without washing his hands or cleaning and rinsing his mouth in between, even during the course of the same meal.
Dentures, False Teeth, Crowns and Orthodontic Braces
12) There is no problem of having to kosher from meat to milk or vice versa in the case of a person who wears dentures, has permanent false teeth or crowns, or who has orthodontic braces on his teeth. This is because food generally is not at 113 Fahrenheit/45 Celsius once it reaches the mouth. Also as a rule, people do not generally eat from a pot that has just been taken off the fire.
Preparing for Next Meal
Within the Six Hour Period
13) On condition that caution is taken not to taste the food, a person may cook dairy in preparation for the next meal, even though six hours have not passed since having consumed meat. However, if it is a type of food that one customarily tastes during the course of cooking, it is advisable to avoid cooking it until six hours have passed, lest he forgets.
Waiting between Milk and Meat
1) According to Ashkenazic authorities, after eating hard cheese, i.e. cheese that has aged for six or more months, before eating meat the custom is to wait the same amount of time that one waits between meat and milk. As stated above, the prevalent custom is to wait six hours. This being the case, unless a person is a member of the original Dutch-Jewish community, whose custom is to wait one hour or the German-Jewish community, whose custom is to wait three hours, one should wait six hours between eating hard cheese and meat. This rule applies even if one wishes to eat poultry after having eaten hard cheese. However, there are various opinions as to the Sephardic custom. These opinions range from not waiting at all, to waiting one hour, to waiting one hour per one month of the aging process. Inquire of your rabbi as to how to conduct yourself.
2) Today most cheeses are not aged for a full six months, even those which were traditionally aged in bygone years. Because of this there is controversy as to how long to wait before eating meat after consuming them. Some say to wait the full six hours. However, others say that nowadays it is only necessary to wait six hours for truly aged cheeses, such as Swiss cheese or Parmesan cheese. Inquire of your rabbi as to how to conduct yourself.
3) A person may eat meat immediately after consuming cream cheese, sour cream or yogurt etc., on condition that he washes his hands and cleans and rinses his mouth. This is done by eating a pareve solid food, such as bread or biscuits and by rinsing the mouth with something, such as water or wine. After drinking milk all that is necessary is merely to wash one’s mouth or drink a different liquid, such as water or wine. Nevertheless, it has become a widespread Jewish custom (for at least the last five to six hundred years) to go beyond the letter of the law and wait thirty minutes before consuming meat, even after drinking milk. When doing so, it still is necessary to wash the hands and clean and rinse the mouth. However, if one waits a full hour he may consume meat without cleaning and rinsing his mouth except if he is aware that food is definitely lodged between his teeth. Therefore, if one wishes to avoid the above problems, he should accustom himself to wait a full hour before consuming meat. Many are accustomed to doing so.
 רמב”ם מאכלות אסורות ט:כח, וראה טור יו”ד פט.
 רש”י לחולין קה:א, וכן דעת התוס’ והרא”ש, וראה טור יו”ד פט.
 רמ”א יו”ד פט:א, וראה ביאור הגר”א פט:ו.
 באו”ה מ:ד כתב שנהגו העולם שעה אחת אפי’ בלא קנוח הפה.
 This custom is also widespread in England, probably because a large percentage of the Jewish community there is of Germanic origin.
 ערוה”ש יו”ד פט:ז.
 שו”ע יו”ד פט:א ודרכ”ת פט:ו.
 רמ”א יו”ד פט:א.
 ש”ך יו”ד פט:ח.
 חכמ”א מ:יג.
 דגמ”ר יו”ד ריד.
. חכמ”א מ:יג
 ערוה”ש יו”ד פט:ז.
 שד”ח כרך ה:רצ. וראה שו”ת באר משה ד:כד.
 יחו”ד ד:מא.
 יחו”ד ג:נח.
 חכמ”א מ:יג, ערוה”ש פט:ז.
 רמ”א יו”ד פט:א.
 ש”ך יו”ד פט:ח.
 גמ’ חולין קה:א.
 שו”ת תורה לשמה ריב.
 ערוה”ש פט:ד.
 בדי השלחן יו”ד פט, משנה הלכות ה:כז, דברי חיים קעט, דגמ”ר פט, דרכ”ת ד, כה”ח ט.
יד יהודה ו זר השלחן.
 דרכ”ת פט:ה, מעדני השלחן פט:ג, שבט הקהתי א:ריח.
 בדי השלחן פט:ט.
 שו”ע יו”ד פט:א.
 כה”ח פט:ה, בן איש חי שלח ט.
 שו”ע יו”ד פט:א.
 רמ”א יו”ד פט:א.
 ש”ך יו”ד פט:ד.
 שו”ע פט.
 רמ”א שם.
 חדושי ההפלא”ה שם.
 ט”ז יו”ד פט:א.
 שו”ע שם.
 שו”ע יו”ד פט:ג, כה”ח סא.
 מהרש”ם א:קצז, דרכ”ת פט:יא, אג”מ או”ח א:ה, יבי”א או”ח ג:כד, יחו”ד א:ח,צי”א ט:כה.
 יד אפרים יו”ד פח:ב.
 ש”ך יו”ד פט:טו.
 רמ”א יו”ד פט:ב.
 ערוה”ש יו”ד פט:ז.
 שו”ע יו”ד פט:א, דרכ”ת פט:ו.
 רמ”א יו”ד פט:א, ביאור הגר”א פט:ו.
 או”ה ל”ט.
 רמ”א יו”ד שם.
 רמ”א שם. וראה אג”מ יו”ד ב:כו, ושבט הלוי ד:לה.
 שו”ת יבי”א ח”ו יו”ד ז.
 דעת הגרב”צ אבא שאול זצ”ל.
 בן איש חי שלח טו.
 שבט הלוי ב:לה.
 דעת הגר”מ שטרן מדעבריצין זצ”ל.
 שו”ע יו”ד פט:ב.
 שו”ע שם.
 דרכ”ת יו”ד פט:לא.
 ש”ך יו”ד פט: טז, וראה ב”י או”ח סי’ קעג.
 תשובות והנהגות ב:שצ, משנה הלכות ו:קלה.
 כן משמע על פי דברי ש”ך יו”ד פט:ז, ואם הוא הדין מבשר לחלב עאכו”כ שכן הוא הדין מחלב לבשר, בפרט כאשר מדובר כאן בחלב שאינו גבינה קשה. ואולי אפשר לומר שעל כן פשט המנהג שרבים נוהגים להחמיר על עצמם ולהמתין שעה שלמה בין אכילת חלב לבשר.