Why Wait Between Meat & Milk?

By: Rabbi Dovid Markel


Dear Rabbi

I know that the Torah prohibits eating meat and milk together but why must we wait a period of time between meat and milk? Where does that come from?






The Torah tells us three times that one should not cook a kid [goat] in the milk of its mother[1]. The Talmud[2] clarifies this seeming redundancy by explaining that each verse teaches us another law concerning the prohibition of milk and meat together. The first time teaches that milk and meat cannot be cooked together, another teaches that they cannot be eaten together, and the third lets us know that one cannot benefit from milk and meat that were cooked together.

Concerning waiting a period of time between the two, this is derived from the following Talmudic passage[3]:

“Rav Chisda stated: One who ate meat is forbidden to eat cheese. One who ate cheese may eat meat…Mar Ukvah said: In this manner I resemble ‘vinegar the son of wine’ when compared to my father. Father would wait twenty-four hours after eating meat, before partaking of cheese. But I, although I would not eat cheese in the same meal as meat, I would eat [cheese] in the next meal.”

There is a disagreement as to what Mar Ukvah meant in his statement of, “I would not eat cheese in the same meal as meat, I would eat [cheese] in the next meal.” Some[4] are of the opinion that it means that so long as the cheese is being eaten in a separate meal, it may follow the consumption of meat[5]. Others dispute this understanding and say that in fact what Mar Ukvah meant is that he would not eat meat until the next meal, which would be six hours later[6].

There are three different angles to understanding the rational of waiting six hours. (There are various practical implications based on which reason is primary.)They are:

  • Meat leaves a residue on the throat for six hours. After the six hour period, the residue dissipates[7].
  • Particles of meat may have become wedged within the teeth. After six hours it is assumed that it has dissolved[8].
  • The digestive process of meat extends to a period of six hours[9].

Although R’ Moshe Isserlas in his Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) rules according to the more lenient opinion that one must wait only one hour between meat and milk, it has become standard[10] practice of Ashkanazik Jewry to follow the opinion that one must wait six hours[11].

[1] Shemos 23:19, Shemos 34:26, Devarim 14:21

[2] Chulin 115b, Shulchan Aruch YOD 87:1

[3] Chulin 105a

[4] Tos Chulin 105a, Hagaos Ashri Chulin 8:5, Rama YOD 89:1

[5] Even according to these opinions, one must recite the Birchas Hamazon, wait an hour, and cleans one’s mouth out before eating meat. (see Rama YOD 89:1)

[6] Rambam Ma’achalos Assuros 9:28, Rosh Chulin 8:5

[7] Rashi Chulin 105a

[8] Rambam Ma’achalos Assuros 9:28

[9] Kreisi Upleisi 89:3

[10] See Shach 89:5, Aruch Hashulchan 89:7

[11] Excluding Dutch Jews who wait one hour, and German Jews that wait three hours.

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