April 23, 2024
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Have the Six Hours Elapsed? A Difference Between Sephardim and Ashkenazim

Part I

It is a typical question faced by observant Jews—has the waiting period between meat and milk elapsed? Not surprisingly, poskim have devoted considerable discussion of this frequently asked question. This week we shall outline the background of this issue set forth in the Gemara, Rishonim and the Shulchan Aruch and its commentaries.

The Gemara (Chullin 105a) records an interesting but somewhat ambiguous statement of Mar Ukva. He called himself “vinegar, the son of wine,” because his father did not consume dairy products until 24 hours (me’eit l’eit) had passed since he had last eaten meat, yet he himself would consume milk products “at the next meal” (l’seudata acharita) after he had eaten meat. The Rishonim disagree about how to interpret the phrase “at the next meal,” which the Gemara indicates is the earliest time that one may eat milk after eating meat.

The Rambam (Hilchot Maachalot Asurot 9:28) rules that the Gemara means one must wait the usual time one normally waits after eating a meal before consuming another meal. The Rambam holds that this time is approximately six hours (kemo shesh sha’ot). Tosafot, on the other hand, (Chullin 105a sv.v. Liseudata and 104b sv. Of) believe that if one recites Birkat Hamazon (or the appropriate blessing after eating) and begins a new meal, that one is permitted to consume dairy products during the new meal, even if the new meal commenced immediately after the Birkat Hamazon of the meat meal. It is interesting that the Rosh (an Ashkenazic Rishon) follows the Rambam’s approach and not the approach of Tosafot.

This author heard from Rav Aharon Lichtenstein who heard from Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, that Rav Chaim Soloveitchik had inferred from the language of the Rambam that one need not wait a complete six hours. The Rambam states one must refrain from milk “approximately” six hours. Rav Chaim is said to have ruled that if one has waited five hours and a minute that this is sufficient waiting time, and milk products may be consumed. However, it should be noted that the Hagahot Ashri (Chullin 8:5) cites as the Rambam’s view that one must wait six hours before consuming milk. This authority seems to believe that one must wait a full six hours before consuming dairy products. The Tur also writes that one must wait six hours, which would seem to indicate that the full six-hour wait is required (see Darkei Teshuva 89:6).

Hacham Yitzhak Yosef rules that Sephardim should, under normal circumstances, wait the full six hours. He makes an exception for a case of need, such as Israeli soldiers who live in a very disciplined and ordered regimen.

Shulchan Aruch

Maran (Yoreh Deah 89:1) rules that one must wait six hours between meat and milk (it seems that he requires one to wait six full hours). The Rema (Y.D. 89:1) notes the dissenting opinion of Tosafot, and records the common practice of European Jews (in the 16th century) to wait only one hour between meat and milk. He concludes that it is proper (nachon) to follow the Rambam’s opinion that one must wait six hours between meat and milk. Both the Shach (89:8) and the Taz (89:2) cite the statement of the Maharshal urging every Jew fully dedicated to Torah observance to wait six hours.

The fact that the Rema, Maharshal, Taz and Shach all urged that one should wait six full hours probably accounts for why most Jews of Eastern European extraction have the practice of waiting six hours between meat and milk. In fact, by the 19th century, the practice of all of Eastern European Jewry was to wait six hours, as recorded in the Chochmat Adam 40:13. The Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 89:7), writing close to the turn of the 20th century, also writes that the common practice is to wait six hours. Both of these major authorities bolster these practices with strong condemnations of those who fail to wait six hours. The Chochmat Adam writes that one who does not wait six hours violates “v’al titosh Torat imecha,” literally “do not forsake the teachings of your mother,” which the Gemara (Pesachim 50b) cites as the source for our obligation to uphold established family practices. The Aruch HaShulchan similarly writes, “chalilah l’shanot,” Heaven forfend changing this practice. Presumably, these authorities use such strong language to emphasize that the practice of Eastern European Jewry had changed since the time of the Rema.

Next week we shall, God willing, explain the practice of Dutch and German Jews, as well as present rulings for those in doubt if the waiting period has elapsed.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

 Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck. He also serves as a rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County and a dayan on the Beth Din of Elizabeth.

 

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