June 12, 2024
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Is the Five-Hour Wait Legitimate?


Yeshiva vs. Family Tradition

Last year, a TABC student asked: My brother returned from a year of learning in Israel’s Yeshivat Har Etzion (Gush), where his rebbeim told him that waiting five hours and “a tick” suffices between meat and milk. However, his parents objected, noting that their family minhag (custom) is to wait six full hours. Is it legitimate for the brother to follow his Gush rebbeim, or must he adhere to his family practice?

The Basis for the Five-Hour Wait

While studying at Yeshivat Har Etzion in 1983, I heard from Rav Aharon Lichtenstein, zt”l, who heard from Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, zt”l, that Rav Chaim Soloveitchik, zt”l, had inferred from the language of the Rambam that one need not wait a complete six hours. The Rambam (Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot 9:28) writes that we wait “approximately” (k’mo) six hours. Rav Chaim ruled that five hours and a minute suffices.

In addition, the Meiri (Chullin 105a) writes we should wait “six hours or close to it.” He even records in his Magen Avot (9) his community’s practice of waiting “six hours or five.” Thus, we have explicit support from a Rishon for the five-hour wait.

Shockingly, the Sefer HaKashrut (10:31 footnote 76) cites Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv as also subscribing to the five-hour and a tick approach in case of great need (such as not insulting a host). I find it shocking that Rav Eliashiv embraces this lenient approach since, generally speaking, Rav Eliashiv tends to be quite strict.

Criticism of the Five-Hour Wait

However, the Hagahot Ashri (Chullin 8:5) cites 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, indicating that the full six-hour wait is required (see Darkei Teshuva 89:6).

Moreover, the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 89:1) rules that one must wait six hours between meat and milk. Unlike the Rambam, the Shulchan Aruch does not write the word “k’mo,” implying that he must wait six hours. Typically, we follow the Shulchan Aruch when it disagrees with the Rambam.

The only group of Jews who follow the Rambam over the Shulchan Aruch are Yemenite Jews. Yet, the Yemenite (and Sephardic) custom is to wait six full hours (Rav Zecharia ben Shlomo, Orot HaHalacha, p. 988). If Yemenites follow the Shulchan Aruch over the Rambam, other Jews certainly should do the same.

Moreover, the Chochmat Adam (40:13) and Aruch Hashulchan (Y.D. 89:7) record the Eastern European custom to wait six hours between meat and milk. They strongly condemn those who deviate from this norm. Accordingly, those advocating the five-hour wait run counter to the established custom of Eastern European Jews. Thus, the student’s brother should follow his family customs over his Israeli yeshiva rebbeim.


Relying on Community Eruvin

TABC talmid Gilad Jutkowitz responded that one should follow the guidance from Israeli yeshiva rebbeim since they set one’s spiritual path for life. I replied that this is valid only if the talmid consistently follows the yeshiva’s halachic approach. I noted that the student’s brother, who posed the question, relied on community eruvin. Yet, Rav Lichtenstein, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik and Rav Chaim Soloveitchik advocated refraining from using community eruvin based on the Rambam (see my Gray Matter 1:168-170).

The brother who relies on community eruvin follows the Aruch Hashulchan (O.C. 345:17), who endorses the long-standing Ashkenazic minhag to carry in community eruvin, following Rashi’s view. I find it inconsistent to follow the European tradition regarding eruvin but to disregard it in the area of waiting between meat and milk. Kudos to one who consistently embraces Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Lichtenstein’s halachic approaches. However, it is improper to selectively follow their views, especially when they run counter to generations-long family traditions.


Five and a Half Hours

Rav Ovadia Yosef (Teshuvot Yabia Omer 1 Y.D. 4; followed by Yalkut Yosef Y.D. 89:15) permits, in case of considerable need, to suffice with a five-and-a-half hour wait (Rav Menachem Genack reports that Rav Aharon Kotler agreed). He cites the aforementioned Meiri as support. However, other Sephardic luminaries, such as Hacham Benzion Abba Shaul (as reported in Imrei Mordechai p. 89) and Rav Mordechai Eliyahu (Teshuvot Rav HaRashi 1:167), disagree. They argue that we must follow the Shulchan Aruch, which requires a six-hour wait. The Badei Hashulchan (89:8) and Rav Binyomin Forst (The Laws of Kashrus p. 200) similarly advocate waiting a full six hours.



I am an ardent talmid of Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Lichtenstein. Rav Soloveitchik is a grandfather figure, and Rav Lichtenstein remains a father figure. However, these Torah giants sought to produce thoughtful talmidim and not robots who simply parrot their rebbe’s teachings. In this instance, I respectfully submit that unless one consistently follows Rav Soloveitchik and Rav Lichtenstein’s halachic paths, he should follow his family’s minhagim.

Rabbi Jachter serves as the rav of Congregation Shaarei Orah, rebbe at Torah Academy of Bergen County, and a get administrator with the Beth Din of Elizabeth. Rabbi Jachter’s 17 books may be purchased at Amazon and Judaica House.

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