WAITING BETWEEN MEAT AND MILK
On the heels of its discussion concerning how one should cleanse his mouth after eating dairy products before eating meat products, the gemara in Chullin 105a asks how long one has to wait after eating meat before then eating dairy. Mar Ukva responds by saying that his father waited a full twenty-four hours, although he himself only waited from one meal until the next. The gemara then notes that one does not have to wait after eating dairy if he then wants to eat meat. Finally, the gemara proves from a verse that meat that remains between a person's teeth still has the status of meat and thus must be cleaned out before dairy can be eaten.
Rashi comments that the reason that one has to wait after eating meat, and not after eating dairy, is that the fat from the meat sticks in the mouth and thus extends the amount of time that the taste of the meat remains present. Rashi thus assumes that the gemara is mandating a significant amount of time that one must wait after eating meat. Tosafot, on the other hand, reject this line of thinking. They claim that when Mar Ukva stated that he waited until the next meal, he was not referring to a set number of hours (meals used to come one in the morning and one in the evening, thus leaving a significant amount of time between the two). Rather, his point is that he would not eat the two in the same meal, so as to avoid any issue of eating the two together, but as soon as he would finish a meat meal he would then feel free to eat dairy.
To understand the argument initiated by Rashi and Tosafot, and carried out through all later commentaries, we have to understand the main issues at play here. First, what is the reason that one has to wait at all after eating meat, and why do those reasons not apply after one eats dairy? How do the possible reasons effect the length of time that one must wait? Finally, does waiting alone solve all of our problems, or is anything else needed?
The two main reasons have already been mentioned. The first is the issue of "basar bein ha-shinayim," literally the meat that is stuck between one's teeth. Since the gemara concludes that such meat still has the status of meat, we must allow enough time for that meat to dislodge itself and become digested before one can eat dairy. The other approach is the view of Rashi, that the meat leaves its taste around for a significant period of time, and thus we have to allow for that to pass.
Rosh claims that Mar Ukva was speaking of a specific amount of time, and not just a change from one meal to the next, and that one must wait this amount of time. Rif agrees with this position and adds that one must also wipe out his mouth (generally done by rinsing or by using a piece of bread) before eating dairy. Rif also notes that if one were to wait and at the end of his waiting were to find a small piece of meat still stuck between his teeth he would not have to wait a second time, but would merely remove the piece and could then eat dairy. Contrary to this view, Ran cites the Behag and Rabbeinu Tam, who claim that Mar Ukva's actions constituted a "midat chassidut," a pious way of life, and that in reality the view of Tosafot is correct, that one need only wash his hands and rinse his mouth after eating meat. Mordechai (who is cited by the Hagahot Ashri) cites this view as well as the concurring position of Ra'avyah. However, he also notes that the Hagahot Maimoniyot mandated a six-hour waiting period between meat and milk. Rambam (Hil. Ma'achalot Asurot 9:26-28) codifies this view, claiming that since meat remains between one's teeth for a while after eating, one has to wait "about" six hours before eating milk. Both Ritva, the Ba'al HaIttur, and Rashba concur with this view, with Rashba noting that the six-hour period is because it takes that long for the meat to digest and thus pass significantly out of one's system. He notes that for this reason there is no waiting period after eating dairy, as it digests much easier. Further, Radvaz defends Rambam by claiming that if one were to follow the view of Tosafot, then eating meat after dairy would have stricter laws (need for rinsing and hand washing) than eating dairy after meat would (nothing), and thus Rambam's view must be correct.
To organize all of these opinions along geographical lines, the main trend is that Sefardi Rishonim (Rambam, Rif, Rosh, Ritva, Rashba) require a six-hour waiting period, while Ashkenazim (Tosafot, Ra'avyah, Rabbeinu Tam) favor a much briefer period, if any at all. In the middle of all of this is the Meiri, who sides with the Sefardim in mandating a six-hour wait.
Before we move on, there are two other issues that we should note. The first is the status of chicken. While chicken is considered to be meat for halachic purposes, its status as such is Rabbinic in nature, and that may have some effects in the context of this discussion. The gemara claims that cheese and chicken may be eaten together freely. Ritva notes that this is true to the extent that one does not even have to wash his hands in between eating the two of them, and he explains that this is so because chicken does not have the fatty texture of meat and thus its taste does not remain in the mouth (as per the view of Rashi). Radvaz agrees with this view and adds on that chicken is different from the meat of non-domesticated animals (chayot), whose status is also Rabbinic, since chicken is not confused as easily with the meat of domesticated animals (beheimot). Mordechai cites a responsa from Maharam MiRutenberg wherein he claims that he never waited between chicken and dairy. Rashba and Ramban take up this view as well, however Rambam and Rif claim that one has to wait after chicken just as by any other meat, since chicken also tends to stick between one's teeth. However, Rambam notes that there is a leniency regarding chicken in the other direction, namely that one is not required to wash one's hands or rinse one's mouth if he ate dairy and now wants to eat chicken (unlike by meat where he would have to do so).
The second issue is what one does after eating a cooked dish that does not have any actual meat in it, but was cooked with meat (chicken soup is an obvious example, but we will see that it is only one side of the coin). Ritva claims that one may eat cheese afterwards without rinsing out his mouth, and the Meiri cites this view as well. We will encounter this issue more as we proceed into the view of the poskim.
Both the Tur and the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 89) rule that one must wait six hours after eating meat before eating dairy, and if there is still meat left between one's teeth after six hours it must be removed before dairy can be eaten. Even further, if one were to chew meat so as to soften it for a child, he would still have to wait, due to the fact that the taste of the meat enters his mouth in this way. Ramo, in his commentaries on both works, notes that the prevailing custom where he lived was to rely on Tosafot and the Ra'avyah and to wait one hour and to make and afterblessing before eating dairy. He also notes that the waiting could come either before or after the afterblessing, i.e. the main point is to wait after the eating, not to wait after the "meal" (which ends when the afterblessing is made). He cites the Maharach, who allows for the possibility of just waiting, without a need for a blessing, but Ramo rejects this view as that would essentially mean that the two would be eaten together on the same meal, a notion that runs counter to the language of the gemara. Indeed, Shach bolsters this point by claiming that one may not eat dairy until he has said an afterblessing, regardless of how long he has waited (Aruch HaShulchan also requires an afterblessing after meat before one eats dairy). Both Shach and Taz favor the six-hour wait, with the Taz pointing out that no one actually rules that one hour is the required wait, but rather various commentaries merely note that such was the prevailing custom where they lived. In summation of this point, although the six-hour waiting period seems to be favored, the custom to wait only one hour has certainly had a strong basis for support throughout the generations.
Now, what about the "other" customs, namely waiting three hours and waiting "into the sixth"? The Rishonim do not deal with this issue. Daniel Shperber notes in a footnote in his work Minhagei Yisrael that the custom of three hours is basically a compromise between this two main positions. Several Acharonim deal with this as well, with one rationale being that six hours in the result of the fact that meals were once spaced that far apart. However, in countries where eating times came more frequently (three meals a day, tea time, coffee breaks, etc.), the time period that constitutes "between meals" is reduced, hence this custom. As far as waiting into the sixth hour, or waiting five hours and thirty-one minutes, this custom is the result of the language of Rambam. He does not claim that one has to wait six hours, but rather that one has to wait from one meal to the next, a time period that is "like six hours." Playing off of this opening in his language, customs have thus evolved that utilize the principles of either "rubo k'kulo" (a majority of the hour is the same as the whole hour) or "miktzato k'kulo" (a tiny bit of the hour is the same as the whole hour).
As far as chicken goes, most of the discussion disappears by the time of the poskim, and thus chicken has the same status as any other meat.
Returning to the issue of cooked dishes, Tur claims that one does not have to wait between a meat dish and a dairy dish if neither one contains actual meat or milk. Bach notes that while Semak allows one to eat cheese after foods cooked in meat fat, the prevailing custom is not to do so, and one should not deviate from the custom of the world. Ramo goes further, saying that one must wait after a meat dish just as if he had actually eaten a piece of meat. The Be'er Heitev makes a distinction in this law, stating that if the cooked dish is liquidy that it has the status of a "meat dish" (presumable more lenient with regard to waiting), while if it is thick then it has the status of an actual piece of meat. In general, the practice is to wait after any "fleishig" food, although one does not have to wait after eating a pareve food that was cooked in a meat pot (a topic within itself).
One final issue is whether or not one has to wait after eating cheese if he then wants to eat meat. The gemara only discusses the need to rinse and/or wash one's hands in such a case. However, in the aforementioned response, Maharam MiRutenberg notes that he once discovered cheese still stuck between his teeth several hours after eating it, and thus decided to be strict with himself and wait in this case as well. Meiri, Rambam, Kesef Mishna and others all rule that one need only clean oneself after eating cheese, but that no waiting is needed. Ramo notes that if the cheese is hard or old (six moths or more), then there are those who wait six hours after eating it, since its taste remains in the mouth in a manner similar to meat. Counter to the view of the Maharam, the Taz notes that the only reason that meat between the teeth is a problem is because we have a specific verse that proves that it is still considered to be meat. However, no such verse exists for cheese, and thus even if it were to remain between one's teeth, it would not be considered cheese and there would be no problem. Rav Ovadiah Yoseif (Yechaveh Da'at 3:58) rules that there is no need to wait after eating cheese, and if someone had no strong custom to do so or if they decided that it was not logical to do so, they could break their habit of doing so without having to go through the process of annulling their vow (the general mechanism necessary to break a custom that one has held at least three times on a consistent basis).
Two final notes from contemporary poskim. Rav Yoseif (Yechaveh Da'at 4:41) deals with the question of one who was in the middle of waiting six hours and mistakenly said a blessing over a dairy product. Should the person eat a bit of the food so as not to render his blessing worthless (and thus a needless use of Hashem's name), or is the need to wait so string that he should not eat anything in such a case (this assumes that there is nothing else around to eat, and may relate to the issue of whether a blessing can be used for a food that was not the intention of the one making the blessing to eat at the time that he made the blessing). Rav Yoseif claims that one should eat something for various reasons. First, waiting between meat and milk is merely Rabbinic, while saying Hashem's name in vain is Torah-ordained. Second, we have seen that the amount of time that one has to wait is subject to much debate, and thus there are views that will allow the person to eat dairy after a much shorter wait. He then discusses the notion that something that is forbidden to eat does not have a blessing made on it, and thus this blessing would be worthless anyway. However, he rejects this view since the dairy products are not inherently forbidden but rather are temporarily forbidden to that person until his six hours end and thus the blessing may still be valid. Since the person will derive benefit from the food if he eats it, the blessing is good and he should eat a bite of the food.
Rav Moshe Feinstein (Igrot Moshe Y.D. 2:26) was asked if one may take a vitamin made from liver after eating dairy. He answers that one may certainly do so, and one does not even have to wash his hands or mouth before doing so. He proceeds to deal with the reverse question - if eating such a vitamin places one in a situation where he would have to wait until eating dairy. He claims that no waiting is required, as the problems of meat between the teeth and the taste being left in the mouth do not exist here. Even if one were to chew the vitamin there would be no problem, as the custom of waiting after a meat dish does not apply to a vitamin, since vitamins are relatively new creations and thus were not around to be included when the law was originally made (this particular law has the status of "gezeirah," a decree made by later Rabbis as a protective measure; generally we claim that such decrees are specific in nature, and cover only things that they specifically mention, and cannot be logically extended at later points).
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