Waiting Betweem Meat and Milk

[Be-Ahavah U-Be-Emunah – Pinchas 5771 – translated by R. Blumberg]

Why do we have to wait six hours between meat and milk?
It is a Rabbinic decree. According to Rambam, even if meat remains between one’s teeth after six hours, and one then drinks milk, the meat is considered to have gone bad. Therefore, if he finds meat between his teeth after six hours, it does not prevent him from eating dairy. But if he chewed meat and spat it out, he must still wait six hours.
By contrast, according to Rashi, the reason is that one continues to taste a meaty taste from his stomach after eating meat. Therefore, even if he swallowed meat without chewing it, he must wait six hours (Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah #89).

What about just tasting something?
If someone tasted meat without chewing it and he spat it out, he needn’t wait six hours. After all, there is not meat between his teeth and no taste coming from his stomach.

If someone has fillings, false teeth or holes in his teeth, is that worse?
The same six-hour rule applies.

Must one wait six hours, or is a little less possible?
Some required only waiting into the sixth hour, but there is no clear source for that. All of our Rabbis’ time requirements are precise, as, for example, regarding the last moment you can recite the Shema or the Shemoneh Esrei. Yet if a person's Rabbi ruled that five hours is sufficient, one can follow his ruling. Likewise, if one has a precise, responsible tradition in his family that a Rabbi ruled that way for them, his family can hold to that tradition.

Can one wait less time after eating fowl (as opposed to red meat)?
It is true that the prohibition against eating fowl with milk is Rabbinic, and not from the Torah, but there is no source for being able to wait less time after fowl.

What is the law regarding a fleishig dish containing no actual meat? For example, what about fleishig soup without actual meat, or potatoes that were cooked with meat?
One must still wait six hours, because the taste is like the essence.

When does one start counting the six hours?
Some take the stricter view of starting the count from the end of the meal (Aruch Ha-Shulchan), but the law, based on the Talmud, is that we count from the moment one finishes eating the item in question.

Is there a source for the fact that Jews from Germany and Austria wait only three hours and Jews from Holland wait one hour?
This is the approach of Rama, Rabbi Moshe Isserles. The Talmud does not mention six hours. It only says that if one ate meat in a particular meal he should not consume dairy until his next meal. Rabbi Yitzchak Alfasi (Rif) explains that the intent is the next meal in accordance with the set conventions that people have. In other words, six hours between meals. Tosafot, however, explains that the intent is the next meal the person eats – whenever that is. In other words, if someone ate meat, he should recite the after-blessing, clear away the table, rinse his hands and mouth, and can then immediately eat dairy. In accordance with this, Rama ruled that one may eat meat after an hour. It's not immediate, but it is still after only one hour, and such is the practice of Dutch Jewry. Jews from Germany wait three hours, in other words, they chose a stricter version of the one-hour position, since anyway, Jews from there wait only three hours between meals. Yet apart from Jews from those places, all Jews - Ashkenazim, Sephardim, Yemenites and Ethiopians - have to wait six hours.

What does one do when husband and wife come from families with differing customs?
As in all such matters, the wife should follow her husband’s custom, whether in the direction of stricture or lenience. Some sources require “Hatarat Nedarim”, the absolution of a vow, but there is no need to take that strict view. It’s like the law regarding a person who moves permanently from one place to another: he takes upon himself all the customs of his new place, whether they are more strict or more lenient than his previous customs (Shut Igrot Moshe). The reason is to maintain harmony, since differing customs are liable to lead to tension and unpleasantness, as well as to difficulties in child rearing.

What about somebody who is ill?
If an ill person has to eat milk after meat, an hour’s wait suffices (Aruch Ha-Shulchan).

What about children?
A child before bar- or bat-mitzvah can eat dairy immediately without waiting, but he should be taught in accordance with his ability (see Shut Yechaveh Da’at). For example, if an infant only falls asleep if he has had a bottle of milk, and he has just eaten meat, he can be given milk. One should gradually lengthen the time span according to age, but legally one should give the maximum education possible in accordance with the child’s capacity.

Conversely, how long should one wait between milk and meat?
Nothing. It’s enough to wash one’s hands and to brush one’s teeth. Ashkenazim, however, wait six hours after “hard cheese”, which refers to very expensive cheeses with a very sharp taste. By contrast, after less expensive, common regular yellow cheese, there is no need to wait (Ha-Gaon Rav Ha-Shlomo Zalman Auerbach quoting the Chazon Ish).