Insights into Halacha

For the week ending 30 June 2012 / 9 Tammuz 5772

Weighty Waiting Options

by Rabbi Yehuda Spitz
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

A previous article, Ma’aseh Avos = Halacha L’Ma’aseh, showcased that the Torah’s description of even simple actions of our great forefathers impart to us a treasure trove of hanhaga, hashkafa, and even halacha[1]. Sometimes though, it is the exact opposite; a halacha is gleaned from the acts of those far from being paragons of virtue. In the parshiyos read over the last few weeks we learn fascinating halachic insights from people whom we would not consider role models by any stretch of the imagination.

Double Agents

Parshas Shelach details at length the grave sin of the Meraglim, the spies whose evil report about Eretz Yisrael still echoes, with repercussions continuing to be felt until today[2]. Of the twelve spies sent only two remained loyal to Hashem, Yehoshua bin Nun and Calev ben Yefuneh[3]. The other ten chose to slander Eretz Yisrael instead, and consequently suffered immediate and terrible deaths. Due to their vile report, the Jewish people were forced to remain in the desert an additional forty years, and eventually die out, before their children ultimately were allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael.

Hashem called this rogues’ gallery of spies an ‘eidah[4], literally a congregation. The Gemara[5] famously derives from this incident that the minimum requirement for a minyan is a quorum of ten men, since there were ten turncoat ‘double-agents’ who were contemptuously called a congregation. If ten men can get together to conspire and hatch malevolent schemes, then ten men can assemble to form a congregation for ‘devarim shebekedusha’. This exegesis is duly codified in halacha[6], and all because of the dastardly deeds of ten misguided men[7].

Covetous Carnivores

Another prime example of halacha being set by the actions of those less than virtuous is the tragic chapter of the rabble rousers who lusted after meat, and disparaged Hashem’s gift of the Heavenly bread called manna (munn), chronicled at the end of Parshas Beha’alosecha[8]. The pasuk states that “the meat was still between their teeth” when these sinners met their untimely and dreadful demise[9]. The Gemara[10] extrapolates that since the Torah stressed that point, it means to show us that meat between the teeth is still considered tangible meat and one must wait before having a dairy meal afterwards.

There are actually several different ways to understand the Gemara’s intent, chief among them are Rashi’s and the Rambam’s opinions[11]. The Rambam[12] writes that meat tends to get stuck between the teeth and is still considered meat for quite some time afterward. Rashi[13] however, doesn’t seem to be perturbed about actual meat residue stuck in the teeth, but simply explains that since meat is fatty by nature, its taste lingers for a long time after eating.

Yet, the Gemara itself does not inform us what the mandated set waiting period is. Rather, it gives us several guideposts that the Rishonim use to set the halacha. The Gemara informs us that Mar Ukva’s father would not eat dairy items on the same day that he had partaken of meat, but Mar Ukva himself (calling himself ‘vinegar the son of wine’) would only wait ‘m’seudasa l’seudasa achrina’, from one meal until a different meal. The various variant minhagim that Klal Yisrael keep related to waiting after eating meat are actually based on how the Rishonim understood this cryptic comment.

Six Hours

This is the most common custom, first codified by the Rambam. He writes that meat stuck in the teeth remains “meat” for up to 6 hours, and mandates waiting that amount of time. This is the halacha according to the Tur and Shulchan Aruch[14], as well as the vast majority of authorities. The Rashal, Chochmas Adam, and Aruch Hashulchan[15] all write very strongly that one should wait six hours. The mandated six hours seemingly comes from the many places in Rabbinic literature where it mentions that the ‘meals of a Torah scholar’ are six hours apart[16]. Therefore, this fits well with Mar Ukva’s statement that he would wait from one meal until the next after eating meat, meaning six hours.

Five Hours and a Bit

The idea of waiting five hours and a bit, or five and a half hours, is actually based on the choice of words of several Rishonim, including the Rambam and Meiri, when they rule to wait six hours. They write that one should keep “k’mo sheish sha’os”, approximately six hours[17]. Several contemporary authorities maintain that “six hours” does not have to be an exact six hours; waiting five and a half (or according to some even five hours and one minute) is sufficient, as it is almost six hours[18]. However, it should be noted that not everyone agrees to this, and many maintain that the six hours must be exact[19].

Four Hours

Waiting four hours is first opined by the Pri Chadash, who comments that the six hours mandated are not referring to regular “sixty minute” hours, but rather halachic hours, known colloquially as “sha’os zmanios”. This complicated halachic calculation is arrived at by dividing the amount of time between sunrise and sunset into twelve equal parts. Each of these new “hours” are halachic hours and are used to calculate the various zmanim throughout the day. The Pri Chadash claims that at the height of winter when days are extremely short, it is possible that six halachic hours can turn into only four sixty minute hours[20]! Although several authorities rule this way, and others say one may rely on this exclusively in times of great need[21], nevertheless, his opinion here is rejected out of hand by the vast majority of decisors, who maintain that the halacha follows six true hours[22]. The Yad Efraim points out that if one follows “sha’os zmanios’ in the winter, then he must follow it during the summer also, possibly needing to wait up to eight hours!

One Hour

Waiting only one hour between meat and dairy, a custom found mainly among Jews from Amsterdam, is codified by the Rema, citing common custom, based on several great Ashkenazic Rishonim including the Maharil and Maharai[23]. The Rema himself, though, concludes that it is nevertheless proper to wait six hours.

Three Hours

Interestingly, and shocking to some, the common German custom of waiting three hours does not seem to have an explicit halachic source[24]. In fact, one who delves into the sefarim of great Rabbanim who served throughout Germany, from Rav Yonason Eibeshutz to Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, will find that they all recommended keeping the full six hours! Yet, there are several theories[25] explaining how such a widespread custom came about. One, by the Mizmor L’David, is that it is possibly based on the Pri Chadash’s opinion of sha’os zmanios. Another hypothesis, by Rav Binyomin Hamburger - author of Shorshei Minhag Ashkenaz - is that their original custom was to wait only one hour like the basic halacha cited by the Rema, following the majority of Ashkenazic Rishonim. Yet, when the six hours mandated by the Rambam and other Rishonim became more widespread, those in Ashkenaz decided to meet the rest of the world halfway, as a sort of compromise. According to this explanation, it turns out that waiting 3 hours is intrinsically a chumra on waiting one hour.

Bentch and Go

Another opinion, and one not halachically accepted, is that of Tosafos[26], who posit that “from one meal to another” means exactly that. As soon as one finishes his meat meal, clears off the table and recites Birkas HaMazon, he may start a new dairy meal. Some add that this includes washing out the mouth and palate cleansing (kinuach and hadacha). This is actually even more stringent than Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion, that all one needs is kinuach and hadacha, and then one may eat dairy - even while part of the same meal[27]! It is important to realize that his opinion here is categorically rejected by all.

A Day Away

The most stringent opinion is not to eat meat and milk on the same day (some call this 24 hours, but it is a misnomer). First mentioned by Mar Ukva as his father’s personal custom, several great Rabbonim through the ages have been known to keep this. Interestingly, this custom is cited by Rav Chaim Falaj’i[28] as the proper one, and in his opinion, only those who are not able to stick to it can rely upon a ‘mere’ six hours.

Just Sleep On It

Another remarkable, but not widely accepted, custom is that of sleeping after eating a meat meal. The proponents of this, including Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv shlit”a, maintain that sleeping causes the food to digest quicker, thereby lessening the required waiting period[29]. It is told that the Chasam Sofer wanted to start relying on this leniency, but upon awakening, every time he tried drinking his coffee it would spill. He concluded that this hetter must not have been accepted in Heaven[30]. The majority of contemporary authorities as well do not rely on sleeping as a way of lessening the waiting time[31]. The Steipler Gaon is quoted as remarking that this leniency is the exclusive domain of Rav Elyashiv, as most people sleep six hours a night and he only sleeps three hours nightly.

Although there are many different and widespread opinions about the proper amount of time one is required to wait after eating meat, and “minhag avoseinu Torah hi[32]”, nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the core requirement of waiting is based on the actions of those with less than perfect intentions. As it is stated in Pirkei Avos[33] “Who is wise? One who learns from every one.”


For any questions, comments or for the full Mareh Mekomos / sources, please email the author: yspitz@ohr.edu

Disclaimer: These are just a few basic guidelines and overview of the Halacha discussed in this article. This is by no means a complete comprehensive authoritative guide, but rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issue. One should not compare similar cases in order to rules in any real case, but should refer his questions to a competent Halachic authority.


[1]For another example of this, refer to the recent article titled “The Gid Hanasheh Incongruity”.

[2]See Mishna Taanis 26b and following Gemara on 29a, that this, the first of five tragedies, occurred on Tisha B’Av.

[3]Calev’s father’s real name was actually Chetzron. See Divrei HaYamim (vol. 1, Ch.2, verse 18) and Gemara Sota 11b.

[4]Bamidbar (Shelach) Ch.14, verse 27.

[5]Gemara Megilla 23b, Brachos 21b, and Sanhedrin 74b. See Rashi al HaTorah ad loc. s.v. l’eidah.

[6]Rambam (Hilchos Tefilla Ch.8, Halacha 5), Tur & Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 55, 1 & 69, 1), Aruch Hashulchan (55, 6), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (15, 1). Many authorities cite this as the source for this law, including ad loc. the Bach (O.C. 55, 1), Taz (1), Levushei Srad (1), Chida (Birkei Yosef 3), Shulchan Aruch HaRav (2), Mishna Berura (2), and Kaf Hachaim (6).

[7]For a full treatment of the Meraglim and their intentions, see relevant commentaries to Parshas Shelach, as well as Rabbi Moshe M. Eisemann’s excellent “Tear Drenched Nights - Tish’ah B’Av: The Tragic Legacy of the Meraglim”.

[8]Bamidbar (Beha’alosecha) Ch.11.

[9]Ad loc. verse 33.

[10]Chullin 105a, statements of Rav Chisda.

[11]For example, the Kreisi U’Pleisi (89, Pleisi 3) and Chochmas Adam (40, 13) posit that the waiting period is actually dependant on digestion.

[12]Rambam(Hilchos Ma’achalos Asuros Ch.9, Halacha 28).

[13]Rashi, in his glosses to Gemara Chullin 105a s.v. asur.

[14]Tur and Shulchan Aruch Y”D 89, 1.

[15]The Rashal (Yam Shel Shlomo, Chullin Ch.8, 9; quoted l’maaseh by the Shach Y”D 89, 8) writes that anyone who has even a “scent of Torah” would wait six hours. The Chochmas Adam (ibid.) writes that whoever doesn’t wait six hours violates “Al Titosh Toras Imecha” (Mishlei Ch. 1, verse 8). The Aruch Hashulchan (Y”D 89, 7) writes that whoever doesn’t wait six hours is in the category of “HaPoretz Geder” who deserves to be bitten by a snake (Koheles Ch. 10 verse 8).

[16]See, for example Gemara Shabbos 10a, Ritva (Chullin 105a s.v basar bein), Rashba (ad loc.), Rosh (ad loc. 5), Baal HaItur (Shaar 1, Hilchos BB”C 13a-b), Lechem Mishna (on the Rambam ibid.), Biur HaGra (Y”D 89, 2), and Mor U’Ketzia (O.C. 184 s.v. v’chein).

[17]Rambam (ibid.), Meiri (Chullin 105a s.v. v’hadar), Agur (223), Kol Bo (106, s.v. v’achar basar), Orchos Chaim (vol. 2, Hilchos Issurei Ma’achalos pg. 335, 73 s.v. v’achar).

[18]Several authorities make this diyuk, including the Minchas Yaakov (Soles L’Mincha 76, 1), Butchatcher Gaon (Daas Kedoshim Y”D 89, 2), and the Aruch Hashulchan (Y”D 89, 2). Contemporary authorities who rely on not needing a full six hours include the Divrei Chaim (cited in Shu”t Divrei Yatziv, Likutim V’Hashmatos 69; see also Shu”t Yashiv Yitzchak vol. 5, 14), Rav Chaim Brisker (cited in sefer Torah L’Daas vol. 2, Beha’alosecha pg. 229, Question 5), the Matteh Efraim (Ardit, pg. 28, 4), Rav Aharon Kotler (cited in Shu”t Ohr Yitzchak vol. 1, Y”D 4), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Kovetz Moriah, Teves 5756 pg. 79), and Rav Ovadia Yosef (Shu”t Yabea Omer vol. 1, Y”D 4, 13 & vol. 3 Y”D 3).

[19]Including Rabbeinu Yerucham (Sefer HaAdam, Nesiv 15, vol. 2, 27, pg. 137), Chamudei Daniel (Taaruvos 2, 15), Shu”t Ginas Vradim (Gan HaMelech 154), Perach Shoshan (1, 1), Mikdash Me’at (on Daas Kedoshim ibid., 2), Me’am Loez (Parshas Mishpatim pg. 889 - 890 s.v. shiur), Yad Yehuda (89, Piha”k 1), Chofetz Chaim (Nidchei Yisrael Ch.33), Rav Y.Y. Fischer (Shu”t Even Yisrael vol. 9, 126, 5), and Rav Chaim Kanievsky (cited in sefer Doleh U’Mashkeh pg. 257). Several other contemporary authorities maintain that one should strive to keep the full six hours l’chatchila,but may be lenient in times of need, including Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited in Shu”t Divrei Chachamim Y”D 1, 1; and in private conversation with his grandson Rabbi Mordechai Tendler), Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv (cited in Shu”t Avnei Yashpei vol. 5, 101, 3 & 4 and Ashrei HaIsh vol. 3, pg. 441, 10), Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner (Kovetz M’Beis Levi on Y”D pg. 34, 3, & footnote 3) and Rav Menashe Klein (Shu”t Mishneh Halachos vol. 5, 97, 3).

[20]Pri Chadash (Y”D 89, 6). Others who rely on his opinion include the Gilyon Maharsha (ad loc. 3), Ikrei HaDa”t (Ikrei Dinim 10, end 5) and Minchas Yaakov (Soles L’Mincha 76, end 1).

[21]Including the Yad Efraim (Y”D 89, 1), Yeshuos Yaakov (ad loc., Piha”k 1), Maharsham (Daas Torah ad loc.) and the Zeicher Yehosef (Shu”t end 196), who allow one to rely on the Pri Chadash only if one is sick or in times of great need.

[22]Including ad loc. the Pri Megadim (Y”D 89, M.Z. 1), Pischei Teshuva (3), Knesses HaGedolah (Haghos on Tur, 6 - 7), Kreisi U’Pleisi (Pleisi 3), Chochmas Adam (40, 12), Chida (Shiyurei Bracha 3 - 4), Zivchei Tzedek (2), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parshas Shelach 9), and Chaguras Shmuel (8).

[23]Rema (Y”D 89, 1), Maharai (Haghos Shaarei Dura 76, 2), Maharil (Minhagim, Hilchos IV’H 5, s.v. achal), Issur V’Hetter (40, 4). Although the Rashal (ibid.) and Taz (Y”D 89, 2) cast aspersions on this custom, the Gr”a (Biur HaGr”a ad loc. 6) defends it as the Zohar’s minhag as well to wait an hour between all milk and meat meals. See previous article “To Bentch or not To Bentch?…That is the Question”. Relevant to the proper custom in Amsterdamsee sefer Minhagei Amsterdam (pg. 20, 24 & pg. 52), Shu”t Yashiv Yitzchak (vol. 13, 25) and Shu”t Shav V’Rafa vol. 3, 114).

[24]Although in Rabbeinu Yerucham’s Kitzur Issur V’Hetter (39) it mentions waiting three hours, it is an apparent misprint, as in the full sefer itself (Sefer HaAdam, Nesiv 15, vol. 2, 27, pg. 137) he states unequivocally that one “must wait at least six hours”! Renowned Rabbonim who served throughout Germany who wrote to keep six hours include Rav Yonason Eibeshutz (Kehillas AH”U - Kreisi U’Pleisi 89, 3), Pri Megadim (Kehillos in Berlin and Frankfurt - Y”D 89, M.Z. 1), Noheg K’tzon Yosef (Minhag Frankfurt, Hilchos Seudah pg. 120, 4) and Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch (Chorev vol. 4, Ch. 68, pg. 30).

[25]Mizmor L’David (89, 6). Rav Hamburger’s explanation is found in a letter written to mv”r Rav Yonason Wiener. See Shu”t Nachlas Pinchas (vol.1, 36, 7) for a similar assessment. For other sevaros Rabbi Yaakov Skoczylas’ Ohel Yaakov (on BB”C 89, end footnote 1, quoting Rav Shimon Schwab) and Shu”t Mishneh Halachos (vol. 16, end 9).

[26]Tosafos (Chullin 105a s.v. l’seudasa), Ravyah (1108, cited by the Rosh and Haghos Ashiri Chullin Ch.8, 5), Rema (Y”D 89, 1).

[27]Rabbeinu Tam’s opinion is found in Tosafos (Chullin 104b s.v. oif).

[28]Kaf Hachaim (Falaj’i 24, 25 - 26). This was also known to be the Arizal’s custom (Taamei HaMitzvos of Rav Chaim Vital, Shaar HaMitzvos Parshas Mishpatim). See also Shulchan HaTahor (173, 2), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parshas Shelach 15), Shu”t Torah L’Shma (212) and Shu”t Shraga haMeir (vol. 7, end 105). Some say (See Piskei Teshuvos end 494) that based on his writings on Parshas Mishpatim (s.v. lo sevashel), the Noam Elimelech must have also kept this.

[29]See Daas Kedoshim(Y”D89, 2), VaYaas Avraham (333, 51), Piskei Teshuva (vol. 3, 285), Piskei Halachos of HaGri”sh Elyashiv shlit”a (Y”D BB”C pg. 53, 6; see also Shu”t Yissa Yosef O.C. vol. 2, 119 and Ashrei HaIsh vol. 3 pg. 442, 15, who claim that Rav Elyashiv only meant to be lenient after chicken and not actual meat).

[30]The story about the Chasam Sofer is cited in Zichron L’Moshe pg. 79, Shu”t Divrei Yisrael (vol. 2, pg. 28, footnote) and in Shu”t Siach Yitzchak (399).

[31]Including Shu”t Siach Yitzchak (ibid.), Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 1, 431), Kovetz M’Beis Levi (on Y”D pg. 34, 5; citing the opinion of Rav Wosner), Shu”t Beis Avi (vol. 3, Y”D beg. 108), Shu”t Mishneh Halachos (vol. 7, 70), Shu”t Shulchan HaLevi (vol. 1, 22, 10, 1), sefer Doleh U’Mashkeh (pg. 257 - 258 and footnote 15; citing the opinion of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, as well as his father, the Steipler Gaon). This leniency is also conspicuously absent from the vast majority of earlier authorities.

[32]Tosafos Menachos 20b s.v. v’nifsal.

[33]Avos Ch.4, Mishna 1.


Disclaimer: This is not a comprehensive guide, rather a brief summary to raise awareness of the issues. In any real case one should ask a competent Halachic authority.


L'iluy Nishmas the Rosh HaYeshiva - Rav Chonoh Menachem Mendel ben R' Yechezkel Shraga, Rav Yaakov Yeshaya ben R' Boruch Yehuda, and l'zchus for Shira Yaffa bas Rochel Miriam and her children for a yeshua teikef u'miyad!

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