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How Long Must I Wait?

Rabbi Yisroel Langer, cRc Dayan


The Gemara (Chullin 105a) says that the father of Mar Ukvah would wait 24 hours to eat dairy foods after eating meat. Mar Ukvah himself would only wait to the “next meal” to eat dairy. What is meant by “the next meal?” The Rambam holds that this means the time span between the day meal and the evening meal which is usually six hours. Based on this, the Rambam rules that one must wait six hours after eating meat until he eats dairy. Tosfos (Chullin, ibid.) disagrees and holds that “the next meal” does not involve any time span and as long as one finished, and bentched on his meat meal, he may begin his dairy meal immediately.1 The poskim say that one should be machmir like the opinion of the Rambam and wait six full hours. According to the Shach2 the six hours begin after the last piece of meat is eaten. The Aruch Hashulchan3 holds that the six hours begin after the meal is over. Most Poskim are lenient in accordance with the ruling of the Shach.4


In cases of necessity, we rely on the lenient opinion of Tosfos. For example, many Poskim say that if one ate meat and then made a bracha on milk he may take a “sip” of the milk (provided that he already made a bracha achrona on the meat), so as to avoid a

beracha levatalah.5 One who is ill (e.g. an ulcer) or a nursing woman (in situations where it is required) may drink milk after one hour of eating meat, provided that he makes a bracha achrona on the meat and cleanses his mouth by rinsing and eating solid foods.6


With regard to young children the poskim give the following guidelines. A child who is approximately 3 years or younger may drink milk after eating meat without waiting.  One should externally clean the child’s mouth of any meat residue. A child above the age of 3 should wait one hour and should increase upon that time every year in accordance with the ability of the child. A child above the age of 6 should wait the full six hours, unless the child is frail and needs the milk.7


The halacha of waiting six hours applies to eating dairy after meat and not vice versa. There are two reasons found in the Rishonim as to why we are more strict after eating meat:1) Rashi (Chullin 105a) explains that the fatty residue from the meat adheres to the throat and palate and 6 hours is needed for it to become completely decomposed by the saliva. 2) The Rambam (9:28) gives a different explanation. The Rambam holds that we are concerned that strands of meat might have gotten stuck in one’s teeth. After six hours those strands of meat no longer have the status of meat, and dairy could be eaten.


The Tur (Y.B. 89) cites two differences between the opinions of the Rambam and Rashi. Case #1: If one were to chew meat without swallowing it, according to the reason given by Rashi, no waiting would be required since the fatty residue did not adhere to the palate or throat. According to the Rambam, one would have to wait six hours since meat may have gotten stuck in between one’s teeth. Case #2: If there are strands of meat that are found in one’s teeth after 6 hours, according to the Rambam they do not have to be removed before eating dairy since they no longer have the status of meat. However, according to Rashi, the strands of meat must be removed and the mouth cleaned (by eating parve bulky foods) and rinsed before eating dairy. The Poskim say that we are to be machmir like both opinions. (This is very relevant for those who have gaps in between their teeth as it is very common for strands of meat to get lodged there. Even after six hours have passed those strands must be removed [i.e. with floss] and the mouth cleaned (by eating parve bulky foods) and rinsed before eating dairy, in accordance with the opinion of Rashi). The Pri Migadim8says that if one chews on food that was cooked with meat and did not swallow it -nothing was swallowed, and no strands of meat were stuck in one’s teeth-one must still be strict and wait six hours (although according to both opinions it should be permitted).


After eating dairy foods one is generally not restricted from eating meat for six hours. If one drank milk all he needs to do is rinse his mouth before eating meat, though some have the custom to wait ½ hour as well. If one ate cheese, in addition to rinsing his mouth he must eat a solid food (ex. bread) to cleanse his mouth, and wash his hands. To simply use modern hygiene may not help since this will not necessarily clean the palate and throat.


When it comes to “hard cheese” the halacha is different. Hard cheese is defined as cheese that has been aged for six months. The halacha states that one who ate hard cheese must wait six hours before eating meat. One such example is Parmesan Cheese. Parmesan cheese is aged from approximately ten months to a year. Therefore, if one is served a salad that has grated Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top, he must wait six hours before eating meat (as heard from Harav Yisroel Belsky, Shlita).  If the cheese is dissolved and melted into the food one need not wait six hours.9



1 The Rema (89:1) says that those who follow the opinion of Tosfos should wait one hour before eating dairy.

2 89 s.k.3

3 89:4

4 There are those who have the custom to wait shorter periods of time -5½ hours, 5 hours, 3 hours and some wait as little as one hour. However, if one does not have such a custom, he must wait the full 6 hours.

5 This is the psak of Harav Shmuel Fuerst and Harav Dovid Zucker Shlita.

6 Chochmos Adam 40:13.

7 Laws of Kashrus p.199. In the case of a frail child, one may be lenient until the age of 9 or 10.

8Siman 89 M.Z. see Aruch Hashulchan 89:4

9Yad Yehuda 89:30

Published in Parsha Encounters, Vayechi 5765