May 11, 2009

But I Want it NOW!

Over the weekend (and for the greater part of the past six months) Tuvia and I have conversed a lot about how long to wait between consuming meat and milk. The general rule is that you can eat milk right before meat, but not the other way around because of the command in three different locations in the Torah to not cook a kid in its mothers milk (Exodus 23,19Exodus 34,26Deuteronomy 14,21). There are a lot of great alternatives to dairy today, including Rice Milk, Soy Milk, Almond Milk and Tofu products, but sometimes you just jones for some Ben and Jerry's ice cream, right? And sometimes it's just a few hours after a meat meal, right?

Well, our general rule was to do four hours. Now, there was no particular reason we did four hours. Tuvia had heard that four hours was the thing to do, and I didn't know any better. In truth, neither of us have a family tradition in which to follow. There are a variety of rulings on how long to wait after your steak for some yogurt, and they range from One Hour to Six Hours, and there is even a legend of a rabbi way back in the day who waited a full 24 hours between his meat and dairy meals. That's a little extreme, don't you think? Our rav and a lot of people in our community abide by the Three Hour rule, though I'm not entirely sure where the Three Hour rule comes from. Luckily, we eat a lot of fish, so our meals tend to be dairy or parve and the meat/milk issue doesn't come up that much. Plus, there are a million and one great parve desserts out there, so the issue is really a non-issue when it comes down to it.

But, being someone who likes to understand why she's doing just about everything she does (and you should, too), I decided to do a Twitter Poll among my intelligent and devoted followers: How long do you wait between meat and milk? The results were:

The interesting thing, to me anyhow, is that no one waited Five Hours or Two Hours. There were two people who said they wait Five Hours and some minutes (one said 5.5 hours another said 5 hours and 1 minute). But not a single person listed Two Hours. Of course, this isn't scientific at all, but I'm curious why Two Hours is a non-answer.

One Hour tends to be the tradition of Dutch Jews, and Six Hours appears to be what most Orthodox/Hasidic rabbis go for in their rulings based on rabbinic discussions. The general ruling was that you have to wait until the meat in your teeth has been removed or broken down and gone away. Now, back when the rabbis were debating this topic, they didn't have floss or toothpaste or toothbrushes most likely, so the option of flossing and brushing after a meat meal wasn't an option. Nowadays, we can floss with the best of them, getting our teeth sparkley clean and fresh from meat in an instant.

Of course, that doesn't get rid of the issue of waiting, and I'm not calling for a complete abstention of waiting between meals. I'm just trying to understand how we decide in our communities nowadays which traditions to follow. Since Tuvia and I have no tradition, we're obliged to follow the tradition of our community, which appears to be Three Hours. I just wish I knew where this Three Hours derived from as being okay. In reality, the length of time between meals has changed greatly since the Middle Ages when the five-meals-a-day thing probably wasn't hip with the Kosher crowd. Nowadays, we have breakfast, then snack, have lunch, then snack, have dinner, and then maybe a late-night snack. It's the healthy way of rocking your metabolism, you know. So meals can be anywhere from Two to Three hours apart, not Six.

So let's have a dialog. Throw at me all the rabbinical rulings you can. Also, go put your two cents in over at Hadassah's blog, since she's also polling her readers. I'm going to put up a new poll over there to the right, in the usual place, so feel free to chime in!


Levra said...

When I attended an orthodox Hebrew school, we learned to wait three hours. It was because children were supposed to wait for half the time of adults.

Maybe some people just got used to the three hours and never increased with age. Others may use that time period so children and adults follow the same standard.

gruven_reuven said...

I always held to 6 hours.

Makes eating strategic.... Especially when you foresee a dairy desert at stake in a few hours.

Mottel said...

I'm not clear where the two hours you mention come from . . . As well, I cringe at calling the actions of Mar Ukva's father a legend, as it is one brought down as a precedent in the context of Jewish Law - and thus not from the 'agadah' (story) section of the Talmud.
In terms of practice, as one going through Orthodox giyur, you (minimally) should follow the custom of your Rabbi - and later that of your husband :-)

I wrote up an explanation of the various opinions on my blog, and I hope you find it of some use:

Jack said...

The joy of minhagim versus halacha.

Chaviva said...

@Levra Very interesting point. I recall hearing something about that -- kids and adults having diff. times. Maybe it did just stick? Or the rule was misunderstood?

@GR I suppose you do have to think more closely about when to eat what :)

@Mottel Two hours was just another time in the range from 1 to 6 hours that nobody mentioned, so I was wondering why there are people who do every other time, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6 but not two. Why does 2 not seem to be a tradition held anywhere? I also didn't mean to make the story about Mar Ukva's father seem fake or insincere ... sorry about that. I must go read your blog now!

@Jack Indeed. I'm enjoying it quite a bit :)

Daniel Saunders said...

I keep three hours, simply because it's what my family do. For the rationale behind waiting three hours, see here.

Mottel said...

-Levra: Some opinions hold that for children one can let them relay on the more lenient opinions . . . Sadly, history has often shown us that by doing that, the children loose a certain respect for Judaism and never progress further.

-Chav: I'm not not sure where the 4 comes from. 5 is a result of calculating the 6 (into the sixth hour -i.e. five and a drop). 3 and 1 are explained on my blog :-)
With Mar Ukva's father I didn't think you were being fake - I just wanted to clarify what the real source was, and make sure there was no confusion.

Anonymous said...

German Jews have a tradition of waiting three hours (like Dutch keep 1) Eastern European tend to wait 6 (or "into the 6th hour" which would be 5 hours and some minutes).

Rivster said...

We do one mostly because I was raised doing one. When my parents moved toward kashrut, they went with the tradition of the Dutch community.

BTW, even though it would be halakhically permissible to have soy milk with a meat meal, we do not do that because of maarit ayin.

Mottel said...

On a side note, Soy Milk as maarit ayin is a very interesting subject discussed in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 87:3 in the Rema (there it's concerning almond milk)in short, if you'd leave the package that the soymilk or product came in, it would be fine.
Today that most people know of soyproducts (esp. in the Kosher community) there is less cause for confusion.

Anonymous said...

i am so fascinated by this subject. we are all Jews yet we keep this mitzvah differently. thanks for starting the discussion the other day.

Chaviva said...

@Mottel I swear I'm getting to your blog tomorrow. I'm devoting the entire day to reading other people's blogs to play catchup for weeks of neglect :)

@Anon Thanks for chiming in!

@Rivster Any reason they went the way of the Dutch?

@Hadassah I know! I love the group participation with all of this :)

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