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Question 6.6:
I have heard that Polish Orthodox Jews wait 6 hours between eating milchig and fleishig and Dutch Orthodox Jews wait about an hour. Why?


The waiting time is based on a discussion in the Talmud where tree different times of waiting between meat and milk are taken up as being valid. The base for the wait is the verse in the Torah saying that you should not boil the kid in its mothers milk. The question is what is really demanded. The one hour wait is based on the premise that all that is needed is for the taste to disappear from the mouth. The six hour is based on the time it was believed to take for meat to leave the stomach. There was also a twenty four hour wait, based on the meat being totally gone from the system, which has completely disappear as a custom.

Note that both agree that there must be a delay, it's just that the different communities came to different conclusions about the length. It's a matter of custom. The delays selected appears to be based on the elapsed time between two meals in the respective societies. All agreed that they must not be eaten at the same meal, and "bentching", i.e. the recitation of birkat ha-mazon/Grace After Meals, was considered to be the end of a meal.

German Jews wait for three hours, since a mid-afternoon snack (about 3 hours after lunch) was common practice among Jews and non-Jews in Germany. No such habit existed in Poland or Russia, hence six hours. And, you guessed it, a late-afternoon snack one hour before dinner is not entirely uncommon in Holland. The valid ones today are the one and the six hour periods. The three hours custom of the Germans is less accepted; traditionally, if a boy who keeps three hours marries a girl who keeps one hour, the custom is that he adopt the one hour wait of his wife. However, if, the boy keeps a six hour wait, the wife should change to waiting six hours.

Here's some more explanation: One may not eat dairy at the same meal as having eaten meat (or meat, after having eaten aged hard cheese) The Rambam and Shulchan Arukh therefore require waiting 6 hours after meat, as this is the standard time between meals. This is also the position of the Rema, the Maharshal, the Taz, and the Shach -- the greatest names from the period when East European halachic norms were set. Actually, the Rambam more precisely says to wait for the 6th hour, and so some only wait 5 hours and some minutes, not the full 6 hours.

The German custom is to wait 3 hours. Perhaps that's because they used to have a mid-afternoon snack, much like British high tea. It's simply a different tradition about what "between meals" means. Of course, the expression could also mean simply clearing the table and setting up with dairy dishes. But the Zohar explains that Kabbalisticly, not waiting an hour can be damaging to the soul. So, : if a boy who : keeps three hours marries a girl who keeps one hour, the custom is that he : adopt the one hour wait of his wife. However, if, the boy keeps a six hour : wait, the wife should change to waiting six hours. If you live in a location which has a single custom, one follows that community's custom. Otherwise, all customs follow patrilineally. Therefore, when a couple gets married, she takes on her customs. This is just one of them.

One contributor notes that some Dutch Orthodox Jews actually quickly bentched (said blessings) after the meat course on Friday night, entertained his group for one hour, and then served a dairy dessert after asking if anyone objected and being answered in the negative.

The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

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