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 23,19; Exodus 34,26; Deuteronomy 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!