Thursday, February 2, 2012

How to Choose a Waiting Time Between Meat and Milk

In short: Just pick one.

Your options:
A full 6 hours
5 hours and one minute
3 hours
1 hour (Almost no one does this, and you better be able to say you're Dutch or in a Dutch community. I have a Dutch name, I really should have considered this option.)

I believe there is one or two other options, but these are the primary contenders.

Most people seem to choose 3 hours or the full 6 hours. The most common reasons are 
1) What your community does.
2) Your personal preference.
3) Your significant other's custom.
4) Your beit din may "force" you to choose 6 hours. I know of at least one who does, but others who "strongly encourage" it. 

All of these are acceptable reasons to choose a waiting time. Personally, I chose 3 hours. I liked it better, and at the time, I had a medical recommendation that I needed to eat a small meal every 3-4 hours. In retrospect, I'm very glad to have this as my custom.

If you're considering basing your custom on a significant other, remember a few things:
A) That significant other might not be there in the near future. This is very common.
B) Then you'll be stuck with your custom, even if it's not what you would have chosen.
C) Many rabbis, if asked, do not require women to adopt all the minhagim of their husbands, including this one. It can be helpful to shalom bayis when raising kids if both parents have the same waiting time, but at the end of the day, it's a personal custom. Traditionally, women were required to adopt the custom of their husbands, but that seems to be changing today (in the mitzvot that are "personal" and technically don't affect the husband). Note that if your health requires a meal every 3-4 hours, that in itself may be enough for a heter for most rabbis. Of course, some will always insist that 6 hours is the only acceptable waiting period. You might want to know your rabbi before asking this question to see if you really want to ask the question.


  1. Michael keeps over 5 and a half hours. I may be wrong about this, but I believe this is because Rambam made a comment that it should be "about 6 hours" between, and this was either interpreted as just into the 6th hour (5h 1 min), more than halfway through the 6th hour (5 and a half), or 6 hours. A quick google search reveals Hilchot Ma’achalot Asurot 9:28 as the source, but I'm not super knowledgable about this.

  2. As soon as I found out about the Dutch waiting person of only being an hour, I was so happy to be of Dutch descent. I figured I was never ever going to be able to take the next step towards kashrut because of my love of chocolate and my inability to remember the last time I ate (30 min is the same as 24 hours to me, my doctor hates that as I'm supposed to eat regularly due to a medical condition). So much easier if I only have to wait an hour since then I really don't have to think about it. :)

  3. People think the Dutch keep an hour, actually the custom is 72 minutes. The 5 hours and a minute or 5 and a half hours custom is a recent reinterpretation of Rambam. Till now everyone understood Rambam as 6 hours, including the Shulchan Aruch. The 3 hours custom is an old custom from Germany (R. Yerucham).

  4. I have been waiting 4 hours but I can't remember why exactly. I was told many people only wait 3 hours so I'm thinking of swtiching. I don't eat meat much so it's not a big issue.

  5. Hey, as a Flemish person whose first language is Dutch, if/when I go fully kosher, I believe the Dutch custom will be fine with me ;).

  6. I converted through an Ashkenaz beis din of German origin, so my Rav told me 3 hours (even though he and his family kept 6), and for years that's what I kept, even after I got married to a man who keeps 5 hours for meat and 4 hours for chicken - because that is what his father kept...Now I live in a community that keeps 6 and I usually just go with the flow, but I have been known to fall back on either my husband's or my original time when the mealtime involves no one else...