Friday, February 01, 2008

I Am Crazy Frum... Because I Wait 3 Hours

Expect an explanatory halakhic discourse when I return from spending Shabbos in the fabled mile-high (but incredibly flat) city of Denver, Colorado.

Denver's a nice place... if you're a yeti.

Or even if you're the Goblin King.

Have a good Shabbos!

Anybody seen Amishav?

Sorry I haven't updated this post since I got back... been preoccupied with the end of the year of mourning for my father. I hope to reveal the halakhic punchline some time this week.

Sorry it took so long to get back to this, I've been unusually busy and bombarded with RL stuff lately.

Anyway, here's the scoop, in the spirit of Purim Qatan and venahafokh hu’ (everything getting turned upside down)...

In the Babylonian Talmud, masekhet Hhulin 105a, Mar ‘Uqba makes the following statement:
When it comes to this issue [waiting after meat before dairy], I am like vinegar made from wine compared to my father. If my father were to eat meat now, he wouldn't eat cheese until this time tomorrow; but me, it's just within this [meat] meal that I don't eat [cheese] — but I eat it at the next/other meal.

This is the basic source for waiting after eating meat before eating dairy, and there are two schools of interpretation and application:

Rambam, in Mishneh Torah, book of Qedusha, Laws of Forbidden Foods 9:28, says:
One who ate meat first — whether that of a land-animal or a bird — may not eat milk afterwards, until there will have passed the amount of time for another meal, which is about six hours...

The Tosafot, commenting on Mar ‘Uqba's statement, say:
But I eat it at the next/other meal
Not [necessarily] at the next regular meal, one in the morning and one in the evening —
even immediately, if one clears away the table and says the Blessing [After Eating], it is permissible...

So basically, there are two opinions — when Mar ‘Uqba says that he "waits until the next meal" before eating dairy after meat, R' Moshe ben Maimon claims that this is a quantitative measurement of time between the morning meal and the evening meal, “about six hours”. The Ba‘aley Hatosafot, on the other hand, explicitly reject that view, claiming that "until the next meal" means exactly that — until the next meal, whenever that occurs (even immediately!).

Now things get a little tricky.

R' Moshe Isserles, in his mapa ("tablecloth") to R' Yoseif Karo's Shulhhan ‘Arukh ("set table"), testifies that the common custom in his part of the world, i.e. Ashkenaz, particularly Poland, is to wait one hour. In his more detailed Darkhey Moshe, though, he quotes the Hagahot Sha‘arey Dura:
Many people are accustomed to act more leniently [than the Rambam's requirement], and make a compromise of their own invention, waiting one hour after a meat meal. They clear off, bentsh, and then they eat cheese even though we have found no reason or hint for this time limit [in any authoritative work]... Anyway, who could stop them, since after all the Tosafot and the Ra’avya (R' Eli‘ezer ben Yo’eil Haleivi) allow [to not wait at all]!

Now, what about waiting 3 hours?

The source of this custom is unclear, but it very likely may be a further development of a compromise between the Tosafistic and Maimonidean lines of reasoning — waiting the length of time from one meal to the next, but not necessarily between the big morning meal and the big evening meal; just from lunch to afternoon tea, for instance, according to the culture of various Ashkenazic countries.

So let's add it all up.

Why do I claim that waiting 3 hours makes me crazy frum, frummer than almost everyone else?

There are two opinions: Rambam and Tosafot.

If you wait 5, 5h1m, 5½, or 6 hours, you're holding like the Rambam.

If you wait 3 or 4 hours, on the other hand, you're basically holding by Tosafot. But Tosafot don't care if you wait at all, just that you clean out your mouth and your eating area and start a new meal! So you're holding by Tosafot... and then being mahhmir and following the baseless stringency of the common folk of Ashkenaz to not just clean up and clear off, but to wait as well. And not only are you waiting (at all, for no reason!) — you're waiting until the amount of time passes for the next naturally occurring meal instead of artificially jumping the cultural gun and starting a new halakhic meal before it's actually time to eat. Waiting 3 or 4 hours is holding like Tosafot plus two levels of hhumra — that's much frummer than simply holding like the Rambam!


The halakhic analysis in this post is serious;
the tone of discussion is meant for entertainment only.


Blogger J. "יהוא בן יהושפט בן נמשי" Izrael said...


2/02/2008 9:03 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

You sure you're not a Dutch Jew?

2/04/2008 9:13 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

Although, as dairy is easier to digest, for the stomach's sake one hour would be enough. But on the other hand, the residue on the teeth last longer than for meat.... brush teeth and have some unsweetened black tea while waiting.

I wonder if this is why 'digestive biscuits' were invented? An early English frummer?

2/04/2008 9:19 PM  
Blogger Phillip Minden said...

Nice theory, if only they weren't commonly partaken of with cheddar.

In fact, it's a very good theory otherwise: it combines the tooth and the stomach/taste shittôs, because the hard biscuits both brush your teeth and it takes between one and six hours to eat one, at the end of which time you won't have any taste left in your mouth of anything.

2/05/2008 8:35 AM  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...

Waiting for 3 hours after sunset for Shabbat to be over does indeed make you ultra frum. :>)

2/05/2008 3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This post is now delicious. Thanks for completing it.

2/20/2008 5:47 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

you're welcome. but that joke leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

2/20/2008 5:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also keep three hours. I had no idea my family was so machmir.

The real reason I'm commenting is the distinction you make between a "halakhic meal" and a "naturally occuring meal". This sounds like something worth remembering. Next time someone challenges me about a between-meals snack, I can say, "This may not be a naturally occuring meal, but by saying a bracha before and afterwards, I'm turning it into a legitimate halakhic meal." If nothing else, I'm machmir about not starving to death.

2/20/2008 11:22 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I had no idea my family was so machmir

yeah, me neither!
that was the great thing about learning this topic — instead of feeling defensive about having a minhag that's a baseless leniency, when 6-hour-wait'ers diss my people, now i can go on the attack and show them how it's actually two levels of baseless stringency. :-)

2/20/2008 11:37 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

the back of the hill:

naaa, if i were Dutch i would only be following 1 level of hhumra and waiting 1 hour, instead of being super-mahhmir and waiting 3 hours ;-)

2/20/2008 11:39 PM  
Blogger ADDeRabbi said...

So waiting 3 hours in Denver makes you a yeti yeki?

2/21/2008 12:17 AM  
Blogger Alan said...

I had heard a different theory that 3 hours was a makeil opinion of 6. Basically, the person who told it to me said that 6 hours was between meals in many parts of the world-- but in northern Europe in the winter, when people wanted to eat dinner before it was dark, it would be about 3 hours between the end of the midday meal and the early evening meal.

2/21/2008 1:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

another way of looking at is that 450 years ago, you were crazy frum(depending on where you live in the world) nowadays, with the exception of washington heights, paramus, and certain other communities, you are at worse in gross violation of lo tisgodidu and at best just being privately poreish min ha'tzibbur. hmmmmmm cheddar cheese.Brad

2/25/2008 1:02 PM  

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