In this week’s parshah, Parshas Mishpatim, we find the first of the three times that the Torah mentions the prohibition of bossor becholov, mixing milk and meat. The Gemara teaches us from the fact that this proscription is mentioned three separate times1 that there are really three separate Biblical prohibitions2 involved: cooking, eating, and deriving benefit from this forbidden mixture.3 Rabbinically, even eating chicken and milk together is prohibited.4 Due to the nature and potential for possible mix-ups, Chazal made several other takkanos5 to ensure that “ne’er the twain shall meet,” including not having people eating both meat and milk at the same time at the same table,6 the waiting period mandated after eating meat,7 and the rinsing, washing, and palate cleansing required after eating milk products.8
Although Chazal only mentioned waiting after meat,9 this article sets out to address and focus its converse case: hard cheese, the one dairy item that requires a similar six-hour wait after consumption.
A Cheesy History
This prohibition, although not mentioned in the Gemara, nevertheless dates back to the days of one of the greatest of the Rishonim, the Maharam MiRottenberg (Shu”t Maharam M’Rottenberg 615).10 It seems that a while after he ate a piece of hard cheese, he reported that he still felt the residue of the cheese in his mouth. He concluded that hard cheese shares similar properties with meat, and therefore maintained that is proper to wait a corresponding amount of time after eating such cheese before partaking in a meat meal, as one normally would between meat and dairy.
Although some authorities, including the Maharshal (Chullin, Ch. 8:6; the Maharshal was extremely adamant that no one else has to wait due to the Maharam’s personal account), felt that the Maharam only mandated this for himself as a personal stringency, nevertheless, most decisors understood that the Maharam was introducing a new halachah, meant for all of Klal Yisroel.11 In fact, this is how the Rama rules (Yoreh Deah 89, end 2) and virtually all later authorities12 say that it is appropriate to wait a commensurate amount of time after eating hard cheese as one would wait after eating meat.13 However, it is important to note that the Rama himself qualifies that this halachah is intrinsically a chumrah, and concludes that “one may not yell at anyone who does not follow it.”14
Defining Hard Cheese
So, what exactly constitutes “hard cheese” and thus necessitates a waiting period? As with many other halachic issues, this is debated by the authorities. The accepted conclusion is that if one’s cheese fits into one or more of the following categories, it would be considered “hard cheese” and thus require a full waiting period:
It is aged at least six months15 (Parmesan would usually fit this category).
It is “holey”16 as a result of production.
It is an extremely fatty and greasy cheese17 (making the taste linger much longer).
It is very strong and sharp18 (Limburger would be a good example of this).
Any cheese that does not meet at least one of these requirements, for all intents and purposes, is considered soft cheese and would only require rinsing and cleaning of the mouth and hands before eating meat. This is the halachically mandated three-step process of kinuach – palate cleansing by eating a hard food item (ex. cracker), rechitzah – hand washing, and hadachah – rinsing out of the mouth (Yoreh Deah 89:2).
There are also those who follow the standard understanding of the Zohar (Parshas Mishpatim, pg. 125:1, cited in Biur HaGr”a, Yoreh Deah 89:11) and wait one hour after eating any dairy product.19 Others customarily wait a half-hour, even though there is no actual specific known source for this. There are different rationales offered to explain this, most based on the Talmudic dictum of “mipalga karov karu lay – from halfway is already considered close,”20 meaning that by waiting at least a half hour, it is as if one waited an hour. Additionally, there are those who are also strict with reciting Birkas Hamazon between a dairy meal and a meat meal. There is a tremendous dispute among halachic authorities as to whether Birkas Hamazon is required after eating dairy foods before being allowed to eat meat. However, everyone agrees that it is indeed required if one ate actual hard cheese.21
American and Yellow Cheese
The standard everyday cheeses used for grilled cheese, cheese toasts, pizza, etc. (American, Yerushalayim, Mozzarella, Achuza, Gush Chalav, etc.) would not seem to fit any of the above criteria and would not require a waiting period. In fact, the majority of contemporary authorities, including Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l, the Chazon Ish zt”l, Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin zt”l, and Rav Moshe Feinstein zt”l,22 rule that they are not considered halachic hard cheese. Rav Aharon related that most people nowadays do not know what real hard cheese is – a cheese that needs a “rib – eisen” (sharp grater) to cut off pieces. This would exclude our common cheeses, which can easily be pulled apart with our bare hands.23
But if it’s so simple, why are there people who claim that one must wait after eating any sort of semi-hard cheese? Some even take this a step further and assert that it is minhag Eretz Yisroel to wait a full six hours after eating pizza. What is the basis for such a position?
Minhag Eretz Yisroel?
The answer is based on a few enigmatic statements and responsa by several contemporary gedolei Eretz Yisroel: Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt”l, Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l and Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner zt”l.
Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach is quoted as ruling that one must wait the “full count” after eating the Israeli “Yellow Cheese” (Yerushalayim, Achuza, Gush Chalav, etc.). Rav Elyashiv and Rav Wosner both wrote responsa asserting similarly that although not fitting the “hard cheese” criteria established by earlier authorities, nevertheless, one should still wait after these cheeses. Following their lead, several other authorities rule stringently as well.24 Consequently, many people, especially in Eretz Yisroel, maintain that one should wait after eating these cheeses.
However, if one would properly and thoroughly analyze the actual responsae of these gedolim, he might conclude rather differently…
To be continued…
This article was adapted from a comprehensive Hebrew edition, published in Kovetz Ohr Yisrael (vol. 62, Nissan 5771). To obtain a copy of that full version, with its extensive sources and footnotes, or for any questions, comments or the full sources, email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Rabbi Spitz serves as the sho’el umeishiv and rosh chaburah of the Ohr Lagolah Halacha Kollel at Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Yerushalayim.
1 “Lo sevashel gedi bachaleiv imo,” Parshas Mishpatim 23:19, Parshas Ki Sisa 34:26, and Parshas Re’eh 14:21.
2 There is, however, some debate as to how many of the 613 mitzvos this prohibition counts as. The Rambam (Sefer Hamitzvos, Lo Sa’aseh 186 and 187) and the Sefer Hachinuch (mitzvah 92 and 113) count it only as two mitzvos. The Tashbatz (Zohar Rakia, Azharos Harashbag 197 – 200), however, counts it as three full separate mitzvos, while the Beha”g (Lavin 58) counts it as only one mitzvah. See Rav Yitzchok Aharon Kramer’s recent sefer Arichas Hadaas (on Hilchos Bossor Becholov and Taaruvos, Ch. 1, footnote 4).
3 Chullin (115b) ‘Tanna Devei Rabi Yishmoel” as the Biblical source for this prohibition. See Rashi’s commentary to Mishpatim ibid. (end s.v. lo sevashel) and Tur / Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 87:1). The Baal Haturim, in his commentary to Devorim ibid. (s.v. lo sevashel) cites proof to this source, as the gematria of the words “lo sevashel” (do not cook) equals that of the words “issur achilah ubishul vehanaah” (prohibited for eating and cooking and deriving benefit) = 763.
4 Tur and Shulchan Aruch (ibid.). The Rambam (Hilchos Mamrim 2:9) goes as far as to say that anyone who claims that a chicken and milk mixture is Biblically prohibited violates the Biblical commandment of bal tosif. This is the halachah (following the Rambam, Rif and Rosh’s understanding of the Mishnah in Chullin 113a) and not like the Rashal (Yam Shel Shlomo, Chullin 8:100) and Bach (Yoreh Deah 87: 2) who hold like Tosafos’ (Chullin 113a s.v. basar) understanding of the Mishna; see also Shach (ad loc. 4).
5 Gemara Chullin (114b). Rashi (ad loc. s.v. aval hacha) understands this to mean that it is all considered one gezaira; however the Taz (Yoreh Deah 88:1) seemingly understands that this case is an exception and posits that Chazal actually made a gezeirah l’gezeirah. See Pri Megadim (ad loc. Mishbetzos Zahav 1, based on Lechem Mishnah, Hilchos Maachalos Asuros 9:20 and Knesses Hagedolah, Yoreh Deah 88, Hagahos HaTur 3), Chochmas Adam (40:11), Yad Avrohom (ad loc.) and Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 3).
6 Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 88:1-2), based on Mishnah and Gemara Chullin (103b-104a and 107b).
7 Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 89), based on Gemara Chullin (105).
8 Tur and Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 89), based on Gemara Chullin (105). Halachic issues related to the mandated kinuach, rechitzah and hadachah after consumption of milk products were addressed at length in a previous article titled “The Halachic Power of a Diyuk” (Yated Ne’eman, 24 Shevat 5775 | February 13, 2015).
9 The various rationales, shittos and minhagim of waiting after meat were explained at length in a previous article titled “Weighty Waiting Options” (Yated Ne’eman, 15 Sivan 5774 | June 13, 2014).
10 This also cited by the Mordechai (Chullin 627) and the Hagahos Ashri (glosses to the Rosh to Chullin 105). On a historical side note, the Maharam M’Rottenberg was niftar in captivity after being unjustly imprisoned in order to force the resident Jews to pay an exorbitant ransom to fill the emperor’s depleted coffers. The Maharam refused to allow himself to be ransomed, fearing that it would set a dangerous precedent of rulers holding rabbis captive and forcing the unfortunate Jews to pay the price. Indeed, a short while after his passing, the emperor attempted to do the same for the Maharam’s prized pupil, the Rosh, who only narrowly avoided capture, escaping to Spain.
11 Issur V’hetter (40:8 s.v. vay), Bais Yosef (Orach Chaim 173 s.v. veyeish machmirim), Darchei Moshe (Yoreh Deah 89:2), Shach (ad loc. 17).
12 Including the Shach (Yoreh Deah 89:15), Taz (ad loc. 4), Pri Chodosh (ad loc. 16), Levush (ad loc. 2), Pri Megadim (ad loc. Mishbetzos Zahav 4 and Sifsei Daas 15 and 16), Machatzis Hashekel (ad loc. 15), Chochmas Adam (40: 13), Yad Yehuda (Yoreh Deah 89, Pirush HaKatzar 26), Chida (Shiyurei Bracha ad loc. 13), Atzei HaOlah (Bossor Becholov Ch. 3: 16), Chaguras Shmuel (Yoreh Deah 89: 18), Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (46: 11), Zivchei Tzedek (Yoreh Deah 89: 27), Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 11), Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chaim 494, Shaar HaTziyun 15), and Kaf Hachaim (Yoreh Deah 89: 46 and 47).
13 Since the whole waiting period after hard cheese is based on the waiting period after meat, one may not wait less time after eating meat than he would after eating hard cheese – Shach (Yoreh Deah 89: 17).
14 There are several halachic dispensations due to this. See for example, Maadanei Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 89, Matamei Hashulchan 11).
15 Issur V’Hetter, Shach, Pri Chodosh, Pri Megadim, Machatzis Hashekel, Chaguras Shmuel (ibid.), Ben Ish Chai (Year 2, Parshas Shlach 15). See Shu”t Shulchan Halevi (vol. 1, Ch. 25 , s.v. ubi’ir).
16 Issur V’Hetter, Taz, Pri Megadim, Atzei Ha’olah, Zivchei Tzedek, Kaf Hachaim (ibid.), Chasam Sofer (gloss to the Taz).
17 Aruch Hashulchan (ibid.).
18 Taz, Pri Megadim, Chaguras Shmuel, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (ibid.), However, see Chasam Sofer, Atzei Ha’olah, and Yad Yehuda (ibid.).
19 The Zohar writes that everyone should wait between dairy and meat meals “one meal or one hour.” Although there are many interpretations offered for this enigmatic remark, the most common one is that “one hour” is referring to mandating a waiting period of one hour even after eating dairy. Several authorities, including the Pri Chodosh, actually rule like this, and the Shulchan Aruch himself, in his Bais Yosef commentary, implies this way as well. Yet, when it came down to the practical ruling, the Shulchan Aruch did not mandate following the Zohar’s view. Other authorities who rule this way include the Pri Toar (ibid.), Shulchan Hatahor (Orach Chaim 173: 2), and Shu”t Kol Gadol (64). See also the Chida’s Shiyurei Bracha (Yoreh Deah 89:13) and Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 2:390), who cite waiting an hour as a proper minhag. Yet, several authorities, including the Pri Chodosh, Pri Toar, Ya’avetz (Mor Uketziah, end Orach Chaim 173) and Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 89:11) qualify this ruling that the one hour waiting period does not apply before eating fowl.
20 Gemara Kiddushin (12a). There are many authorities who apply that klal to waiting a half hour after eating milchigs. See Matteh Reuven (186), Shu”t Maharshag (vol. 1, Yoreh Deah 13, s.v. amnam), Shu”t Divrei Chachamim (Yoreh Deah 1: 3, quoting Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l), Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos (vol. 2:390), Shu”t Shraga Hameir (vol. 7:105, 2), Netei Gavriel (Shavuos Ch. 31: 5), Shu”t Maadanei Melachim (85:3), Shu”t Mishneh Halachos (vol. 10: 135), Halichos Shlomo (Moadim vol. 2, Ch. 12, footnote 49), Kovetz M’Bais Levi (on Yoreh Deah, pg. 35:15), and sefer Minhag Yisroel Torah (Orach Chaim vol. 3, 494:8, s.v. vehinei).
21 The Magein Avrohom (Orach Chaim 494:6) rules that unless one ate hard cheese, which would require a full six-hour wait, one need not have the dairy dishes and following meat dishes as separate meals. Thus, no bentching is required. Many authorities follow the Magein Avrohom’s ruling and do not require Birkas Hamazon between a dairy and a meat meal. However, many other decisors, including the Shiyurei Knesses Hagedolah (ad loc. 3, cited in Darchei Teshuvah, Yoreh Deah 89:14), and Shela (Shavuos, Ner Mitzvah, 8), disagree and mandate bentching. The Be’er Mayim Chaim (Parshas Vayera 18:8, cited in Pischei Teshuvah vol. 3, 287:1) even maintains that the Magen Avrohom’s opinion must have been a printing mistake and that certainly one may not eat milk and meat as part of the same meal. To add another wrinkle, anyone who follows the Zohar’s view of waiting even after dairy would undoubtedly require Birkas Hamazon as well, as he maintains a higher degree of separation. Others ardently defend the Magen Avrohom’s position and refer to this bentching as a “chumrah yeseirah.” Additionally, if it were truly a printing mistake, the Magen Avrohom’s son in law, Rav Moshe Yekusiel Kaufman Cohen, would have corrected it in his comprehensive sefer on halacha and minhag, Chukei Chaim. Yet, instead, he rules exactly as his father-in-law did (Ois Shin, 2, Dinei Chag HaShavuos, pg. 112a) “d’eino tzarich lehafsik b’Birkas Hamazon im aino ochel gevina kasheh veyizaher likach mapah acheres.” This is also the final ruling of the Aruch Hashulchan (Yoreh Deah 89:9) and Mishnah Berurah (Orach Chaim 494:15). The chumrah to bentch after milchigs is also noticeably absent from the Chochmas Adam, who only cites the lenient ikar din. Still, many later and contemporary authorities rule that one should bentch after milchigs if at all possible, even though it may not be required by the letter of the Law. This issue was addressed at length in a previous article titled “To Bentch or Not To Bentch (Between Milk and Meat)?” (Yated Ne’eman, 4 Sivan 5775 | May 22, 2015).
22 These gedolim include Rav Aharon Kotler (cited in Kitzur Shulchan Aruch – Pfeiffer, on Bossor Becholov, vol. 1, Kuntress Habiurim pg. 138), the Chazon Ish (Orchos Rabbeinu, vol. 3, pg. 77:34, and Maaseh Ish, vol. 5, pg. 22; he holds that the cheese must be aged for a full year to be considered hard cheese; for a possible explanation, see Shu”t Maadanei Melachim 87 and 88), Rav Yosef Eliyahu Henkin (printed in the forthcoming Shu”t Gevuros Eliyahu, vol. 2, Yoreh Deah 13; he holds one only needs to wait one hour), Rav Moshe Feinstein (cited in Shu”t Mishneh Halachos, vol. 16:9), the Be’er Moshe (Pischei Halacha on Hilchos Kashrus, pg. 108), Rav Yisroel Yaakov Fischer (Shu”t Even Yisroel, vol. 9:68), Rav Moshe Halberstam (cited in Shu”t Shav Verafa, vol. 2:26), Rav Bentzion Abba-Shaul (cited in Sefer Hakashrus, Ch. 10, footnote 122; he holds that one only needs to wait one hour), Rav Chaim Pinchos Scheinberg (cited in Shu”t Shav Verafa, vol. 2:26, but maintains that this hetter is “bedieved”), Rav Chaim Kanievsky (cited in sefer Nezer Chaim, Devorim Nochachim 124), Rav Ovadiah Yosef (Shu”t Yabia Omer, vol. 6, Yoreh Deah 7:4, and Shu”t Yechaveh Daas, vol. 3:58; he maintains that the whole din is essentially a chumrah), the Rivevos Efraim (cited in sefer Yigal Yaakov, footnote 247), Rav Chaim Yisroel Halevi Belsky zt”l (Shu”t Shulchan HaLevi, vol. 1, Ch. 22:1), Rav Asher Weiss (Minchas Asher al HaTorah, Shemos 61:2), and Rav Dovid Feinstein (cited in Shu”t Vedibarta Bam 212, pg. 561, s.v. veshamaati) .
23 See Megillas Sefer (on Bossor Becholov 89:5, s.v. uvagvinos) who proves this from Gemara Shabbos 121b.
24 Including the Maadanei Hashulchan (89:30 and Shu”t Maadanei Melachim 89 and 90), the Mishneh Halachos (Shu”t vol. 16:9), the Mishnas Yosef (Shu”t vol. 9:184), and the Avnei Yashpei (Shu”t vol. 6, 112:2), all of whom say that they follow the p’sak and rationales of these gedolim to rule stringently with “yellow cheese.” The Minchas Yitzchok was also quoted as saying “yeish makom lehachmir” (cited in Shu”t Teshuvos V’Hanhagos, vol. 2:388).