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Meat & Milk

Meat & Milk

Parshat Mishpatim

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One of the important aspects of observing kosher is keeping milk and meat properly separated. This prohibition is derived from the verse, "Do not cook a kid in its mother's milk." This verse appears in the Torah three times, twice in Exodus1 and once in Deuteronomy.2 The Sages3 explain that the repetition of the verse teaches us that it is not only forbidden to cook meat and milk together, but it's also forbidden to then eat or derive benefit from the mixture.

The Hebrew word g'di (kid goat) is understood to mean any young domestic animal—not only a kid goat.4 In fact, the Torah forbids the cooking, eating and benefit of the meat of any kosher domesticated animal, in any kosher milk. The Torah simply gives an example of a "kid in its mother's milk" because that was common practice in ancient times.5

The Reason

The Torah forbids the cooking and consumption of any milk with any meat Several reasons have been suggested for this mitzvah. Some argue that it is cruel to cook a baby in the very milk that was intended to nourish it. The Torah forbids the cooking and consumption of any milk with any meat to prevent one from cooking a kid in its mother's milk.6

Others suggest that the reason for this mitzvah is health related.7

Maimonides8 asserts that an ancient pagan ritual which involved the cooking and consumption of meat and milk is the source of the prohibition. (Seforno9 suggests that the purpose of this practice was to elicit a blessing for plentiful crops or flocks.) The mitzvah of not cooking milk and meat together distances the Jewish people from this idolatrous behavior.

Yet others cite Kabalistic sources which explain that meat represents gevurah (the Divine attribute of Judgment) and milk represents chesed (the Divine attribute of Kindness). These two opposing characteristics are not to be mixed with each other.10

In any event, it is clear that the main reason for this mitzvah is beyond comprehension. Hence, it is referred to as a chok—a statute that we fulfill simply because it is the will of G‑d, although we don't understand it.11

Rabbinic Laws

Since the Torah is somewhat vague in defining the parameters of this mitzvah, the rabbis felt it necessary to safeguard it by adding further restrictions. They felt that without these additional prohibitions, people would mistakenly think that it is only forbidden to actually cook a baby goat in its mother's milk.12

The following prohibitions were added by the rabbis:

  • Torah law only prohibits the cooking (and eating) of the meat of a domesticated animal in milk. The rabbis added that one may also not cook (or eat) the meat of a kosher wild animal or bird with milk.13
  • Torah Law only prohibits the consumption of meat that was cooked with milk. The rabbis added that one may not eat meat and milk together even if they were not cooked together.14
  • In addition, the rabbis instituted that one must wait a certain amount of time between eating meat and milk.15
  • The rabbis also decreed that two acquaintances may not share a table if one is eating dairy products and the other is eating meat products.16

Waiting Between Meat & Milk

With the passing of six hours, however, the taste dissipatesThe Talmud tells us that after eating meat, Mar Ukvah would wait until the next meal before eating dairy products.17 Most commentaries understand this to mean that he would wait six hours. This is because the rabbis in those days would eat their morning meals around midday,18 so this was the average amount of time between the morning meal and the evening meal.19 There are minority opinions that hold that it's sufficient to wait one hour20 or three hours.21 If one belongs to a community that follows those opinions, he may rely on those leniencies. Otherwise, one should wait a full six hours.22

In any case, one may not eat milk after meat in the same meal, even many hours later.23

Why Wait?

The reason for waiting six hours is twofold. Firstly, because meat is fatty, the taste may linger in one's mouth for a long time. With the passing of six hours, however, the taste dissipates.24 Secondly, if meat gets stuck between one's teeth, it retains its halachic "meat" status for up to six hours.25 After six hours, it is no longer considered meat. (In practice, however, if one finds meat stuck between one's teeth after six hours, one should remove it before eating dairy products.26)

These two reasons serve as the basis for the following law: One who chews meat and then spits it out must wait six hours before eating dairy products27; one who drinks a clear broth of chicken or meat must also wait six hours28; however, one who tastes a clear broth and then spits it out need not wait six hours.29

Additional Laws

  • It is customary that one who eats a dish that was cooked with meat also wait six hours before partaking of dairy foods.30
  • One who ate pareve food (food that is neither dairy nor meat) that was cooked in a meaty pot need not wait six hours, even if the pot wasn't completely clean.31
  • One may not eat meat and milk products on the same tablecloth unless it was washed in the interim.32
  • Pieces of bread that were on the table during a meat meal shouldn't be consumed with dairy products, and visa versa.33

For Children

Very young children do not need to wait between eating meat and milk. However, it is best to feed them something else in between.34 For children from age three to five it is sufficient to wait one hour between consumption of meat and milk.35

Generally, children age six and older should wait six hours between consumption of meat and milk. If necessary, for children up to age nine, one may be lenient and wait just one hour.36

Between Milk & Meat

It's sufficient if one eats or drinks something else in order to cleanse the mouth of any residual dairy foodsSince the taste of dairy products is not as strong and pieces of dairy food do not generally get stuck in one's mouth, it's not necessary to wait as long after eating a dairy product before eating meat. According to the Talmud,37 it's sufficient if one eats or drinks something else in order to cleanse the mouth of any residual dairy foods. The food may be any type of food besides flour, dates, or vegetables, which don't clean the mouth sufficiently.38

The Zohar39 states that one should not eat milk and meat in the same hour. For this reason, it is the Chabad custom to refrain from eating meat for a full hour after eating dairy. One who does this need not eat or drink something else in between.40 Many other communities have a custom of waiting only a half hour before eating meat. They understand that word sha'ah in the Zohar to mean a time period, not a literal hour.

Some authorities add that one may not eat meat following dairy products in the same meal,41 while others disagree.42

Hard Cheese

The Maharam (Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg, 1215-1293) once found a piece of cheese in his teeth several hours after eating cheese. Subsequently, he would wait six hours after eating cheese before eating meat. It is proper for Ashkenazim to follow this stringency and wait six hours after eating hard cheese before eating meat.43 However, this only applies to cheese that was aged44 or that has a very strong taste.45 Two examples of this are Swiss cheese and Parmesan cheese.

Sharing a Table with an Acquaintance

As mentioned above, two acquaintances may not share a table if one is eating dairy products and the other is eating meat products – even if the two would not normally share food46 – unless they set up a reminder to ensure that they will not share food from each other's plates. The reminder may be an object placed on the table which is not usually there, or a placemat under the plate of one and/or the other, if this is unusual.47


23:19 and 34:26.




Talmud, Chullin 115b; Rashi on the verse in Exodus, ibid.


Chullin 113b; Rashi ibid.


Ibn Ezra on Exodus, ibid.


Rashbam on Exodus, ibid.; Ramban on Deuteronomy 14:21. See Likutei Sichot vol. 6, pg. 150-151.


Rabeinu Bachaye on Exodus 23:19.


Moreh Nevuchim, vol. III, 48.


On Exodus, ibid.


See Rabeinu Bachaye ibid.; Zohar Parshat Mishpatim 125a.


Rabeinu Bachaye, ibid.


Maimonides, Laws of Forbidden Foods 9:4.


Talmud, ibid., 113a; Code of Jewish Law, Yoreh Deah 87:3.


Code of Jewish Law, ibid., 1; 89:1.




Talmud, ibid., 107b; Code of Jewish Law, ibid., 88.


Talmud, ibid., 105a.


Talmud, Shabbat 10a.


Maimonides, ibid., 28; Rif on Chullin, ibid.


Rama on Yoreh Deah, ibid., based on Tosafot d.h. Leseudata Chullin 105a. The Shach explains that although according to the Tosafot it was only necessary to end the current meal and begin the next, the custom was to wait an hour in addition to this. This may be related to the Zohar quoted below.


See sources quoted in Darkei Teshuvah 89:6. The basis of this opinion is the Talmud which states that Mar Ukva would wait from one meal to the next between eating meat and milk. On short winter days in the ancient Middle East, only three hours separated between the meals. If three hours was sufficient during the winter, the same should hold true for the rest of the year.


Aruch HaShulchan, Yoreh Deah 89:7.


Code of Jewish Law, ibid., 89:1; Shach 5.


Rashi d.h. Assur Chullin 105a.


Maimonides, ibid.


Taz 89:1.






See Badei HaShulchan 89:38.


Rama on Yoreh Deah 89:3.


Ibid.; Shach 19.


Code of Jewish Law, ibid., 89:4.




Badei HaShulchan 89:37 and Tziyunim 61.


I heard this from Rabbi Moshe Shaul Klein of B'nei Berak.


See Badei HaShulchan, ibid.


Talmud, Chullin 105a.


Code of Jewish Law, ibid., 4.


Parshat Mishpatim 125a.


Sha'arei Halacha U'Minhag vol. 3, pg. 38.


Minchat Ya'akov 76:5.


Magen Avraham 494:6.


Rama 89:2.


Shach 89:15.


Taz 89:4.


Shach 88:5.


Code of Jewish Law, ibid., 88:2.

Rabbi Aryeh Citron was educated in Chabad yeshivahs in Los Angeles, New York, Israel and Australia. He was the Rosh Kollel of The Shul of Bal Harbour, Florida, and is now an adult Torah teacher in Surfside, Florida. He teaches classes on Talmud, Chassidism, Jewish history and contemporary Jewish law.
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Discussion (16)
July 14, 2016
Abraham and the angels
Abraham indeed did bring cream and milk as well as a calf and gave them to the angels that were visiting him.
This seems to transgress the laws of not mixing meat and milk.
There are several explanations for this question. Here are two of them.
1) Abraham served these items and his guests could choose to eat them or not. Angels are not men and need not observe the Torah. Even if at that time, Abraham thought they were men, they were certainly not Jewish men and did not have to observe this law. (In fact, even for Abraham, observing the Torah at that time was voluntary and not mandatory.)
2) Abraham served the dairy products first and, after some other food and drink to cleanse the palate, he served the meat. This is permissible by Jewish law. (Some wait a half hour or an hour but this is a custom and not a law.)
Aryeh Citron
July 13, 2016
Genesis 18:8?
Abram had meat and dairy presented to his LORD and the two angels, and they ate it. How would this fit in to following Kosher practices? Thanks.
July 6, 2016
This obviously means do not condemn your fellow man over failures to adhere to the law that was intended to nourish him. Had nothing to do with consuming a cheeseburger.
April 19, 2016
its not leniencies
i wouldn't call waiting less then 6 hours a leniencies
as that time was set according to what you said between one major meal and the next
in other countries people have people eat a hardy breakfast and a big lunch and a small dinner the time elapsed there is 3 hours... yet i don't understand yet why 1 hour i know yekes do it.. i will look into it if some one knows here please do tell
March 1, 2016
To Anonymous
Indeed that is mentioned in the article. Staff
February 27, 2016
Milk and Meat separation
Jews in different areas of world wait different times. I think in England they wait 4 hours between meat and milk and in Holland they wait 3hourss
February 7, 2016
Soy milk and cheese
One may mix meat with soy milk and cheese. But should not do so in such a way that it will appear to those around them that they are eating a forbidden mixture.
Aryeh Citron
February 7, 2016
What about soy-cheese pizza? Or cosnuming meat with soy-milk, since the soy-milk is derived from vegetable source?
February 27, 2015
Great, great article! Thanks for posting!
August 19, 2014
To: Anonymous
The key here is your use of the word "adding." The rabbi's didn't "add" anything, they simply taught what had been passed on from Moses, and transmitted from generation to generation. They also found an allusion for it in the Torah.
Eliezer Zalmanov