A critical element of keeping Kosher is the separation of meat and dairy products. Based on the verse “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 23:19, 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21), we do not cook meat with milk, eat meat cooked with milk, or derive any benefit from such improperly mixed dishes.

Additionally, a waiting period is observed following consumption of meat before it is again permitted to eat or drink dairy. The customary length of that delay varies… to some extent based on one’s ancestral region of origin. Historic (and current) practices include one, three, and, commonly, six hours. Mar Ukba states that his father would wait a full day between meat and milk (Chullin 105A)!

Maimonides explains that the waiting period reflects concern that particles of meat may have become lodged in one’s teeth; Rashi similarly states that meat leaves a residue in one’s mouth: waiting before dairy prevents inadvertent, illicit mixing.

The temporary restriction placed on our diet after meat can also be understood as a principled period of heightened consciousness, through which meat eaters are reminded of the moral gravity of taking an animal’s life.

We elevate eating to a holy act… and we acknowledge the value of all living things…
…by watching our wait.

(Rabbi Joseph H. Prouser is the rabbi of Temple Emanuel of North Jersey and the National Chaplain of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting.)

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