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Ti ti ti timing

I know this is bothering me way more than it should. But it still is.

In our pre-Kosher days (or perhaps it’s more accurate to label them our “proto-kosher” days) we just focused on separating meat meals and milk meals. We didn’t change the dishes, we didn’t worry about utensils or containers. We simply avoided eating cheeseburgers, muenster-and-baloney sandwiches, or cheesey-beefy noodles.

Oh, and we steered clear of bacon-wrapped shrimp, of course.

Sounds simple, right?

Like most Jewish ideas, a seemingly simple idea can be totally bolloxed up by thinking about it too much.

It starts innocently: does “together” mean “on the same plate” or “on the same table”? If you go from one room with a cheese board to another room in the same house with lunchmeats, is that OK?

No, of course not. Because someone could be still savoring the flavor of a great piece of brie when they pop a delicate slice of brisket in your mouth and BOOM, you’ve mixed meat and milk. In your mouth.

(Side note: I used to do this all the time, but with chocolate milk. First you take a good long pull from the milk jug, leaving just a little room left over. Then you stick the end of the chocolate syrup bottle into your mouth and squeeze. Finally, shake your head vigorously until your vision blurs or you hear your neck snap. Then swallow. Everyone did that when they were kids, right?)

Ahem. Back to our discussion.

The Rabbis of Antiquity thought of that, of course (the cheese and meat thing, not the milk and chocolate syrup thing) and came up with a statement: don’t eat them together, and give your mouth time to clear itself of the previous food item.

For some Rabbis that meant either washing your mouth out or eating something that was neither milk or meat (a piece of bread fits the bill). Thus, they reasoned, you are pretty assured that bits of gouda aren’t still sticking around in your mouth when you start a bite of brisket.

Later on, Rashi was asked about time – like if you had a meat meal and didn’t eat bread, how long before you could start on a dairy dish? “Between meals” was the answer.

The problem was that “between meals” at that time was about 6 hours!

Skipping ahead, today we have the Dutch, who wait 1 hour, some folks from Germany who wait 3 hours, and everyone else, who waits 6. Except for the people who don’t.

Simple, huh?

So my family and I come onto the scene and try to answer the very earnest (and hungry) sounding K, asking if he can have mac-and-cheese for dinner even though he had a bologna sandwich for lunch.

A wrong answer looks like this: “Well, bud, let me look online, then get a book from the library, and then I’ll call the Rabbi and see what he says. I should know sometime next week.”

Originally, what we did was wait 1 hour either way (meat to milk or milk to meat). As we learned more, we waited NO time between milk and meat, but we still waffled about the time between meat and milk.

See, without a family history of waiting 3 hours, we’re TECHNICALLY obligated to wait 6. But lots of people we know only wait 3 hours.

On the one hand, we don’t want to just pick and choose observances to make it easy on ourselves. On the other hand, we don’t want to pick the hardest possible ruling just to prove how tough we are.

Honestly, we’re still on the fence about this. Like I said at the start of this post, I know this is bothering me way more than it should. But it still is.


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9 responses »

  1. I’ve started describing to friends that I observe a “poor man’s kosher” — I don’t have two sets of dishes, and I “kosher” them the same way I would make them clean for my vegetarian roomie: Hot water and soap. And when well-meaning friends want to cook dinner for me, they start to get stressed over what to serve for dessert, if we’ve had a meat meal. Well, since I clearly didn’t “boil my dinner in my dessert” I don’t stress. There’s such a clear distinction between “meal” and “dessert” that yes dear, if you serve me lamb for dinner (with no dairy in anything else), and then you *Really* want to have ice cream, you may. I’ll reach for a cookie and not worry if it was baked with real butter, and you can enjoy a bowl of ice cream.

    In everything, I try to put the hospitality of my hosts ahead of my worries. And in this, I think maybe it’s a mitzvah to care for my hosts.

  2. I found my way over here from The Rebbetzin Rocks.
    You’re on an interesting journey. I’ve been keeping kosher all my life, and I’m still astounded sometimes by the amount of thought and attention to detail that is required to do it right. Most of it becomes very routine and instinctive after a while, though.
    Lots of luck and please keep writing!

  3. Well, one rabbi I’ve spoken to says “Do what your father did.” That’s great, unless your father was in the bacon-wrapped shrimp crowd.

    His actual point was that the “Yichus starts here – ” your family minhagim start with you. If your father did nothing, you get to make the choices. That is a two edged sword. On the one hand, you can pick what works best for you. On the other hand, your children will either live with – or if possible improve on – your decision.

    I am in the 6-hour camp, even though I am a Baal Teshuva. Why? Because I am certain that I am neither Dutch nor German. And it is disingenuous to take the more lenient approach just because it is more lenient – which is not what I am accusing you of, but rather warning you against. If you turn out to be German (and from a 3-hour community) or Dutch, great. But ceteris parabus, don’t mess around.

    As for K – we, on the advice of my rebbe, took the following approach. We started breaking him in with this at age 3. He never ate milk and meat together, but at 3 he started waiting an hour between meat and milk. At 4, two hours, etc. At 7 now, he waits 4 hours.

    Hope you Pesach is kosher and b’simcha.


  4. Cat: we started out in a very similar place to you, as I alluded in the post. What we realized (as a family) was that we could do more and we wanted to do more. But your framing sounds very healthy. A friend of mine has commented that “great grandma in the shtetle didn’t have 4 sets of dishes, nor did she come over on the boat to America with her beloved two dishwashers. So what are we playing at?”

    Raizy: Thank you for the encouragement. If I’m lucky, I’ll even be able to get the kids perspectives posted.

    EVERYONE: It should be noted that Phil has a very thoughtful blog of his own: which is worth checking out (and encourage him to write more!)

    Phil: that graduated increasing is a good idea. At this point I think we are making 6 hours work OK. It is probably more my frustration with the disconnectedness from my family history. But I know you guys are there for us, which makes a huge difference.

  5. for us, of course, josh and i differ – he says one hour i prefer 3. of course. it’s just one more way in which we plan on messing up our kids 🙂

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