Question: May one drink milk after waking up in the morning less than six hours after eating a meat barbecue the night before?
Short Answer: Most poskim do not permit drinking milk until after six hours. Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l is cited as ruling leniently, but only under very limited circumstances.
I. The Story of the Chasam Sofer
The T’shuvos V’Hanhagos (1:431) cites the sefer Vayaas Avraham who rules that the six-hour waiting requirement between eating meat and milk (see the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei’ah 89:1) is not a set time but is just indicative of the normal time that it takes to digest meat. Accordingly, since sleep likewise causes digestion, one does not need to wait six hours if he instead sleeps after eating meat.
Rav Sternbuch, however, disagrees, largely based on the sefer Zikaron L’Moshe, which recounts stories and minhagim of the Chasam Sofer. The Chasam Sofer apparently once tried to rely upon this ruling of the Vayaas Avraham and poured himself coffee with milk upon awakening from his sleep after a meat meal. As the Chasam Sofer began to bring the cup to his mouth, however, the coffee with milk spilled. The Chasam Sofer understood this to be a heavenly sign that we do not follow this leniency and that one must wait the full six hours (or less, depending on minhag) before eating dairy.
II. Relying on Heavenly Signs
Despite ruling like the Chasam Sofer, Rav Sternbuch is troubled by the actions of the Chasam Sofer. Why did the Chasam Sofer rely upon a heavenly sign? Don’t we have a tenet in halachah that “lo ba’shamayim hi” – halachah is not for the heavens to decide, but rather for us to use our knowledge to deduce the proper halachah?
Rav Sternbuch answers that, in general, one should not rule based off of a story with a heavenly sign. The Chasam Sofer, and others with ruach ha’kodesh, are different. They are able to intuit from the heavenly sign that they must relearn the topic and find reasons under halachah to be strict and change the ruling. Indeed, the Vilna Gaon once tried to institute the recitation of Birkas Kohanim every morning in chutz la’aretz. Yet, on the night before the first recitation, the Vilna Gaon was investigated by the police and thrown into jail. He took this as a sign that he should not institute daily Birkas Kohanim. Even though Rav Yisrael Salanter zt”l wondered why the Vilna Gaon backed down based on a story with a heavenly sign, Rav Sternbuch explains that the Vilna Gaon, like the Chasam Sofer, must have had ruach ha’kodesh to look again at the halachah and rule strictly, based on a new understanding.
III. Other Stringent Poskim
In addition to Rav Sternbuch, other contemporary poskim rule strictly and require a full six (or less, depending on minhag) hours of waiting after eating meat, regardless of whether one slept in between. For example, the sefer Dor HaMelaktim (Isur v’Heter, p. 386) cites 18 contemporary poskim, including the Sheivet HaLevi and Rav Chaim Kanievsky, who rule strictly.
The Avnei Yashfe (BiNesivos HaHalachah, Vol. 46, p. 503) likewise rules stringently, as sleeping does not solve any problem. According to the Tur, that you must wait before eating milk because the meat causes “shuman” (fat) to remain in your mouth, this fat still exists post-sleep. According to the Rambam, that you must wait before eating dairy because of the meat that gets stuck in between your teeth, this meat still exists post-sleep.
IV. Lenient Poskim
Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv zt”l is cited in many places as ruling leniently. In particular, Dor HaMelaktim (ibid) notes that Rav Elyashiv is cited by the sefer VaYomer Avraham as ruling that a person may eat milk after meat if he sleeps for three hours at night between them. In He’aros (Chulin 105a), Rav Elyashiv writes that this leniency is only limited to milk after chicken (not meat), and only after sleeping at night (not during the day). Rav Elyashiv also notes that the leniency does not apply where the person sleeps specifically with the intent to eat dairy less than six hours later.
Finally, Dor HaMelaktim (ibid) cites Halichos V’Hanhagos Kehillas Yaakov, where the Steipler was asked what he thought of Rav Elyashiv’s leniency. The Steipler remarked that such a question (whether sleeping three hours at night after meat allows you to eat milk immediately upon waking) is reserved for Rav Elyashiv, who probably only slept for three hours a night!
Next Week’s Topic: May one use the same drinking glass for both milk and meat?