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The Minhag of Eating Dairy Products on Shavuos


Dvash vechalav tachas leshonech – Honey and milk under your tongue” (Shir Hashirim 4:11) is the passuk used to describe the sweetness of the Torah given on Shavuos, and is quoted as one of the sources for the longstanding minhag of eating dairy on Shavuos — in addition to the traditional meat meals eaten on holidays. This article will explore the various halachic ramifications of this custom.

May both dairy and meat be eaten at the same meal? Can the dairy contain hard cheeses such as Cheddar or Roquefort? And what about the bread? Can two people eat meat and dairy at the same table?

As Shavuos falls this year on Friday, these questions are especially practical.

First Course – Blintzes; Second Course – Tongue

Many people make Kiddush on Shavuos morning on cheesecake and blintzes, only eating the meaty holiday meal later in the day. This year, since Shavuos is on Friday, people wish to eat most of the food earlier in the day, while maintain the custom of eating dairy. Can one eat one meal in which the first course is cheesecake and blintzes, and then the next course – meat?

In order to answer this question, we must first lay out the basic dietary rules that are relevant all year round:

The Gemara (Maseches Chullin 105a) explains that eating dairy and meat at the same meal is permitted, provided that the dairy is eaten before the meat. After eating the dairy one must, clean his mouth before eating the meat. The Zohar, though, (Mishpatim 125a) outlines dire results from eating in this manner: “Come and see…He who consumes food [of meat and milk] so they join [are cooked] together, or during the same hour or in the same meal, for forty days a despicable kid roasted with its skin appears to those above…”. According to the Zohar, eating milk and meat within the same hour, even after cleansing one’s mouth is still not permitted (even if it is meat after dairy).

The Shulchan Aruch rules (Yore Deah, 89:2) that eating milk after meat at the same meal is not permitted, but eating meat after milk is permitted under specific conditions. Nevertheless, the Beis Yosef (Orech Chaim 173:3) notes that many follow the stringencies in accordance with the above-mentioned Zohar, and do not eat milk and meat at the same meal. Many achronim also write (Levush 89:2; Gra 11; and others) that it is the proper practice and whoever wishes to eat meat after dairy should first recite Bircas Hamazon, wait a little and then sit down to his meat. This, effectively, results in two different meals – the first dairy, and the second – meat.

Hard Cheeses

Rama (Yore Deah 89:2) quotes another custom – waiting 6 hours after eating hard cheeses before eating meat. The Shach (106) adds that this halacha pertains specifically to aged cheeses left to ripen for at least six months. The simple hard cheeses cheaply produced today are subject to dispute among the poskim – some see it as hard cheese that require the consumer to wait 6 hours before eating meat, while other argue that they are not. Nevertheless, pricy hard cheeses that went through a lengthened ripening process of six months or more most certainly require a 6-hour waiting period before eating meat.

Eating Dairy on Shavuos — the Rema’s Opinion

The Rema notes the accepted custom of eating dairy on the first day of Shavuos (Orech Chaim 494:3), explaining the source for this as a commemoration of the Two-Bread Offering – korban Shtei Halechem offered in the Beis Hamikdash on Shavuos. Since one cannot eat from the same loaf of bread with both dairy and meat, in a meal in which dairy and meat are both going to be eaten one must serve two loaves of bread — one for each part of the meal. The table is likened to the mizbeyach – the Alter – therefore, bringing two loaves of bread to the table serves to commemorate the Two Bread offering.

From the Rema’s explanation, it seems that the accepted custom for eating dairy on Shavuos was to eat both at the same meal without bentching between them. This raises questions regarding the Zohar’s opinion, and how the Rema permitted it.

Shavuos Leniencies

Chok Leya’akov (Orech Chaim 494:11) notes that there are people who are lenient on Shavuos and don’t wait the full six hours between meat and milk, or eat milk and meat at the same meal. Nevertheless, he warns not do this, and to be strict about it just as all year long. Many poskim write that one must not be lenient on Shavuos, even if it is only in order to maintain the custom of eating dairy on Shavuos.

Nevertheless, the Magen Avraham (494:106) writes that while one must be careful not to eat both together, both can be eaten at the same meal without reciting the bentching between them, and this is provided that hard cheese is not eaten[1]. From this halacha it seems that on Shavuos poskim were lenient, not following the Zohar’s rulings. It seems that in order to maintain the custom of eating dairy, only those particulars that are forbidden me’ikar hadin are maintained, while the extra stringencies of the Zohar, which according to the Gemara are permitted – are not. This makes room for the custom of eating two loaves of bread.

The prevailing custom today is to refrain from a meal of dairy and meat with two breads as quoted in the Rema, perhaps due to severity of the Zohar’s proclamation.

The Shela on Basar Bechalav

In conclusion of this discussion, it is important to note the Shela’s statement, encouraging one to maintain the regular meat-milk standards also on Shavuos (Ner Mitzva, 16):

It is accepted to eat dairy foods on the holiday of Shavuos, and then eat meat to fulfill the obligation of vesamachta bechagecha – rejoicing on the holiday, which cannot be fulfilled without meat. One must be scrupulous to remain holy, especially on this holy day when we received the Torah, to carefully clear and clean his mouth (One must eat and drink after eating dairy if he wants to eat meat afterwards.), stop eating and recite the blessing after meals and wait an hour before setting the table again and eating a meal with meat. An allusion to this can be found in the words of the passuk “The choicest of the first fruits of your soil you shall bring to the house of the Lord [Bikkurim, brought on Shavuos], your G-d. You shall not cook a kid in its mother’s milk” (Shemos 23:19) – one should be careful not to mix the two [i.e. on the holiday of Shavuos one must be particularly careful with the laws of meat and dairy]. And one who is careful in this will be considered holy.

Both at One Meal

For those who are lenient regarding eating milk and meat at the same meal, the following restrictions apply:

  1. The Gemara in Maseches Chullin (105a) requires one to wash his hands after eating dairy at night, while during daylight hours checking one’s hands is sufficient. This is ruled by the Shulchan Aruch (Yore Deah 89:2). The Shach (footnote 9) admonishes one to wash his hands even during the day since invisible oily residue may remain on the hands. The Pri Chadash (footnote 9) is lenient if one uses cutlery.
  2. Additionally, the Gemara requires one to clean out the mouth – to chew on a food item that does not stick to the teeth but cleanses them, such as bread, and then to drink water or other beverages. This is in order to cleanse the mouth from all dairy food remains. This is ruled l’halacha in the Shulchan Aruch (Yore Deah 89:2).
  3. Mishna Brura (Orech Chaim 494:16) writes that one should be careful to change the tablecloth between dairy and meat. The Shiyrei Knesses Hagedola describes the blessing for one who is careful to change the table cloth – he merits two tables, one of Torah and another of wealth [i.e. he will be both a talmid chacham and wealthy].
  4. One who is careful to wait six hours (or one hour) after eating hard cheeses should not partake of such cheese at the first course.

Bread on the Holiday of Wheat – Can Spelt or Rye suffice?

One who wishes to maintain the custom of eating two loaves at the meal to commemorate the korban of Shteii Halechem should note that the Mishna Brura specifically indicates that those two loaves of bread should be made of wheat flour – not of other grains.


According to the basic halacha, one is permitted to eat meat after milk at the same meal, while ensuring hand-washing, eating bread and drinking between the two, as well as changing the tablecloth. In addition, hard cheese cannot be eaten at such a meal.

Those who are accustomed to keep the Zohar’s stringency should refrain from this kind of meal, but there is room for leniency if it is for the purpose of upholding the minhag of serving two loaves on Shavuos. However, since eating both dairy and meat at the same meal is not an accepted practice today and the only reason one might do so this year is for practical reasons or comfort, refraining from this is proper.

In any case, if one eats dairy at the Kiddush in the morning and recites bracha achrona, he should wait a little before washing for the meaty meal so the bracha should not be rendered unnecessary. And, in accordance with to the Zohar’s opinion, one should be careful to wait an hour between the two (See more on this subject in Mate Reuven 186).

One Side Meat; the Other — Dairy

Another practical question that will arise this year involves the eternal point of friction – places. Can two people sit together at the same table as one eats meat while the other – dairy? The boys prefer meat, and want it any time of day, especially on yomtov when there is a special mitzva of simcha for which meat is a necessary ingredient; while the womenfolk may cringe at the thought of becoming fleishig so early in the day, especially with all the cheesecake around. So, what does a family do? Can both contingents of the family share the same table or do they have to practice social distancing?

The Gemara (Chulin 103; Shulchan Aruch Yore Deah 108:2) rules that two people who know each other are forbidden to eat together at the same table if one is eating meat and the other – dairy. Since they are acquaintances, they might share their food and come to unintentional mixing of milk and meat. Additionally, one table may not be set even with separate meat and milk servings.

Nevertheless, if there is an apparent separation, the two may be eaten at the same table. For example, if the milchig side is set with its own tablecloth, and the fleishig one – with a different one, this qualifies as a separating mechanism, allowing the family to sit together.

Additionally, the two may not share serving dishes or other utensils such as saltshakers, or pareve dips since the food is dipped into them — food that may have touched the meat or dairy foods (Rema, Yora Deah 108:2). This also includes using the same serving spoon (for a pareve salad) since the hands touching the spoon may have meat or milky oily residue.

The Birkei Yosef (Shiyirei Bracha, Yore Deah chapter 8: 13) adds that when slicing food, care must be taken not to splatter meat on dairy dishes, and the opposite. The Aruch Hashulchan adds that one should not have two serving dishes — one with meat and the other with milk — on the same table, to prevent one from slipping into the other. Am Yisroel are a holy people who go to great lengths to separate meat from milk, having separate countertops and sinks (when feasible).

Practically speaking, if different members of the family would like to sit together and eat meat and milk, all the necessary precautions must be taken in order to make it possible, although with small children around it may prove to be very difficult.

Pareve Cooked in Meat or Dairy

Another common question on Shavuos is the pareve question – can a pareve food cooked in a meaty pot or pan be eaten with dairy, and the opposite?

The Shulchan Aruch (Yore Deah 95:2) permits eating a pareve dish cooked in a dairy pot together with meat, provided that the pot was cleaned well, even if there was milk was cooked in that pot within the last 24 hours. The Kaf Hachaim (95:1) writes that this may not be done intentionally, only after the dish has been prepared. But Rav Ovadya Yosef (Yalkut Yosef, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, Yore Deah 92-98:6) rules that it is permitted lechatchila. These are the customs of Sefardim

However, according to the Rema, one may not eat pareve food cooked in a fleishig pot together with milchigs if the pot had been used within twenty four hours. Even, if the pot was not used for meat or dairy within 24 hours it is forbidden to intentionally cook pareve to be eaten with the opposite. But once the food has already been cooked, it may be eaten in such a manner.

Chochmas Adam adds (klal 48:2) that if one has only one pot and cannot borrow a pot from a neighbor, it is permitted to even cook in a dairy pot that has not been used for cooking dairy within the past 24 hours with full intention to eat the food with meat.

If the pareve food was cooked in a pot that was used for dairy within the last 24 hours, it should not be eaten with meat, but it may be eaten at a meaty meal. It may also be served in fleishig dishes, but one must be careful to refrain from pouring the hot food directly from the dairy pot onto the meaty plate. Instead, a pareve ladle or other pareve dish should be used in between the dairy pot and the meaty plate.


Rice coked for the chag in a fleishig pot with intention of eating some at the dairy meal: according to Eidot Hamizrach it is undecided, and according to minhag ashkenaz it is forbidden. If one has no other pot but a fleishig pot in which meat has not been cooked within the last 24-hours, and has no option of borrowing another pot, the Chochmas Adam rules one can be lenient and do so.

If the rice has already been cooked in a meaty pot, and is now necessary for the dairy meal: if the pot was not used for meat in the 24 prior to the cooking it is permitted, and one can even eat cheese with the rice.

If the pot was used for meat within the 24 before cooking rice it may not be eaten with cheese or butter, but it may be eaten separately, provided a pareve serving utensil is used and it is not poured directly from a meaty pot onto a dairy plate.

Serving Dishes

Many families don’t own fancy serving pieces for dairy and wish to serve dairy salads (such as Greek salad – vegetables with cubes of feta cheese) on their nice serving pieces, usually used for meat. Is this possible in any way?

The answer to this is no — serving pieces may not be used interchangeably, even if the food is cold and mild (unlike onions or garlic). Since one may fail to wash the dish properly and the oily residue from the meat may remain this is not permitted (Shulchan Aruch 91:2).


The Midrash notes an interesting argument around this issue that took place on Shavuos:

When Hashem came to give the Torah to Yisroel, the angels were aggravated. Hashem said to them, “Why are you disputing the giving of the Torah? You ate meat with milk in Avraham avinu’s home, as the passuk says: ‘And he took cream and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and he placed [them] before them, ‘ (Bereishis 18:8) while even babies from Yisroel are careful not to eat both together.” And the angels left, rebuked. This is the reason for the custom of eating dairy on the holiday of Shavuos while maintaining all the stringencies of separation between the two – to show the angels that we carefully maintain the halachos of basar becholov.



[1] Note: The Pri Megadim (Orech Chaim 494) when mentioning the waiting time between meat and milk on Shavuos as it is all year round, adds to wait six hours after meat and after hard cheese, indicating that this is to contradict the leniencies rampant on this day, not the custom of refraining from eating both at the same meal. See Pri Megadim Yore Deah 89.

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