Why do kashrut-observing Jews wait an amount of time between eating meat and then eating milk? Why does that time vary between communities? Why is the time we wait between milk and then eating meat (usually) much less than the time we wait between eating meat and then milk?
The Jerusalem Post has a great article by Rabbi Shlomo Brody on the halakhic history of waiting between milk and meat and vice versa.
Read it carefully and you'll see the layers of halakha added on by generations of rabbis, and you'll see the original baseline – no waiting at all. In fact, it seems to me the whole idea of waiting grew from a rabbinic pietist movement centered in Babylonia in early Talmudic times. Clearly the Torah does not envision waiting and there seems to be no trace of the custom in any biblical or even mishnaic source. King David (if he really existed) did not wait. Neither did Ezekiel or Hillel or Shammai.
Strange, one might mistakenly think, for a practice that is emblematic of Orthodoxy – but not when one considers other Orthodox practices like the tish, rabbis without real jobs, kollel 'til you're 50, kapparot, bar and bat mitzva, and so many others that have no biblical or mishnaic sources either. (Yes, all those Satmar children's books with ancient Israelites wearing shtreimels and tallesim are wrong. I hope this doesn't rock Williamsburg.)
Can you think of any other Orthodox practices that have no biblical or mishnaic source? If so, mention them in the comments section below. Thanks…