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The Parents’ Messengers – The “Kvatter”

The Parents’ Messengers – The “Kvatter”

Escorting the baby to his circumcision

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Photo: Chana Lewis
Photo: Chana Lewis

The mother brings the newborn baby to the location where the circumcision will be performed.1

Who?

Then, a designated female and male serve as messengers to bring the baby from the mother’s arms to the side of the room where the circumcision will be performed.2 These messengers are called kvatters.3

The kvatters are usually a husband-and-wife team. However, they may also be a daughter and father, a mother and son or a sister and brother.4

Many give this honor to a childless couple. It is considered a blessing for the childless couple, that in the merit of being the parents’ messengers, they will be blessed with a child of their own.5

Many have the custom that a pregnant woman should not be the messenger.6

What?

The mother hands her baby to the female messenger, who is dressed in her finest clothing. She in turn hands him over to the male messenger, who, wearing his tallit, prayer shawl, carries the child to where the circumcision will take place.

Some have the custom to pass the child from person to person, involving many of the participants as messengers.7 The kvatters, however, should be the ones to pass the baby from where the women are congregated to where the men are congregated.

As the mother hands her baby to the female messenger, the family and guests rise. They remain standing until the entire circumcision has been completed.8

Why?

The connection of the body with G‑d is cemented during the circumcision, and etched upon the body forever. The ritual circumcision is considered greater than any other commandment, because it directly connects the physical body with G‑dliness, in a revealed and eternal manner.

The messengers assist and escort the infant in this connection of the physical body with G‑dliness. 9

Footnotes
1.

Maharil.

2.

Rama, Yoreh Deah 265:11. The mother, who brings the infant to the synagogue, cannot pass him directly to the father. When a woman gives birth, she refrains from any physical contact with her husband until the blood stops flowing from her womb, and she counts a week of “clean” days, followed by immersion in the mikvah (a ritual bath). See Brit Avot 5:3.

3.

Otzar Dinim Uminhagim, p. 222. The German translation of kvatter is, “in place of the father,” i.e., the parents’ messengers. There are other explanations for this term in Otzar Habrit, p. 186 f. 1. In the Yiddish language the female messenger is called “kvatterin” and the male the “kvatter.”

4.

Koret Brit 265:63.

5.

Otzar Habrit 12:9.

6.

Brit Avot 5:26. See The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in Lekutei Sichot, vol. 22, p. 58, f. 29.

7.

Migdal Oz Nachal 29.

8.

Ramah 265:1. One stands in honor before someone who is fulfilling a Divine Commandment (see Tanya, ch. 46).

9.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in Lekutei Sichot, vol. 22, p 56. See The Wedding Procession on our Jewish Wedding site for a similar escorting ceremony.

Dovid Zaklikowski is a freelance journalist living in Brooklyn. Dovid and his wife Chana Raizel are the proud parents of four: Motti, Meir, Shaina & Moshe Binyomin.
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Circumcision is the first commandment given by G-d to Abraham, the first Jew, and is central to Judaism.
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