The birth of a baby boy is exciting and, at the same time, nerve-racking. In addition to adjusting to the baby, dad and mom must prepare for the brit milah, the circumcision ceremony, that takes place, if all is well with the baby, eight days after birth. Once the doctor announces “It’s a boy!” the calling priority becomes grandparents/close family and the mohel (the circumciser), before someone else hires him.
If the parents are lucky, family and friends take over the party planning aspects of the affair (bagels, lox, balloons…etc.). That leaves only the assignment of kibbudim, honors, which are customarily assigned to rabbis, respected teachers or associates and close friends/family. A kibbud is a way to involve others in the happy event. At a brit milah, there can be a number of extra kibbudim. Different people can be asked to say the blessings, to hold the baby during the blessings, etc. Two of the main kibbudim are:
Kvater and Kvaterin: The assignment to transfer the baby from mother to father before and after the brit, is usually bestowed upon a husband (kvater) and wife (kvaterin) (often a couple trying to have children). Kvater and Kvaterin, only practiced in Ashkenazic tradition, is a Yiddish word derived from the German for godparents. One opinion* maintains that the word kvater means like a father (k’vater), since the real father does not have the heart to circumcise his son and, therefore, appoints a surrogate.
Sandek: This title, borrowed from the Greek, means companion of the child. During the ceremony, the role of the sandek is to hold the baby on his lap during the actual circumcision. This is the highest honor at the brit and is often compared to a priest offering incense in the Holy Temple.
*The Minhagim by Abraham Chill
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