I have seen a custom among Ashkenazic Jews that on the day before the Brit Milah of a baby boy, a group of children will come and all say the Shema to the baby. What is the origin and reason for the custom?
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In Yiddish, and in contemporary terminology, this is called a vach nacht (night of watching). According to kabbalah, the night before a baby's bris is a time of danger. Therefore, we bring children to give added protection to the uncircumcised child. Additionally, it is a custom for the father of the baby, the sandak, and according to some, the mohel to stay up all night learning Torah and saying tehillim.