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?

  • 1
    As noted in the answer, it's actually the night, not day, before the b'ris that this is done.
    – msh210
    May 30, 2011 at 3:19

1 Answer 1


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.

  • Do you happen to know why it's a time of danger?
    – yydl
    May 29, 2011 at 22:19
  • 2
    I've heard two different reasons, neither of which I really like. One is that the Satan tries to stop the milah before it can happen. The other is reminiscent of Moshe being harmed before his children were circumcised (by Tziporah)—there needs to be some sort of shmirah from this potential danger.
    – Tzvi
    May 30, 2011 at 2:41
  • I'll admit that this is purely my own logic, but there is a somewhat more rational answer too: The brit mila itself is dangerous, and thus we should do something that the baby gets through it safely. Aug 12, 2012 at 20:13
  • I guess they do it before the Brit and not afterwards, because of sefaria.org/… . See also SA YD 179.
    – Yaabim
    Aug 31, 2023 at 8:55

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